The European Parliament now has 4 committees looking at the 2001 copyright Directive. Will they all approach their evaluation the same way? Ms Reda’s draft report only looks at the copyright framework from the users’ perspective and aims at creating rights for users to access, use and modify works without their authors and other rightholders’ consent. Such an approach takes as a starting point that works are spontaneously created by authors who do not need to make a living from their art and that the copyright system is corrupting their sharing aspiration.
This perspective is a gross (or deliberate) misunderstanding of the role of authors’ rights and copyright for the authors, performers and producers of creative works and for the economy and development of our cultural and creative sectors in Europe.
Let’s take cinematographic works as an example: a professional film has an average budget of 2.1 million euros in Europe. New technologies have not really reduced costs but it has increased creators’ tools and possibilities. As a European state aid rule, films cannot have more than 50% of their production budget financed by public funds. Producers therefore have to find private money for the remaining 50% of the production budget, as well as additional investment for the promotion, distribution and marketing of the films as there are very few public schemes to help in these fields. To do that, they usually pre-sell some territories to local distributors and/or exploitation rights to broadcasters or other platforms and gather these people and investors around a project they all believe will attract an audience.
Copyright is therefore not only what secures rightholders’ control and revenues over the exploitation, it is also essential for financing the works in the first place. In the audiovisual sector, if you cannot finance the works up front, they will not exist.
While authors and other rightholders expect their works to reach the audience through exploitation, Ms Reda proposes that works be accessible through copyright exceptions, in particular in the online environment. This means accessible without authors and other rightholders’ consent and with no possibility for them to monetize this access and consumption of their works. What do you think the impact will be? With reduced scope to recoup investment and to monetize exploitation, such measures will discourage private investors from investing in our works. Do we expect public funds, already under significant strain, to pick up the slack? In the end, it means less money available to make films in Europe, so less possibilities for our screenwriters and directors to tell the stories of our continent.
It is therefore essential for members of the European Parliament to look at the impact of any proposed measure on copyright sector by sector and to answer this simple question: do they want to support or reduce European production and cultural diversity?