The much anticipated vote by the European Parliament on the Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market (also known as the EU Copyright Directive) took place on 12th September following a postponement from the 5th July 2018. The most talked about element of the Directive was the proposed Article 13 relating to the value gap or transfer of value. This has been billed as the music industry versus the tech giants. In summary, Article 13 provides obligations on online content sharing service providers, such as YouTube, who currently benefit from safe harbour provisions, to prevent content being uploaded and shared by users without the necessary consent or licence (something those users will have to, quite rightly in my view, pay for).
Critics of the proposal have argued the legislation would lead to restrictions on the freedom of expression and “to censor the internet”. Whilst it is true that Article 13 raises practical questions as to the tech companies’ ability to implement effective and proportionate measures to prevent the availability of unlicensed works, many of the concerns raised in opposition to the Directive have already been addressed within the existing EU framework and case law.
Nevertheless, the MEPs have now voted to pass the Directive. Of the 703 politicians voting in Strasbourg, 438 voted in favour, 226 again and 39 abstained. The result of the vote will continue to attract attention and the European Copyright Directive will stay close to the front pages of the music press for some time to come.
Martin Ochs is a Partner in the Entertainment, Media and IP Team at Hamlins and acts regularly for bodies within the music sector in the protection of IP rights within the industry.