Following last summer’s rejection of the Copyright Directive by the European Parliament (“EP”), the EU has reached a political agreement following a trialogue; a meeting held between the EP, the European Commission and the Council of the EU, which agreement is expected to be confirmed in the coming weeks by the European Parliament and the Council of the EU.
Despite that the Copyright Directive has been presented as a piece of legislation intended to modernise copyright rules and to create a fair balance between the rights enjoyed by internet users and content creators, the Directive has been met with conflicting views across the board, with various players, from MEPs to stakeholders and members of the music industry, having spoken both in favour and against the Copyright Directive.
The proposed Copyright Directive is meant to lay down the groundwork for content creators to be provided with more control over their uploaded content together with ensuring their right to be remunerated for such content in an appropriate and proportionate manner. The revised text attempts to address certain points of contention which previously arose. For example, article 11 of the Directive, dubbed the ‘link tax article’, is not expected to cover news article hyperlinks thus allowing users to freely share hyperlinks. Moreover, according to the unofficially published text, users can also share individual words and short extracts of a press publication. On the other hand, the proposed Directive is expected to facilitate the manner in which members of the press exert control over use of their content, and to consequently, receive royalties for the first 2 years from publication of their work.
Authors and performers are to be granted access to information on how their work is to be exploited by publishers and producers and to revoke rights previously granted thereto publishers and producers if these do not exercise such rights.
The EU has also responded to previous criticism that the Copyright Directive would make it impossible for start-ups to operate, by varying the previously proposed text and allowing for lighter obligations to be imposed on start-ups when these share content without authorisation from rightholders. For a company to be considered a start-up, it must not have been active for more than three years, not have more than ten million Euros in annual turnover and not have more than five million monthly visitors.
Users are expected to benefit from new licensing rules, which will allow them to upload copyright protected content on social media platforms, such as YouTube and Instagram, without infringing copyright and for users to be allowed to use such material in a parodical manner. Moreover, users will not be restricted in sharing material such as memes or GIFs.
In addition, the Copyright Directive, as proposed, will impose an effective mechanism to kick in when there is unjust removal of content, which mechanism of redress is to be implemented by online platforms.
The Directive is also expected to simplify copyright rules when it comes to text and data mining for research, educational and for the purpose of preserving cultural heritage.
In all, the goal of the Copyright Directive is to create a fairer, more transparent landscape for content creators and users alike. It will be interesting to observe how this Directive will be transposed at a local level and applied in practice, and in turn, the level of further copyright harmonisation which will materialise as a result.
Article written by Dr Terence Cassar and Dr Bernice Saliba
Disclaimer: This article is not intended to impart legal advice and readers are asked to seek verification of statements made before acting on them.