The scope of the EU Digital Copyright Directive approved this week by European Parliament is broad. With most media attention having been devoted to the controversial “link tax” (Article 15) and “meme ban” (Article 17), other measures in the Directive which strengthen the position of authors and performers should not be forgotten. This post looks ‘behind the headlines’ to explain these other measures.

Improving the position of content creators

The Directive contains a contract adjustment mechanism to allow authors and performers to renegotiate their remuneration and obtain a “fair share” when the remuneration originally agreed becomes “disproportionately low” compared to the success of their work or performance (Article 20).

The Directive also contains a right of revocation, allowing authors and performers who have licensed or transferred the rights to their works on an exclusive basis to take back their rights when their works are not being exploited (Article 22). This could have significant consequences in those member states where artists and performers are unable to revoke an assignment of their rights (such as the UK), particularly in sectors in which there is a buy-out of authors’ or performers’ rights.

The Directive further strengthens the position of creators by including:

  • A transparency obligation to help authors and performers have access to more information about the exploitation of their works and performances (Article 19).
  • A dispute resolution procedure for authors and performers (Article 21).

Whilst corporate rights holders (such as record labels) and content creators formed a united front in the lobbying process for the “meme ban”, record labels and artists were not aligned on the provisions of articles 20-22. In an open letter the UK’s Council of Music Makers claimed that labels and publishers “are trying to halt the Directive not only because of the latest wording of Article 13 but because they want to avoid the improvements to transparencies and fairness that the Articles 14-16 [now 20-22] bring”.