How should Europe remould the digital market ?

March 2018

All sectors: audio-visual, sound recordings, music publishing


An open letter, addressed to the European Parliament has asked MEPs to back an effort to reform the safe harbour laws and implement legislation to narrow the so called ‘value gap’. Not much new there? Well, the letter had two prominent signatories: the godfather of electronic music, Jean-Michel Jarre, and the Grammy Award winning Angelique Kidjo. 

In essence, under the E-Commerce Directive, safe harbour laws as they stand mean that Internet Society Service Providers are not liable if they are unsuspectingly hosting copyright infringing content.

If we look at the YouTube example, so much content is uploaded every day that it is practically impossible to sieve through it all for copyright infringing works, therefore if YouTube is doing all that it can to root out the infringing material it is protected under the safe harbour principle. Liability may arise if YouTube was put on notice of the infringing content and failed to remove it in a timely fashion. 

Due to the quantity of infringing material out there and with entities only being liable in certain circumstances, not everyone is happy. Artists are not happy that their content is out there and available for free, this is the “value gap”. 

This is where Jean-Michel Jarre and Angelique Kidjo and the International Confederation of Societies of Authors and Composers (CISCA) come in. CISCA is an international, non-governmental, not-for-profit organisation that aims to protect the rights of creators, of which Jarre is president and Kidjo is a vice-president. 

In the open letter, it is stated that: “The proposals by the European Commission, currently being discussed in the European Parliament, are among the most important copyright reforms of the last 20 years in Europe. They are a first step in the right direction, offering a historic opportunity to bring fairer remuneration for creators and drive economic growth and jobs in the creative industries”.

The letter goes on to take aim at the safe harbour regulations and the value gap that the regulations provides for: “In particular, Europe now has a chance to address the ‘transfer of value’ or ‘value gap’ which is caused by loopholes in the law allowing some of the world’s largest digital platforms to deny fair remuneration to millions of creators. To do this effectively, it is essential for the legislation to ensure fair remuneration by user uploaded content platforms such as YouTube. EU law should not be a shield to allow such platforms to make vast revenues from creative works while not fairly rewarding the creators”.

The letter concludes: “Thousands of artists and authors within Europe have already voiced their solidarity with the European Commission’s proposals. We now send our own message of encouragement to take this legislation to its full potential. Members of Parliament, we ask you to take this opportunity to shape a fairer digital market for creators in the 21st century”.

Let’s hope that CISCA, the European Parliament and the MEPs can tackle the safe harbour regulations and create a fairer digital market for all. 

Interestingly in Australia, Google funded research seems to have come up with a very different message, arguing that current reforms to Australia’s copyright laws, in particular a reform to what many say are tech sector friendly safe harbour laws might stifle innovation and act as a barrier to innovation. 

By Samuel O’Toole ( ) and

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