European Rights Holders Call for 'Urgent' Changes Over Watered Down Copyright Reforms

European Parliament
Frederick Florin/AFP/Getty Images

European Union member countries' national flags wave in front of the European Parliament on Oct. 12, 2012 in Strasbourg, eastern France. 

With just days to go before the European Parliament meets to conduct its final negotiations on copyright reform, a consortium of trade bodies and rights holder organizations published an open letter on Thursday (Jan. 17) warning that the draft legislation requires "urgent" and "substantial" improvements.

International music body IFPI and European indie label trade group IMPALA are among the signatories of the letter, which says that the latest draft of the proposed Copyright Directive "does not meet the original objective of Article 13 and urgently requires significant changes."

Of particular concern to the creative sector are a number of "possible compromise solutions" included in a Jan. 13 draft text that they claim makes too many concessions to tech giants and doesn't do enough to address the so-called value gap.

Although the letter doesn't specify exactly which amendments it objects to, a leaked copy of the Jan. 13 working paper published on the Politico website details the long list of proposals policy makers are currently debating. They include finer points around licensing agreements between rights holders and user upload platforms like YouTube, an end to safe harbor protections and where the liability lies for the hosting of unlicensed content.       

"After years of hard work, the Copyright Directive is at a very critical point. The 13 January proposed text circulated by the Romanian Presidency falls below the standard of the three texts produced by the three European Institutions and would not be an acceptable outcome of the negotiations," states the letter, which is also signed by the Independent Music Publishers International Forum (IMPF), European Publishers Council and EUROCINEMA, among others.

As has been widely reported, Article 13 is the most controversial element of the European Commission's long-held plans to reform copyright law. If approved in its original guise, the legislation will make online platforms and aggregators like YouTube liable for copyright infringements, as well as take action to prevent them from taking place.

Since the reforms were passed in November, lawmakers have been negotiating with member states to finalize the directive amid strong lobbying from both the tech and creative industries.

On the tech side, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki and head of music Lyor Cohen have published op-eds claiming the legislation will lead to blocked videos, end memes, harm creativity and threaten "the livelihoods of thousands of artists, creators and songwriters."

European rights holder organizations have been equally outspoken, campaigning against what they call "fact-free fear-mongering" by the Google-owned video platform. Now, as the process nears its conclusion, the creative sector is issuing a final call to policy makers.  

"The European Union cannot miss this unique opportunity 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 (UUC) services," summarizes Thursday's letter.

It concludes by calling on negotiators "to urgently make substantial changes to the 13 January proposal ... in order to get the [Copyright] Directive back on the right track."