All three major labels and thousands of songwriters, creators and music industry stake holders have called upon the European Parliament to pass sweeping reforms to copyright law that could have huge consequences for services like YouTube.
With one week to go before the Plenary vote — deciding if user-generated content services like YouTube will be required to obtain licenses to host music content — intense lobbying is taking place from both the creative and tech sectors.
At stake, music industry bodies argue, is the chance to address the value gap and ensure that artists and rights holders get paid fairly for the use of their work online.
However, opponents of the reforms argue that, if passed, the reforms will restrict freedoms online and threaten the future of the internet.
“After three years of debate, one of the most controversial pieces of legislation ever to come before the European Parliament is about to go to the vote,” said Robert Ashcroft, chief executive of U.K. collection society PRS for Music, in a statement calling for support from MEPs.
“This is about copyright and specifically about the rights of creators versus those of the Internet giants; it is about the way the internet functions as a fair and efficient marketplace,” says Ashcroft, calling it a debate “we must win if we want to secure our creative community into the next decade.”
To date, more than 30,000 songwriters, artists and creators have signed a petition backing the reforms, which were provisionally passed by the European Parliament’s Legal Affairs Committee on June 20.
The Copyright Directive still has to be approved by the European Parliament before it becomes law, though, with the next stage of that process taking place July 5 when MEPs meet in Strasbourg.
As well as ruling on “safe harbor” provisions in Europe, the directive (as it stands) requires UGC services like YouTube to introduce automatic content recognition systems to block any works that infringe copyright. They will also be required to set up “easy redress” systems for works that are mistakenly taken down.
A number of tech figures, including World Wide Web inventor Tim Berners-Lee and Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales, have spoken out against Article 13 — a key part of the directive, which critics say could put an end to memes, remixes and other user-generated content. Supporters of the directive strongly refute those claims.
“There is a cynical campaign from tech companies flooding the inboxes of MEPs with scaremongering that the copyright directive would be the end of the internet,” reads a statement from IMPALA, which has been sent to all members of the European Parliament ahead of next week’s vote and is signed by over 80 music and creative industry representatives, including all three major labels, IFPI, AIM, Featured Artists Coalition, PRS for Music and the European Festival Association, Yourope.
Asking MEPs to back the copyright directive and “support creation in Europe,” the statement calls for an “internet that is fair and sustainable for all.”
In response to the June 20 vote, YouTube owner Google issued a statement saying, “We’ve always believed there’s a better way than this, and that innovation and partnership are the keys to successful, diverse and sustainable news and creative sectors in the EU. For both European creators and consumers, it’s vital to preserve the principles of linking, sharing and creativity on which so much of the web’s success is built.”