On 26 March 2019 the European Parliament approved the draft EU Copyright in the Digital Single Market Directive. The copyright reforms have sparked large scale controversy amongst the tech giant community, condemning the reforms as impractical and burdensome. Whereas many (not all) authors and members of the performing artist industry have welcomed such proposals, favouring fairer protection and remuneration for their works. The Directive came into force on  6 June 2019 and Member States have until 7 June 2021 to transpose the Directive into national law.

What is the purpose of the Directive?

Digital technology has changed the way content is reproduced and accessed. Content is now largely accessed via online platforms such as Google, YouTube or Facebook. The aim of the Copyright Directive is to modernise the current copyright rules in line with an ever growing digital world where content is predominately accessed online.

What are the key proposed changes?

Additional protection for publishers and rightholders
  • Article 15 provides press publishers with the right to authorise or prohibit reproduction of their press publications online (thereby encouraging negotiation of fair licences and remuneration).
  • Article 17 provides that online content sharing service providers must obtain prior authorisation from the rightholder prior to content sharing. This obligation extends to content uploaded by site users and introduces liability for any unauthorised content use.
Increased negotiating power for authors and performers
  • Articles 19 and 21 promote fair and appropriate compensation/remuneration for authors and performers.
  • Article 20 introduces a contract adjustment mechanism allowing authors/performers to adjust a contract when remuneration originally agreed in a contract becomes disproportionately low compared to subsequent revenue derived from the works.
  • Article 22 provides that an author may revoke rights granted on the basis of lack of exploitation.
A number of exceptions to promote innovation, research and preservation of cultural heritage
  • Article 3 permits text and data mining for scientific research purposes.
  • Article 5 permits the use of digital works to support teaching and learning activities.
  • Article 6 grants cultural heritage institutions the right to reproduce works for cultural heritage preservation purposes.

In the UK, the fate of the proposed Copyright Directive still remains unclear as it will be subject to the outcome of Brexit negotiations and any deal agreed between the UK and the EU.