We have closely monitored the debates around the EP’s own initiative report on the review of the EU copyright rules between its draft release last January and the final vote in July. And it was often heard that without stricter copyright, creators will not be able to support themselves, cultural production will come to an end and European cultural heritage will disappear. At the other extreme, the supporters of a more open access to content often underlined that the new digital tools make it possible to transcend the traditional way of creating and disseminating creative content, which presents the possibility of new innovative revenue streams and further supports the development of European culture.
Studies like “The Sky is rising” provide examples of how business models changed over time, how creators are now negotiating new revenue streams with all kinds of digital music broadcasters (e.g. internet radio companies) and how other ways of financing their work through e.g. direct-to-fan crowdfunding campaigns can cut the middlemen and ensure greater control (e.g. looking at revenues generated from streaming music services like Spotify and Deezer, studies show that labels can end up with nearly 75% of the total payout, whilst actual artists and songwriters are left with the scraps).
A book to be published in July 2016 by Creative Commons (CC) explains how creators can make money while letting the world reuse their work. CC licenses (which are one type of free copyright licenses enabling the public to reuse the creator’s’ work under certain conditions) can be core to a business strategy. This is to say that allowing easy reuse of content can actually enable money to be made. That is still an idea which needs to be grasped, digested, and then cut its way through, in the new legislative provisions.
Speaking with some of the 23 creators present at the EP event “Backstage with Europe’s creators”, it fast became clear that the European legislative labyrinth is difficult to understand for them and can often even negatively impact their creative work dissemination methods using ICT tools and also their revenue models. Take for example a guitar teacher who can see his video lessons taken down because, without prior permission, he uses a copyrighted song for the purpose of his lessons. Or a passionate blogger who embeds these video lessons in his blog but is not sure whether legally this equals presentation of content to a new public. Or take the example of someone who makes money out of creating mashups, using recently uploaded content and commenting them for the fun of his more than 800,000 subscribers. Should he pay back a percentage to the creators of the original videos that he uses, or is his revenue only his, to reward his personal added-value?
What is crystal clear is that the upcoming legislative proposal needs to use a language that makes it easier for this new generation to understand what’s allowed and what isn’t, and eliminate as far as possible the blurry grey zones. Otherwise opportunities will be missed, segments of society will just be outlawed and job creation blocked, in an era when the focus is on economic growth and cutting unemployment rates. Hopefully the new EU copyright framework will not ignore this poignant reality which made its way to Brussels, hoping to be heard.