On March 26, 2019, the European Parliament approved the Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market – No. 2016/0280 (COD) – (“Directive”) amending and supplementing the previous Directives No. 96/9/CE and No. 2001/29/CE.
The Directive aims at pursuing two main objectives: on the one side, to set out a safeguard régime for copyrights – and copyrights’ holders – in the digital single market; and, on the other side, to furtherly protect the freedom of expression within the internet.
First, the Directive introduces a mechanism of direct liability of the internet platforms with respect to the uploaded contents and, moreover – from an economic perspective – it provides for a set of rules allowing the authors and performers to claim a supplementary remuneration in case the one originally agreed is excessively low when compared to the benefits arising for the distributer. These two cornerstones of the Directive should allow authors – and copyrights’ holders in general – to negotiate with the internet platforms licensing agreements on an arm’s length basis, thus obtaining a fair remuneration for the exploitation of their copyrights within the internet.
With reference to the freedom of expression, the Directive expressly keeps out from its scope a series of specific activities such as: sharing snippets of news articles; uploading materials on online encyclopedias for non-commercial purposes (e.g. Wikipedia) and using protected content for teaching; as well as it provides for lighter restrictions and obligations for start-up companies. Furthermore, the right to upload copyrighted material has been strengthened if intended for quotations, criticisms, reviews, caricatures or parodies.
The Directive will have a huge impact towards the nowadays big players of the digital market and – as the European Parliament’s member Axel Voss said in his opening statements – it is “an important step towards correcting a situation which has allowed a few companies to earn huge sums of money without properly remunerating the thousands of creatives and journalists whose work they depend on”.
The Directive shall further go through the approval process at EU Council level and the EU member States shall therefore decide to implement it within the two following years.