Article 13 binned by UK Government as Brexit looms

Article 13 of the EU Copyright Directive has been one of the music industry’s most controversial topics over the past few years.

Passed into law by the European Parliament on September 12, 2018, Article 13 aimed to make the likes of YouTube and Facebook liable for copyright-infringing material on their platforms, thus challenging the ‘safe harbor’ protections such companies enjoy in the European Union.

It was subsequently renamed Article 17 last year, following negotiations in Europe about the wording of the text, with the final version of the Directive and its Article 17 provision approved by The EU Council after a vote on April 15, 2019.

Member states were then given two years to implement the Directive on a national level. Many music rightsholders cheered a hard-fought victory.

Yet in the the UK, the world’s third biggest music market, the past few days have brought bombshell news for the bill’s supporters.

According to British Conservative MP Chris Skidmore, Minister of State (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) (Universities and Science), the UK won’t be implementing the law after all.

Skidmore states that the UK Government ‘has no plans’ to comply with the EU Copyright Directive after the country leaves the European Union via Brexit.

Skidmore added, in his written response to a question about the Government’s post Brexit plans for the law posed by Labour MP Jo Stevens, “that any future changes to the UK copyright framework will be considered as part of the usual domestic policy process”.

While the the UK Government’s latest stance on the Directive will likely please the likes of YouTube, the move has drawn sharp criticism from elsewhere in the industry.

Independent music body IMPALA issued a statement (see below) today (January 28) arguing that it’s “illogical not to deliver the results now”.

On Friday (January 24), Tom Kiehl, Deputy CEO of UK Music (an umbrella body that represents the recording, publishing and live sectors) wrote to Skidmore “to request an urgent meeting to discuss the music industry’s concerns”.

Annabella Coldrick, CEO of the UK’s Music Manager’s Forum (MMF), said that “it is vital that the entire package is enacted”

“The Copyright Directive is about much more than ‘the value gap’, it has potential to recalibrate IP legislation for the benefit of those who contribute most to the success of British music.”

Annabella Coldrick, MMF

Said Coldrick: “For advocates of Brexit, the UK’s departure from the EU was supposed to provide clarity and certainty.

“Unfortunately, only days before January 31st, the UK’s artists, songwriters, musicians and producers now find themselves faced with the reverse.

“The Copyright Directive is about much more than ‘the value gap’, it has potential to recalibrate IP legislation for the benefit of those who contribute most to the success of British music.

“It is vital that the entire package is enacted, and MMF will now look to pick up discussions with Government to take this discussion forward, as well as our friends and colleagues in the Council of Music Makers and UK Music.”

Andrea C. Martin, CEO of PRS for Music, said: “We acknowledge the political reasons behind this announcement, but that doesn’t change the fact that in some areas the UK’s current copyright framework is failing to protect creators.

“This lack of clarity will stifle the UK’s creative sector – one of our engines for growth.

“If our creator community is not going to benefit from the same level of protection as those in Europe, we urge the government to set out clearly and quickly how it will ensure the UK remains an attractive home for creative businesses and their rights.”

Geoff Taylor, Chief Executive, BPI & BRIT Awards, said: “It remains of vital importance to British music and the UK’s creative industries that digital platforms pay fairly for the content they use and put in place effective proactive measures to ensure illegal content does not appear on their services.

“We will continue to engage closely with Government on this subject to ensure this goal is achieved”.

“Any future changes to the UK copyright framework will be considered as part of the usual domestic policy process.”

Chris Skidmore MP (pictured)

“The deadline for implementing the EU Copyright Directive is 7 June 2021. The United Kingdom will leave the European Union on 31 January 2020 and the Implementation Period will end on 31 December 2020.

“The Government has committed not to extend the Implementation Period. Therefore, the United Kingdom will not be required to implement the Directive, and the Government has no plans to do so.

“Any future changes to the UK copyright framework will be considered as part of the usual domestic policy process.”

In November 2018, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki warned content creators that Article 13 posed “a threat” to their livelihoods, while the platform’s Global Head of Music Lyor Cohen argued that Article 13 could mean “less money for artists and songwriters, less music for fans”.

Later that month, UK-based recorded music industry body BPI, which represents the commercial interests of Universal Music, Sony Music and Warner Music, amongst others, attacked YouTube for its “ongoing carpet-bombing propaganda against [Article 13]”, which it suggested, “feels like a challenge to the legitimacy of the democratic process”.

In March last year, Europe For Creators – which includes music bodies such as IMPALA, AIM, CISAC, BASCA, IMRO, PRS for Music and many others, and which claims to represent some 12 million jobs across in Europe – echoed the BPI, and criticised YouTube for the “propagation of misinformation” ahead of the Article 13 vote that April.

You can read IMPALA’s statement on the UK’s cancellation of the European Copyright Directive in full below:

The European copyright directive brings clear benefits for creators, citizens and of course start-ups. It was years in the making and should also be available in the UK.

The UK has always taken a lead in Europe on these issues. When the directive was being voted, the conservative government agreed that the UK should vote in favour, based on the merits of the legislation. It’s illogical not to deliver the results now. 

Many UK members of the European parliament fought extremely hard for more than three years. They took risks to make sure the directive would be approved. And now, creators from their own country may not be able to benefit from it. That would be a hard pill to swallow. 

We would hope that the debate will continue as we believe the incentives are clear. As the leading music market in Europe, it is important that the UK doesn’t have a second-rate copyright system and lag behind its continental European sisters. 

Of course this is not just about the music sector. UK citizens should be able to benefit from the new provisions clarifying that responsibility lies with platforms, not users. UK start-ups should also be allowed access to the special light regime the directive introduces. 

The good news is that the UK can align its legislation even if it doesn’t adopt the directive as such. In other words, it can still deliver on its promises and remain a leader in Europe.Music Business Worldwide

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