Online copyright: will the EU be a global front-runner or a bystander?

The negotiations between the European Commission, European Parliament (EP) and the Council of the European Union (EU) on the proposed Directive on ‘Copyright in the Digital Single Market’ will not only determine the rights and remuneration of audiovisual authors in Europe, it will also determine the positioning of the EU on the global stage: will the EU become a front-runner or a bystander?

The petition we launched three weeks ago in support of Europe’s screenwriters and directors, together with FERA and FSE, has reached more than 10.500 signatories by now (we should continue! Please sign if you have not done so yet). The fact that people have signed from more than 85 countries worldwide demonstrates that the support stretches far beyond Europe. Not only are we being supported, the EU is being watched.

The President and Vice-Presidents of the International Confederation of Societies of Authors and Composers (CISAC) have written a letter to Members of the European Parliament, to show its support by calling on EU legislators to include an unwaivable right to remuneration for audiovisual authors for the on-demand exploitation of their works in the new Copyright Directive. Last week, 160 prominent filmmakers also joined together in a statement for the Berlin Film Festival. Among their messages they mentioned the unique opportunity to put in place a European mechanism that will “ensure that authors earn fair, proportional and inalienable remuneration when their films and audiovisual works are watched on digital platforms.”

I previously worked with human rights, a policy area where the EU always takes great pride in being the front-runner. I am not sure, though, whether decision-makers are as vocal about their pride for Europe’s rich cultural diversity, as they are about the EU’s rights-standards in external relations and support for development work in the world. The EU should celebrate the many original European films, series, TV and web programmes, as well as the creators behind them. Leaving the screenwriters and directors behind when negotiating the new Copyright Directive would be unjust and ignorant of the fact that several Member States already offer such remuneration mechanisms for audiovisual authors, such as Spain, Italy, France, Belgium and Poland.

Mariya Gabriel, the Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society, often speaks about her aim to make the EU a digital champion, to ensure we don’t risk missing the train that US, China and others are already on. She’s right. However, championship is also about taking the opportunity to adopt a framework that provides remuneration rights for creators in Europe. If the opportunity is not seized, many will wonder why the EU is not as involved as countries like Chile and Colombia that are setting examples outside the EU by introducing an unwaivable right to remuneration for audiovisual authors into their respective laws.

As SAA we expect the EU to be the front-runner, adopting an EU Copyright law including a fair and unwaivable remuneration right for audiovisual authors for the on-demand exploitation of their works

AR @aryngbeck

Sign the Petition - Support Europe’s screenwriters and directors

126 prominent screenwriters and directors across Europe have come together to call on the legislators of the European Union to seize the momentum of the adoption of the Copyright Directive in the Digital Single Market to support Europe’s creators in the online environment.

Read more about our campaign.