Well, it’s been a while since we paused to dwell on the old safe harbour, and the value gap, and all those efforts in Brussels to increase the copyright liabilities of user-upload platforms like big bad YouTube. But with the safe harbour reforming article thirteen of the draft European Copyright Directive back on the agenda in the European Parliament tomorrow, maybe we should have another pause.
The music industry has now been lobbying hard for what seems like about a millennium to try to get European copyright law reformed so to increase the liabilities of YouTube et al. Article thirteen of the aforementioned draft directive seeks to do just that. To that end, the music industry’s lobbyists have been busy busy trying to ensure that article remains in the final version of the directive. Preferably in a revised form that is clearer about YouTube’s new obligations.
On the other side of the lobbying machine, the tech sector and others have been seeking to dilute article thirteen. Which is why pan-European indie label repping trade body IMPALA has just written to members of the European Parliament. The organisation is seeking to counter the reasons and arguments being put forward by the other side as to why the safe harbour is well good and should be left fully intact.
“In the past months, and more vehemently in the past few weeks, a lot of disinformation has been spread deliberately about this article to deceive the public opinion”, writes IMPALA boss Helen Smith. “Let’s be clear”, she adds, nothing in the draft directive or the music industry supported amendment now on the table “will lead to ‘censorship’, ‘blocking of all content’, or the ‘ability for rightholders to decide what we read and watch on the internet'”.
She goes on: “Our members, thousands of independent music companies across Europe, and the artists they work with, want to have their music as widely available and accessible legally as possible, at a fair rate. To be able to negotiate fair rates for the use of their artists’ music, they need to be able to license where and when it makes commercial sense. For that to happen, a simple rule is needed: if you are in the business of distributing music, you are covered by copyright and need a licence”.
Smith then adds that, for the most part, the indie labels’ mission to have their music as widely available as possible includes on user-upload sites. “Our members want their artists’ fans to be able to upload their works. Revenues from works uploaded by users represent on average 80% of our members’ revenue from user-uploaded platforms where agreements are in place. If the rates were fairly negotiated with platforms, this would be a winning situation for all: fans, creators, rightholders and platforms. But today this is not the case”.
Article thirteen could help to achieve that winning solution, she then argues. “Article thirteen is about making opportunities equal for all. Right now the rules are completely tilted in favour of user-upload platforms which get away with carrying all the creative works in the world, [and] as long as these works are uploaded by users, platforms claim that all they should have to do is take down the works notified to them and hold absolutely no responsibility. Imagine the weight on the shoulders of small creators or rightholders having to scan the millions of hours of videos uploaded to those platforms every day!”
Insisting that “this is not about big copyright holders wanting to silence creators and their fans”, she says claims of “censorship” by her rivals in the lobbying community are an example of “misleading terms being used by professional anti-copyright and pro-tech campaigners to help the biggest and most powerful companies in the world, giant online platforms, to avoid having to take any kind of responsibility for the content accessed through their platforms”.
Concluding, she declares: “[Article thirteen] is a unique opportunity to help remove some of the friction in the licensing market, level the playing field and allow creators and their partners to reap their fair and well-deserved share of the benefits of the rapid growth in music listening online”.