By Diego Naranjo

This article is the fourth in the series presenting Copyfails.

The EU is reforming its copyright rules. We want to introduce to you the main failures of the current copyright system, with suggestions on how to fix them. You can find all the Copyfails here.

How has it failed?

When discussing reforming copyright, usually the economical situation of authors is mentioned. Authors take their time, talent and passion, and often also invest their own money, to create cultural works that others can enjoy. However, they are not always in control of their own work. They often give away some of their rights to a company, such as a book publisher or a record company. The reason to do this can be for example that these companies offer them better chances to reach a bigger audience, compared to trying to distribute their works alone. But this isn’t always profitable for the authors; many of them finally end up only receiving a fraction of the total price for which their works are sold for example on streaming platforms.

Authors’ actual interests are rarely mentioned. Intermediaries, like publishers and record companies or authors’ rights and collecting societies (organisations that collect royalties on behalf of authors and performers) tend to dominate the discussions. More control and balance for authors seems appropriate. The EU needs to be strong, and to recognise the need to ensure fairness for authors. We need to stop trying to needlessly keep outdated business models alive, to the cost of everyone except content industry intermediaries.

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Why is this important?

Rewarding creators and creation is the point of copyright. If the money goes to intermediaries instead, copyright is failing to achieve its purpose. A solution is not easy to find, especially considering that there are so many different types of authors in different types of cultural industries. But steps can be taken to improve their situation. The evidence is there. The research has been done. We just need to make it happen.

How to fix it?

fixcopyright-4

Remuneration of authors and performers for the use of their works and the fixations of their performances
http://www.ivir.nl/publicaties/download/1593

Study on the conditions applicable to contracts relating to intellectual property in the European Union
http://www.ivir.nl/publicaties/download/334

Median earnings of professional authors fall below the minimum wage (20.04.2015)
https://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/apr/20/earnings-authors-below-minimum-wage

How much do musicians really make from Spotify, iTunes and YouTube?
https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2015/apr/03/how-much-musicians-make-spotify-itunes-youtube

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