“Europe needs to keep up with its creators, their ambitions and its own ambition”

3 Questions to Pervenche Berès, Member of the European Parliament, co-chair of the Intergroup on creative industries

Per Strömbäck: How is the Intergroup on creative industries involved in the copyright reform debate?

Pervenche Berès : Even before the publication of the copyright reform by the European Commission, at the start of the Summer our Intergroup on creative industries published an open letter co-signed by 60 MEPs from all ranks of the Parliament, representing almost all Member States, to draw the Commission’s attention to the very specific and yet crucial issue of how the creation of transfer values should be financed. This is an important issue to us. And on this I think the Commission has been attentive, for which we are grateful. But we are measuring the amount of work that remains to be done to make sure that the seed that we planted back in June can grow and thus consolidate the organisation of the transfer of values. Otherwise, there will be no more funding for cultural creation. We believe that the result of this parliamentary work on the Commission’s proposal should provide legal certainty to right-holders. If the current work on the proposal does not insist on the urgent need to set compensation rules and continue to exempt intermediaries, we will no longer be able to finance cultural creation.

PS : You mentioned intermediaries. Do you think the Commission’s proposal goes far enough to regulate the activities of online platforms ? 

PB : The question of the application of rules to online distribution services that merely monetize online content is obviously at the heart of the power balance that we must establish confidently but without being too naive. As we all know, creative industries, with their inventiveness and dynamism, contribute significantly to the economy of the Union – we said it from the very beginning of the work of our Intergroup- be that in terms of value added to GDP, of exports or of employment. This is why Europe needs to keep up with its creators, their ambitions and its own ambitions. It has to establish a future digital market that combines culture, innovation, justice and prosperity. Creative contents have never been as much at the heart of our consumption model before. And yet, is it really acceptable that the creative sector has not seen its turnover increased accordingly?

Yes, artists are poets, but they should still be paid for what they do. We are in a market economy. And this must result in fair compensation. A major reason for this distortion is the lack of clarity around the obligations of online services. The GAFA [acronym for Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon], claim to be merely passive and neutral hosting services, and thereby claim the right to benefit from exemptions to copyright, while they continue to rake in hundreds of millions of euros! They believe that they owe nothing to the creators of the content that they broadcast. They clutch at their prerogatives, privileges and income, and refuse to enter into negotiations on the issues of copyright and related rights but continue to unfairly benefit from the fruit of authors’ work.

As we are up against IT giants who are so well organised and wield so much power, the consequences for the artists and for the creative industries in general are more than a little concerning. I refer in particular to young artists and to the next generation of creators, how will they live from their art? I refer to the behaviour of these online platforms who constantly lower the value of work. I also refer to start-ups and businesses that are struggling to cope with unfair market conditions which allow for creators’ rights to be systematically violated. This should be a concern to all of us.

PS : What does this struggle imply for the future of European economy ? 

PB: I am thinking to the future and how we must put an end to this distorted situation and encourage the youth of tomorrow to embark on an artistic and creative path, make a career and live decently from it. The European Parliament has already taken a strong position on this several times. There will be no single market without European digital content and we are confident that the removal of this distortion on the digital market will both boost growth in the European digital economy and end the prejudice suffered by creators. The awareness is there. The onus is on us, politicians –together with the European Commission and the Council of the European Union – to develop solutions to rebalance the stake and create a fair and harmonious environment for creators, consumers and businesses. Together we must continue this fair and necessary fight to maintain the prosperity of this fruitful sector, guaranteeing the professional future of the young generation and preserve our cultural identity. Moving beyond big business and GAFA, at this sensitive time for the European Union, we put not only our artists and culture at risk, but also our democracy, if we don’t provide the support for creative industries.