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Europe For Creators campaign fights for safe harbour reform ahead of European copyright vote

By | Published on Friday 31 August 2018

European Commission

With the draft new copyright directive heading back to the European Parliament next month, the European music industry yesterday launched a new co-ordinated campaign to try to ensure that this time all that safe harbour reform gets through.

The music community, of course, has been campaigning hard to reform the safe harbour that says internet companies cannot be held liable for their users’ copyright infringement. Music companies argue that user-upload platforms like YouTube have exploited the safe harbour – originally intended for internet service providers and server hosting firms – in order to launch on-demand content platforms without paying market rate royalties to content owners.

Article thirteen of the new European Copyright Directive seeks to increase the liabilities of platforms like YouTube. But those proposals have proven to be very controversial, and when the directive went before the European Parliament last month MEPs voted it down, mainly because of rampant campaigning by the tech sector and copyright critics against article thirteen (and the also controversial article eleven).

The music industry has since been very critical of that campaign, accusing the tech sector of ‘astroturfing’, which is when corporate-led lobbying initiatives are presented as if they are coming from individual grassroots campaigners.

Julia Reda, the Pirate Party MEP who has been most vocal in opposing articles eleven and thirteen within the Parliament, has hit back at those claims. And clearly there are plenty of people outside Google’s public affairs department with concerns about the possible unintended consequences of the safe harbour reforms. Even if not many of them could be bothered to show up to real world street protests last weekend.

However, the anti-article thirteen campaign does seem to have benefited from some nifty online lobbying tools that probably made opposition to the proposals seem more pronounced than it really is (after all, most European citizens neither understand nor particularly care). And it also seems that some of those nifty tools were employed by people outside the European Union.

Either way, the European music industry – which has already campaigned hard on this issue – is hoping to campaign even harder in the run up to the 12 Sep vote. Hence this new co-ordinated campaign, which is being led by GESAC, the organisation that brings together all the song right collecting societies in Europe.

It said yesterday that the new ‘Europe For Creators’ initiative was a “movement, calling on citizens and decision-makers to take part in the debate and ensure that their voices are heard. This campaign seeks to correct misinformation by explaining the issues at stake and the importance of a vote in favour of the EU Copyright Directive”.

It added that: “Against a backdrop of astroturfing and a massive lobbying campaign, extensive education on this issue is urgently needed”. Article thirteen, it insisted, will simply “require internet platforms to negotiate fair licence agreements with copyright holders”. It won’t, as critics have claimed, break the internet.

Launching the new campaign, GESAC GM Véronique Desbrosses said: “Digital economic powers continue to profit as working artists struggle to make ends meet. The balance between the revenues generated by the internet platforms and the money they give to the creators who are responsible for their success, is entirely distorted”.

She added: “The creative and cultural industry in the European Union represents 536 billion euros per year, more than the combined revenue of the automotive and telecoms sectors, and is responsible for twelve million jobs. We have enriched the lives of Europeans, and now we are calling on Europe to act”.

The Europe For Creators campaign will include an open letter sent to MEPs, debates organised around Europe on 5 Sep, and a number of other events and publicity stunts before the big vote on 12 Sep. No Northern American bots phoning up MEPs in Brussels though, which is seemingly the kind of thing that can swing a vote in 2018. But there is, of course, the customary hashtag – #EuropeForCreators – so that’s kinda modern, isn’t it?

The campaign’s manifesto, meanwhile, is set out on a slightly retro looking website. GESAC is also behind a petition for the artist community, which is what UK Music’s butterflies and bulldozers flim flam was promoting earlier this week.