New EU Draft Directive Strengthens Authors’ Rights

LONDON, September 15, 2016

Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society (ALCS) welcomes the news that the European Commission has considered strengthening authors’ rights an important element of their new draft legislative proposals which are aimed at modernising copyright rules and allowing for greater access to works, particularly across borders via digital networks.

The centrepiece of the reforms is a proposal for a Directive on copyright in the Digital Single Market. Key measures introduced by the Directive include new mandatory exceptions to copyright for activities including digital uses of works for teaching purposes as well as better safeguards for authors’ rights.

In his State of the Union address on 14 September, Jean-Claude Juncker said:

‘As the world goes digital, we also have to empower our artists and creators and protect their works. Artists and creators are our crown jewels.’

Most ALCS writer members receive payments from educational licensing and remuneration schemes, in the United Kingdom and worldwide, and we are delighted that the proposed legislation provides for laws that enable educational access while preserving the right of authors to be paid fairly for the use of their works.

While the extent to which the UK will be bound by EU laws in the future remains uncertain, we welcome and support the approach taken in the draft Directive which permits digital teaching activities while also allowing for payments under licences or through other compensation mechanisms.

The EU draft Directive also includes other important safeguards for authors aimed at addressing the current imbalance in their bargaining position: the right of authors to transparent information about the exploitation of their works and performances, and a right for authors to claim appropriate remuneration if their initial remuneration was disproportionately low compared to the eventual revenue the work generates.

We have campaigned with the Society of Authors to promote fair contracts both in the UK (through their CREATOR campaign for fair contracts) and internationally with our contributions to the International Authors Forum’s ten principles for fair contracts. We are pleased to see that the EU has acknowledged some of these pressing issues and this should be seen as a positive first step in the goal of strengthening authors’ rights, though as ever, there is more to be done. ALCS will campaign for the UK Government to implement these clauses as a priority ahead of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.

ALCS Deputy Chief Executive, Barbara Hayes states:

‘Fairness and balance are the hallmarks of a progressive copyright system, and safeguarding the rights of authors to fair compensation is central to sustaining and developing creativity. This new Directive recognises this by enabling teachers and students to access learning materials on terms that will incentivise the creation of new works and establishes further measures to safeguard authors’ rights. It is a good start but more needs to be done.’