The EU is aiming to finalize the text of its Copyright Directive early next week. Though I wish I had better news, the currently approved and pending language of Article 13 still looks troubling for small and independent creators. Article 13 threatens creators’ ability to directly connect with fans and strengthens corporate rights holders at the expense of independent creators. Most importantly though, Article 13 does not acknowledge the very nature of creativity.
Patreon is all about creators — those who take the time, put in the effort, ride the ups and downs of creating and sharing works with the world. It’s no small feat to create something new, and we have copious respect for anyone and everyone who does. Creators today can find and connect directly with those who love their work.
Gone are the days of negotiating away partial ownership of your works in order to have access to reproduction and distribution channels. A free and open internet ensures that corporate interests can’t hold artists hostage anymore. Just ask Amanda Palmer, who now connects directly with more than 14,000 patrons who support her ongoing work.
Article 13 threatens the free and open internet that enables this direct connection to fans by requiring all user uploads be monitored and filtered, despite policymakers claims to the contrary.
We would love to see an update to copyright law that gives creators access to copyright protection and enforcement, not the gatekeeping corporate rights holders.
Instead, the EU’s current efforts to “modernize copyright law” seem much more like the music industry’s attempt to assert itself over YouTube. Setting aside the fact that so many of the once proponents of Article 13 have now reversed their stance. Or the fact that obligating general monitoring of platforms for copyright infringement is somehow not a “general monitoring obligation”, which would violate the e-Commerce Directive (2000/31/EC).
Patreon cannot support Article 13 because Patreon was created as an alternative to the copyright licensing and ad-revenue based industries that are currently battling it out for the right to monetize creators.
It’s time that the monopolistic copyrights granted to authors, be granted to those who actually “author” the works, not the corporate rights holders who seek to financially exploit them.
There was a time when copyright law took reality into consideration. Journey with me.
It’s cold foggy day in Liverpool, 1963. A young, upstart band freshly signed to Parlophone Records is recording their debut studio album. Still finding their voice as songwriters, these kids relied on cover songs for nearly half the tracks. Not a year later, they’re back in the studio, again recording an album of just over half originals, nearly half covers. The next two years, nine more cover songs make it onto two more studio albums. Twenty-one cover songs in all make the first four studio albums.
For those non ‘history of rock and roll’ buffs, I’m talking about the Beatles. Some of the best and most prolific songwriters this world has ever known, yet their first four studio albums heavily relied on songs written by others. This is absolutely not a knock on the Beatles, quite the contrary actually. Musicians covering songs is as old as music, and should be encouraged. “Please Please Me” continues to be one of my favorite albums.
The point is that in the past, the law has acknowledged the iterative nature of creativity and built meaningful and useful solutions. In the US, and across most of the EU, songwriters are required by law to issue a license for covers and cover artists are required to pay a certain amount in royalties. Just as musicians rely on access to songs written by others, today’s online creators should have access to properly use the works of others.
Today’s equivalent goes far beyond cover songs. Creators across all mediums are using, mixing, remixing, mashing up, dubbing, subbing, encoding, commenting on, reacting to, satirizing, parodying, repurposing and re-editing old works into new ones. If you’re online, chances are you are an “author”. And the creation of “works of authorship” has changed drastically in the last few decades. Today’s culture, regardless of where you are from is steeped in a digital, mixed-medium onslaught of creativity. We should be working together to protect and promote it. Article 13 seeks to accomplish quite the opposite, shifting the balance of copyright from encouraging new works to more adamantly protecting old ones.
Which brings us back to the Beatles.
Sir Paul McCartney has come out in support of Article 13, which makes perfect sense for an artist whose extensive catalogue of some of the most popular music in the world is earning royalties at what I can only assume to be an alarming rate. You don’t go through all the trouble of finally regaining the rights to Beatles works without fully intending to enforce those rights.
My question is for a pre-knighthood, 21-year-old musician named Paul, in the midst of recording an album, half-full of cover songs, unknowingly on the brink of becoming famous beyond any of his wildest dreams. Would he be in support of Article 13? The Beatles benefited greatly from adopting the works of others. It’s only fair we extend that luxury to creators today.
Article 13 doesn’t seem to acknowledge this reality or address any of the issues facing the vast majority of independent online creators.
Patreon agrees that copyright law is in need of some changes, but Article 13 is, as Paul Keller put it: “the holy grail for those who want to return to the power dynamics that existed before the Internet.” For all its faults and imperfections, we have no desire to go back to how things were before the Internet.
Patreon is taking part in Copyright Week. Every day this week, contributors are taking on a specific issue surrounding copyright law, addressing what’s at stake and what needs to be done for copyright to truly promote creativity and innovation.
*Weston Dombroski is the copyright law specialist on the Patreon Legal team