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Music industry says proposed article thirteen compromise a backwards step

By | Published on Friday 18 January 2019


The next round of formal talks to try to agree a final draft of the new European Copyright Directive will take place on Monday, with the music industry supported article thirteen still one of the most contentious elements of the proposed new copyright laws. And those talks begin with the music industry hitting out at the most recent proposed compromise.

Article thirteen, of course, seeks to reform the copyright safe harbour and increase the liabilities of user-upload platforms like YouTube. The music industry argues that YouTube et al exploit the safe harbour to force music companies into much less preferential licensing deals. Even though the main YouTube site competes with more conventional music streaming services like Spotify that pay much higher royalties.

There are currently three versions of the directive. There is the original one penned by the European Commission in 2016, and two significantly amended versions respectively passed by the European Parliament and EU Council last year. The three institutions are now in what is called the ‘trilogue’ phase where they must agree a single final version.

While YouTube and its owner Google have lobbied hard behind the scenes throughout the evolution of the directive, since the trilogue phase began they have gone into overdrive with a consumer-facing campaign claiming that article thirteen – especially the version passed by the European Parliament – would dramatically alter the service they could offer in Europe. The music industry insists that those claims are untrue and YouTube just doesn’t want to pay something closer to market-rate royalties for the music it streams.

All of which means that, for article thirteen, the trilogue phase has been as much about trying to find a compromise between YouTube and the music industry as between the three EU institutions. Meanwhile, the presidency of the EU Council switched to Romania at the start of the month. It has now circulated a proposed compromise text for article thirteen which, music industry reps said yesterday, is a big backwards step.

In an open letter they wrote: “After years of hard work, the Copyright Directive is at a very critical point. The proposed text circulated by the Romanian Presidency [on 13 Jan] falls below the standard of the three texts produced by the three European institutions and would not be an acceptable outcome of the negotiations”.

“The European Union cannot miss this unique opportunity”, it went on, “to achieve one of the key objectives of the European Commission proposal, which was to correct the distortion of the digital market place caused by user-upload content services. Therefore, the undersigned call on negotiators to urgently make substantial changes to the 13 Jan proposal by the Romanian Presidency in order to get the directive back on the right track”.

The “undersigned” included music industry organisations like IAO, ICMP, IFPI, IMPALA and IMPF, plus also trade bodies repping the film, media, broadcast and book sectors.

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