Venice: Directors, Screenwriters Call for EU to Back New Copyright Law

Credit: Thin Man Films
Mike Leigh

Jacques Audiard, Pawel Pawlikowski, Mike Leigh and Lone Scherfig are among the 165 European filmmakers calling for the European Parliament to pass the controversial legislation.

A group of 165 European directors and screenwriters has signed a declaration at the Venice Film Festival calling on the European Parliament to pass new legislation that will overhaul copyright law for the online world.

Veteran filmmakers, including Mike Leigh, Paolo Sorrentino, Agnieszka Holland, Pawel Pawlikowski and Margarethe von Trotta, and newcomers such as Laszlo Nemes (Son of Saul, Sunset) and Benedikt Erlingsson (Of Horses and Men, Women at War) signed the so-called Venice Declaration, calling on the European Parliament to adopt the legislation that “puts authors at the heart of copyright and of the European cultural and creative industries, including online.”

Other signatories to the Venice Declaration include Palme d'Or winner Cristian Mungiu (4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days), Lone Scherfig (An Education) and Matteo Garrone (Gomorrah).

The petition refers to the draft "Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market," a proposed, and controversial, law that would change how copyright holders, including creatives in the film and TV industries, are compensated for distribution of their work online.

The legislation includes provisions forcing big online companies, such as Google or Facebook, to share revenue with copyright holders and to better police their sites. Two of its key components are Article 11, dubbed the "link tax," which forces news aggregation and search sites to pay publishers for showing news snippets or linking to news stories on other sites, and Article 13, which mandates upload filters for online platforms to prevent copyright-protected material from being illegally posted.

The creative industries had lobbied hard for the Copyright Directive. Several big media companies, together with bold-face names in the film, TV and music industries (including the likes of Paul McCartney and James Blunt), have come out in support of the new law. Authors and screenwriters in particular argue the legislation is essential to ensure writers are not left out of renumeration deals for the exploitation of their works online.

But in July, the European Parliament rejected an initial draft of the law, voting 318 to 278 against it. Critics say the legislation is unworkable — both Spain and German previously introduced a "link tax" similar to Article 11 with decidedly mixed results — and that the upload filters required by Article 13 would lead platforms to block legitimate free speech.

A revised version of the copyright directive goes before the European Parliament on Sept. 12.