The Trialogue talks went to extra time but creators and Internet users came out with a major win on Wednesday, Feb. 13: an agreement between the three EU institutions on the final text.
UPDATE (March 4): The final version of the text was approved in a Coreper meeting of representatives of the 28 member countries on Wednesday, Feb. 20. The JURI (Legal Affairs Committee of the European Parliament) approved the text Feb. 26. Parliament will most likely vote on the text during one of two plenary sessions in Strasbourg: March 11-14, or March 25-28.
The text agreed on Wednesday evening is being refined and consolidated and will be made public in the coming days. There is no official version available yet, but here are some highlights that we have gleaned from official press releases:
Tangible benefits to all creative sectors, specifically creators and actors in the audio-visual and musical sectors, by reinforcing their position vis-à-vis platforms to have more control over the use of their content uploaded by users on these platforms and be remunerated for it.
Creators' groups call on EP and Council to back the deal
“We are thankful to the European decisionmakers for reaching an agreement on this complex and sensitive piece of legislation today,” said Véronique Desbrosses, Director General of GESAC, an umbrella group of European authors’ rights societies. “Despite the pressure of tech giants until the very end, the text, which still needs to be assessed in detail, is a major achievement. It will enable creators to be remunerated fairly by large online platforms that today are siphoning the value of the creative sector while failing to compensate creators.”
“On behalf of the music authors community, let me first thank all the negotiators for reaching such an agreement. It was said to be the once in a generation reform, and the EU can be proud of the deal reached yesterday. This is a strong and positive signal to all authors who want to write, compose, create and be fairly remunerated for their creations”, said Alfons Karabuda, President of the European Composer and Songwriter Alliance (ECSA), which represents over 50,000 professional composers and songwriters in 26 European countries.
Jean-Marie Moreau, a songwriter and president of the authors’ society Sacem, said: "As we wait for this text to be approved in Parliament and the Council, we remain committed to seeing the adoption of this directive reflect a Europe that is proud of its creators."
“This legislation will be the first time anywhere in the world that there is absolute confirmation that user upload services are covered by copyright and need a licence." said Helen Smith, the Executive Chair of IMPALA, the body representing over 4,000 independent music companies across Europe. "There are a few more steps before this reform becomes law and we count on all sectors to unite in support of this balanced text and ensure it is finally adopted.”
A better experience for regular users
Regular Internet users stand to benefit, as the final directive stipulates that platforms’ licenses should allow users to upload copyright protected content on services like YouTube or Facebook. Another win for users: They will be able to “swiftly contest any unjustified removal of their content by the platforms,” according to the Parliament statement.
The text agreed to on Wednesday explicitly spells out safeguards on freedom of expression: “Uploading protected works for purposes of quotation, criticism, review, caricature, parody or pastiche has been protected, ensuring that memes and Gifs will continue to be available and shareable on online platforms,” the Parliament press release said.
Exceptions worked out
One of the sticking points in the Trialogue talks had to do with granting exceptions to the new Article 13 copyright regime. Here’s what was agreed, according to the Parliament press release:
- Online encyclopaedias operating in a non-commercial way, such as Wikipedia, or open source software platforms, such as GitHub, will automatically be excluded.
- Start-up platforms will be subject to lighter obligations than more established ones.
In a press conference on Thursday, Axel Voss, the Parliament rapporteur, welcomed the deal and explained that requirements under Article 13 would depend on the size and business models of the companies involved. The “proportionality principle in Article 13 calls for a staggered approach,” he said.
The end of a Marathon
The deal was two and a half years in the making – the Commission had initially proposed a new copyright directive on the 14th of September, 2016. The process has involved two European Parliament rapporteurs – remember Therese Comodini Cachia, who left Parliament in the summer of 2017 after issuing her report -- six European Parliament committees and 5 EU presidencies.
Along the way, lawmakers have had to contend with intense and misleading lobbying led by one of the most powerful companies in the world. Exaggerated and false claims about killing memes and GIFs or ending user generated content had to be debunked.