On Sept. 14, 2021, Music Publishers Canada and the RBC Emerging Artist Project presented a free online panel on the European Union Copyright Directive, as part of Canadian Music Week’s “Virtual Voices” series.

The hour-long online discussion featured John Phelan, Director General, International Confederation of Music Publishers, who spoke in depth with Axel Voss, Member of the European Parliament and Lead Negotiator for the EU Copyright Directive.

The directive seeks to enforce copyright compliance in the digital music space by requiring all “online content-sharing service providers” (essentially, user-generated-content platforms) to obtain authorizations from rights holders to provide the public access to copyright-protected works uploaded by the platform’s users.

Unless an online content-sharing service provider can demonstrate that it has made “best efforts” to either license copyrighted videos and songs in their users’ uploads, and take down infringing content and ensure that the song, video, or other creative work isn’t infringed upon again, the platform will be liable for copyright infringement.

While the EU directive is just a starting point in a rising tide of regulatory changes worldwide, the conversation also examined many possibilities for fairer renumeration from platforms using music as their main business model.

The imbalance is caused mainly by the “safe harbour” provisions, which big platforms used to disqualify themselves from legally complying with responsible music licensing. These provisions are applicable only to passive hosting sites, such as internet service providers.

According to Voss, there’s still time to correct that imbalance. In fact, the comprehensive EU Copyright Directive has been adopted by many of the 27 EU-member states, which will bring into force national laws to comply with it.

Similarly, in Canada, Bill C-10 – which died on the Order Paper once the 2021 Federal election was called – sought to regulate the digital global streaming platforms, to ensure Canadian creators are supported, fairly represented, and remunerated for their work when it’s used by online broadcasters, including user-generated content services.

Eventually, by making copyright reform an international effort, Voss explains, these corrective actions will ensure a “brighter future for the music industry.” He also adds that the EU Copyright Directive promotes building more trust, and encourages platforms and creators to work together, while allowing for more transparency.

When asked about the contentiousness surrounding Article 17 of the EU Copyright Directive as a hindrance to right of expression, censorship, and net neutrality, Voss explained that it’s a misunderstanding. In fact, Copyright Reform directives want platforms to use more copyright-protected works. They can legally use copyrighted music if they pay creators fairly. Directive 17 promotes mutual respect and obligations between the platform using the music and the creators of that music.

It’s clear that copyright reform is important and an integral part of international legislation. It clarifies big-tech obligations, and “future-proofs” compliance when new services come up, providing a clear legal landscape for user-generated-content services.

To learn more about the EU Copyright Directive, click here.