The music industry was celebrating on 12 September 2018 when the European Parliament voted (by 438 votes to 226) to pass the Article 13 section of the proposed new European Copyright Directive. The wording of the legislation seemed to back the position taken by the music industry over the liability of platforms like YouTube for copyright-infringing uploads.

“Parliamentarians decided that the interests of creators needed to be protected in the digital space, and that the balance that had been struck in previous legislation had not been correct,” BPI boss Geoff Taylor told Music Ally for our October report.

“User uploads? Liable for copyright and take a licence. All three texts are very similar, so we can’t be in the situation now where that’s not dealt with,” said IFPI boss Frances Moore, referring to the Article 13 texts produced by the European Commission, the European Parliament and the European Council – the three bodies that have since been meeting in a ‘trilogue’ to hammer out the final text of the directive.

YouTube clearly didn’t agree that the matter was done and dusted: if anything, its lobbying efforts have intensified since the Parliament’s vote, with senior executives publicly voicing their opposition, and enlisting the YouTube creator community to protest against Article 13 in its existing version. Have those protests made the music industry’s celebrations in September turn sour? Perhaps.

“With the final trilogue only days away, European creatives and rightsholders urgently inform EU policymakers that the 13 January draft text of the proposed Copyright Directive does not meet the original objective of Article 13 and urgently requires significant changes,” claimed a letter signed by creative-industry bodies including IFPI, Impala, ICMP and IMPF from the music world.

Their criticism is aimed at a draft published by the Romanian presidency (of the European Council), whose changes include new exemptions for internet platforms from liability, including if they have “made best efforts” to obtain a licence. “The 13 January proposed text circulated by the Romanian Presidency falls below the standard of the three texts produced by the three European Institutions and would not be an acceptable outcome of the negotiations,” claims the letter from the creative bodies.

The Romanian proposal was a ‘non-paper’ produced as part of the trilogue process: it’s not guaranteed to be reflected in the ultimate legislation. But the letter does show that music rightsholders are genuinely worried that what seemed like a major victory for their ‘value gap’ campaign last September could become a crushing disappointment in 2019.

Watch closely in the coming weeks: the final text will be voted on by the European Parliament for a final time – a vote that is expected to rubber-stamp the work of the trilogue. Rightsholders had hoped that the text would be in line with their objectives, but that assumption is looking more dicey by the week. We sense there may be more twists to come in this process.

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