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  • Copyright for the Digital Age

    The government is currently seeking views on a new draft copyright directive released by the EU with the aim of modernising copyright in the EU.

    The scope of the proposed new legislation is broad, covering access to copyright content for people who are visually impaired or otherwise print disabled, cross-border use of content, provisions for video-on-demand services, and use of out-of-commerce works by cultural heritage institutions. The proposed new measures are broad-ranging, but perhaps some of the most significant proposals are:

    1. New related right for newspaper and magazine publishers

    Currently, broadcasting organisations, film producers, record producers and performers enjoy rights in the works which they broadcast/produce/etc. The new directive proposes to add newspaper and magazine publishers to this list, granting them rights in their publications for a period of twenty years following publication.

    2. Content recognition on online platforms

    You might be familiar with services like YouTube’s Content ID, which scan content as it is uploaded to online platforms to check whether it matches any works stored in the platform’s database of copyright works. If a match is detected, the copyright owner can choose to block the infringing content. The new directive proposes to make it obligatory for online platforms like this to implement content recognition technology to prevent copyright content being made available without the rights owner’s consent.

    3. Fair remuneration for authors and performers

    The directive proposes creating an obligation for those who exploit copyright works to provide regular statements to authors and performers showing the ways in which their works have been exploited, the revenues generated from that use, and the remuneration due as a result. The aim being to provide content creators with more transparency regarding the exploitation of their works. The greater transparency comes with a parallel requirement that authors and performers be entitled to request additional remuneration where the remuneration they receive from a licensee is disproportionately low compared to the revenues derived from exploiting the work.

    The common threads linking many of the new proposals are that copyright is being updated for the digital age, taking into account online content platforms, streaming services, and video on demand, and that the EU is moving closer to a digital single market, removing national barriers to the use of copyright works within the EU.

    Of course, the elephant in the room is the impact of Brexit on these proposals. The UKIPO is co-ordinating responses from UK stakeholders, so UK businesses will get to have their say on the directive. But as drafted, member states are allowed a grace period of 12 months following the entry into force of the directive to implement its provisions. It’s not impossible that the UK would have left the EU by that point, relieving the government of any obligation to implement this directive.

    Either way, the new legislation will clearly be important to copyright owners wishing to exploit their works or prevent piracy within the EU, even if it never becomes law in the UK. We’ll be watching developments with interest.