- 16 Apr 19
Under new legislation, passed recently by the European Parliament, online platforms will be legally responsible for checking the copyright clearance of all items posted to their sites. Songwriters and musicians are hailing it as a major victory.
Under new legislation passed recently by the European Parliament in Strasbourg, online platforms will be legally responsible for checking the copyright clearance of all items posted to their sites. This development has not only been celebrated by newspaper and magazine publishers but also by the music industry, as the legislation will require tech giants like YouTube and Facebook, among others, to pay for all copyright material they use.
The news has been particularly welcomed in Ireland by IMRO, whose chair Eleanor McEvoy took time out from her current UK tour to talk exclusively to Hot Press about the ground-breaking development. As she explained, “This is the first updating of the copyright laws since 2001, and it’s terrific news for all creative people. It’s also a victory for democracy, given the strenuous efforts and the lies put out by the tech giants as they tried to bully and blackmail MEPs into voting against this legislation. They even manipulated search engines and shut down Wikipedia in Slovakia and other countries, in order to restrict access to information that did not suit their aims. But this legislation also reinforces our view that culture matters, and that the creators of music are entitled in law to be remunerated for the use of their work.”
McEvoy says that while musicians love technology, it’s not acceptable that it be used to steal and misuse their copyrights. As she says, “As all other legitimate media, including radio and television stations, rightly pay for such usage, there’s no logic in the claim that online platforms should be free from such obligations. Nor is there any merit whatever in the excuse that it would be impossible for any platform to negotiate every single item posted. These can easily be covered, as they are in countless comparable situations, by negotiated blanket agreements with organisations representing groups of copyright holders.”
McEvoy also pays tribute to IMRO CEO Victor Finn, who campaigned for four years to make this happen.
“IMRO were active participants in a Europe-wide choreographed lobbying, led by SESAC,” she says. “In all my years as a musician, I’ve never seen musicians and songwriters so united. In Ireland we had multi-genre support from artists as diverse as Phil Coulter and country singer Derek Ryan, across to indie bands, pop singers and just about every sector of the music community.”
As part of the campaign, McEvoy herself spoke before the European Parliament and won hearts and minds when she performed her music for MEPs. She now looks forward to the Irish government implementing the legislation in the Dail.
However Eoin O’Dell, a Barrister and self-confessed music fan, points out that this will not happen overnight. He suspects that the celebrations might be a little premature.
“The proposals took since about August 2016 to wend their way through the various stages of the European Parliament,” he says. “It could take up to 18 months or two years for it to become Irish law. It would also be reasonable to expect a number of appeals and amendments, as is normal for any proposed legislation passing through any parliament. It’s also worth remembering that the proposal has not yet completed its journey through the European Parliament, although I expect it to.”
O’Dell also points out that the terminology in the bill referring to payment for copyright owners is couched in terms of ‘appropriate and proportionate remuneration’. This itself is rather vague and will require considerable negotiation between the internet platforms and the copyright owners and that will also take time.”
In his professional capacity, O’Dell points out that the documentation relevant to the legislation is extremely long.
“It contains some of the jargon we have come to expect from the EU,” he says, “but there are parts of it I thought were very good and others less so.”
MEPs passed the draft law with 348 votes in favour, 274 against, with 36 abstentions. Apart from strenuous opposition from the tech giants, the proposals were also fought by supporters of a ‘free’ internet, including some who want a zone within which any person would be entitled to lie, abuse, harass and vilify any other person without any restrictions whatsoever. Cleary they’ve lost this immediate battle – but that doesn’t mean the war is over.