Music industry trade bodies have welcomed moves at the European Parliament that take the European Union another step closer to new copyright legislation – and the potential closing of the so-called ‘value gap’.
Voting on the draft Copyright Directive first proposed by the European Commission in September 2016, the Culture and ITRE (Industry, Research & Energy) committees both voted in favour of amendments aimed at levelling the playing field for digital platforms. These include the tightening of ‘safe harbour’ provisions that the biz says allow platforms including YouTube to avoid responsibility for copyright infringement on their services and ultimately pay less to rights-holders than the likes of Spotify and Apple Music.
"It makes complete sense to narrow the value gap and the parliament has sent a strong message this morning,” said Helen Smith, executive chair of indies body Impala. “That's very good news - recalibrating the digital market in this way is necessary to stop creators, start-ups and citizens being dominated by abusive practices of big platforms who don't pay fair or play fair.”
Gadi Oron, director general of CISAC, the umbrella body representing authors societies from 121 countries, said: “It is good news to see policy makers in Europe standing up for creativity and culture and voting to close vital loopholes that are harming millions of creators. These two committees have understood the opportunity for Europe to take the lead in making sure creators in the digital market are properly respected and fairly remunerated. We now look for this positive signal to be confirmed in the plenary vote of the European Parliament later this year.”
CISAC recently cited the value gap as the biz's biggest challenge in its annual report and the phrase has featured prominently in the biz's lobbying efforts over the last few years.
Both committees also rejected a compulsory exemption for user-generated content.
"An exception would send the digital market back 10 years by unpicking licensing and creating new complexities in terms of administration and levies,” said Smith. “To close the value gap, then widen it again with an exception doesn’t make sense and this has been rejected before by both the Commission and member states."
The fight is far from over, however. After the Parliament’s summer break, the directive will be scrutinised by the legal committee before national governments, the legislative body and the European Parliament attempt to achieve a consensus. So looks like we’ll be hearing about the value gap for a while yet. But will the UK still be in Europe by the time any law is actually passed?