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Copyright Directive will support creators in making high-value work

Leo Varadkar


Tánaiste and Enterprise, Trade and Employment Minister Leo Varadkar. Photo: Frank McGrath.

Tánaiste and Enterprise, Trade and Employment Minister Leo Varadkar. Photo: Frank McGrath.

Tánaiste and Enterprise, Trade and Employment Minister Leo Varadkar. Photo: Frank McGrath.

Like many aspects of society, the internet has utterly changed the way in which we create, read and watch the news, books, music, TV and films. It’s more likely you’re reading this article on your phone than reading it from a paper copy; and if you are, you might have clicked into it while scrolling through your feed.

The way in which we read news is just one example of how the media has changed in the digital age.

While creators, consumers and advertisers have moved on, we need to catch up as legislators.

Over the last few years, the EU has been modernising copyright legislation to unlock the potential of the Digital Single Market and ensure authors, performers and consumers are treated fairly.

Put simply, copyright rewards people’s creativity by providing exclusive rights over the use of creative work.

I’ve signed into Irish law the EU’s Copyright Directive – the seventh member state to do so. It’s about making sure we benefit from the opportunities digital technologies provide, while supporting creators to continue producing work of high value.

From now on in Ireland, press publishers such as newspapers have a new legal right in relation to the use of their content by online service providers. In the absence of an agreement with publishers, online platforms will not be permitted to make use of their work, though they will continue to be able to use hyperlinks or snippets (very short extracts).

It will be up to the publisher and the online provider to negotiate an agreement. I am confident such agreements can be made, considering the mutual benefit for both parties and the continued interest of consumers in such content. Being over-prescriptive in favour of one party would be self-defeating, so the balance we have struck is designed to encourage as many agreements as possible.

Where an agreement is in place, the new law strengthens the position of authors and performers through the following principles:

-Appropriate and proportionate remuneration.

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-A “transparency obligation” to help them access more information about how their work is being used.

-A “contract adjustment mechanism” to enable them to obtain a fair share when the remuneration originally agreed becomes disproportionately low compared to the success of their work or performance.

-A “right of revocation” allowing them to take back their rights when their works are not being used.

The new law protects citizens’ freedom to express themselves online and share content freely. You shouldn’t see any difference in the way you see articles appear on your feed. You will continue to be able to share content on social media and link to websites and newspapers via hyperlinks.

The new law also provides for important exceptions to allow for copyright-protected material online and across borders for education, research and preservation of cultural heritage purposes.

For example, cultural heritage institutions such as museums will be able to make copies of works in their collections to the extent necessary for their preservation. Taken together, the new law is aimed at ensuring the sustainability of journalism, content creation and the broader arts sector.

I believe in a diverse, plural and independent media which informs and challenges us, while upholding high standards of accuracy, proportionality and impartiality.

The Future of Media Commission has just submitted its report providing recommendations on how to overcome the challenges faced by public service broadcasters, commercial broadcasters, print and online media platforms. It received over 800 submissions during its public consultation, demonstrating the depth of feeling on the topic.

The Government knows that publication of this report, once it has been considered by the Government, is not an end in and of itself. The work starts with acting on its recommendations.

This week, the transposition of the Copyright Directive is one action that will have a tangible and positive impact on local and national media in Ireland. It is something we will keep under review and will build on if we do not achieve the outcome anticipated.

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