The Council of the European Union gave this week its green light to the new Copyright Directive which is expected to bring benefits to citizens, the creative sectors, the press, researchers, educators, and cultural heritage institutions.
The reform will adapt copyright rules to today’s world, where music streaming services, video-on-demand platforms, news aggregators and user-uploaded-content platforms have become the main gateways to access creative works and press articles.
The European Commission proposed in 2016 modernising EU copyright rules as part of the Digital Single Market Strategy. The previous rules back to 2001, when there were no social media, no video on demand, no museums digitising their art collections and no teachers providing online courses.
A survey by the Commission showed that 57% of internet users access press articles via social networks, information aggregators or search engines. 47% of these users read extracts compiled by these sites without clicking through. The same trend was observed for the music and film industry.
“With today’s agreement, we are making copyright rules fit for the digital age,” said European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker (15 April). “Europe will now have clear rules that guarantee fair remuneration for creators, strong rights for users and responsibility for platforms.”
The Commission explains that the new directive will boost high-quality journalism in the EU and offer better protection for European authors and performers. Users will benefit from the new rules, which will allow them to upload copyright protected content on platforms legally.
However, in the Council opinions were divided on whether the directive stroke the right balance between the protection of copyright holders and the interests of EU citizens and companies. The directive was adopted by qualified majority, with Italy, Finland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Poland and Sweden voting against it and Belgium, Estonia and Slovenia abstaining.
In a joint statement, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Poland, Italy and Finland wrote that they believe that the directive in its current form is a step back for the Digital Single Market and that it lacks legal clarity.
Estonia, one of the most advanced e-government member states, motivated its vote that it considers that the final text of the directive does not strike a sufficient balance between different interests in all aspects.
Sweden which had voted for the directive in a previous vote in the Council was forced to change view after its EU board – that is supposed to be consulted by the government on EU affairs – decided against. A majority in the board, including the Environment Party, a coalition partner in the minority government – was against the directive.
No explanation for the Swedish vote was given in the Council but members of the EU board criticised among others so-called uploading filters by internet platforms to prevent copyright infringements by users.
After publication in the Official Journal of the EU, the member states will have 24 months to transpose the Directive into their national legislation.