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A total of 126 prominent European screenwriters and directors, together with their industry organizations, published an open letter Wednesday, calling on Europe’s lawmakers to adopt a proposed change in copyright law aimed at better compensating creatives for online use of their work.
The letter, signed by the likes of directors Alan Parker, Stefan Ruzowitzky, Agnieszka Holland, Margarethe von Trotta and the Dardenne Brothers, pushed for European Union legislators to quickly adopt the Copyright Directive in the Digital Single Market “to once and for all support Europe’s creators in the online environment.”
A draft of the new copyright law is currently being negotiated by the European Parliament and EU member states. The EU’s committee on legal affairs will vote on the draft legislation March 27.
The focus of much of the debate surrounding the new law centers on Article 13, a proposal meant to address the issue of compensation for rights holders for copyright-protected material uploaded to online platforms. Under the proposed legislation, companies that provide access to the public to “large amounts of works uploaded by their users” must take measures to ensure rights holders are properly remunerated, and take down material that infringes copyright.
Copyright holders — including film creatives, but also large commercial groups and associations representing the music, film and television industries — lobbied for the new law, saying it will close the so-called value gap: the difference between the amount online companies like YouTube pay copyright holders for their content and its true value, judged by the degree to which it is shared and viewed online.
But opponents to the new law say its wording is too vague and could end up restricting free speech as platforms use filtering technology to block any suspect material. Others warn of legal chaos as multiple copyright holders for the same content submit conflicting claims.
European screenwriters, however, argue the legislation does not go far enough because it does not guarantee any remuneration for authors for the the online exploitation of their work, as writers in Europe typically transfer all exploitation rights to their producers before a project is made. Screenwriters are calling for lawmakers to allow authors to retain proportionate rights for online remuneration, with the actual value of those rights to be determined when the film or TV series is exploited in the online space.
The copyright issue is part of a broader debate over the EU’s proposal to create a digital single market, tearing down all barriers to online trade between all 28 countries in the EU (or 27 once the U.K. leaves the group).
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