The Copyright directive: Reshaping the online market for musical and audiovisual content to be at the service of those who provide the service

March 2 2021

Almost two years ago, on April 17, 2019, the European Parliament voted the Copyright Directive. It was a fiercely contested directive and described by many as a victory for the rightholders. But where are we today? We are nearing the end of a long process, but we have no guarantee yet that it will mean a new beginning for musicians and actors.

In recent years, in both the music and audiovisual sector, we have seen the market shift from material carriers to a digital market. Since the first half of 2019, more than 71% of the total music turnover in our country has come from digital exploitation. In the first corona year 2020, the use of music streaming service increased even further by no less than 22.6% compared to 2019. In the audiovisual sector also, the digital revolution has also become a fact, partly due to the corona success year for the video streaming platforms. In 2020, Netflix could count on 37 million new subscribers. Disney+ did even better with a whopping 87 million paid subscribers in the first year after launch. These new players have firmly taken their place in the music and audiovisual market. More so, they have taken over the market.

You rarely hear the shareholders of these companies complain. But with the increasing turnover of their services, so does the dissatisfaction among authors and performers about the substandard remuneration that the new business model offers them. This applies even more to Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon and Microfsoft: the so-called GAFAM platforms. They play an increasingly important role in the distribution and consumption of music and audiovisual content. YouTube dominates the music streaming market and the social media platforms depend on audiovisual and musical content to keep their community model alive.

Study after study shows that the weak contractual position of musicians and actors is the cause of the lack of equitable remuneration. Europe recognized that its current legal framework does not provide sufficient leverage to reverse that situation and therefore voted the Copyright directive.

Member States need to adapt and supplement their existing legal framework so that the European principles on copyright and neighbouring rights are future-proof. At the top of this list of principles is the high level of protection for rightholders: authors and performers should be better remunerated for the digital and online exploitation of their works and performances.

Minister of Economy Dermagne has a draft bill ready to “implement” this directive. The draft contains many good elements, but if this minister wants to make sure that the directive becomes a victory for all rightholders, a number of adjustments need to be made.

If Minister Dermagne wishes to strengthen the contractual position of authors and performers, than non-transferrable rights are the best protection he can provide. After all, this is the only way to guarantee a remuneration that is and remains appropriate and proportionate.

PlayRight has already initiated a dialogue with Minister Dermagne and his colleagues and has formulated a number of concrete proposals aimed at ensuring that authors and performers have the guarantee of an appropriate and proportionate remuneration for the exploitation of their works and performances by streaming-, VOD- and social media platforms. We hope that these proposals will lead to an adjustment of the bill so that this Copyright directive will become a victory for all rightholders.

To be continued!


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