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MPs working on a copyright deal for post-Brexit Britain

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Brexit has dominated our political and economic spheres for the last 12 months, raising questions about the opportunities and challenges it poses for the UK’s music industry and our creators.

Meanwhile over in Brussels, the European Parliament and Council have been working on the legislative proposals for copyright reform, tabled by the European Commission last September, which, once agreed, will leave an indelible mark on member states’ cultural industries.

The aim of the new Copyright Directive is to update existing legal frameworks to ensure they’re fit for purpose in the digital age. Wrapped up in this is the issue of User Generated Content (UGC), the growing ‘value gap’ between music creators and the digital aggregators of their content, and the ‘safe harbour’ legal loophole, which allows UGC platforms to benefit from exemptions in existing copyright law.

As negotiations continue, PRS for Music is championing the voice of creators in Europe to help ensure a fairer deal for them and their representatives. And, although we are set to leave the EU in 2019, MEP John Procter, who sits on the Committee on Culture and Education (CULT) in Brussels, is busy working to address these important issues before we leave. He tells us what he, and his fellow UK MEPs are doing to secure a copyright deal for post-Brexit Britain…

Why is it still important for Britain to have a say in EU cultural issues, despite the referendum vote?
Well, it depends what your view is. Some people may think, ‘Actually, we’re leaving the EU, so it’s of no importance whatsoever. We, as an island nation state, can just get on and do our own thing’.

But there are so many cross-cutting issues within our cultural world. We’re going to continue to push for our voice to be heard because, clearly, legislation that is passed here in Europe is going to affect our cultural industries in the future.

How closely has CULT been involved in shaping the forthcoming Copyright Directive?
The committee is certainly involved – the Copyright Directive is very important. However, I come from a slightly different place to some of my colleagues. I’ve got a very clear view: those who are responsible for creating should be appropriately remunerated for their work.

To me, it’s a pretty simple approach. There are those who want to bat on behalf of the consumer, and I agree with that. At the end of the day, the consumer is our electorate as well. But, creators need to be appropriately rewarded for their work.

How do you see all these different voices coming together to influence, and ultimately decide, on the contents of the Copyright Directive?
Well, what is clear is that many creators are incredibly active. In the short time I’ve been here, I’ve never seen anything like this. Creators and their representatives are very vocal about where they believe this should go. It’s incredibly important, and it’s bringing the issue to the attention of elected members so they can come to a reasoned view. I’m hopeful and confident this will be the case.

What are your thoughts on the proposed UGC exception within the Directive?
We haven’t finally formalised our position. But I’m pretty hopeful we’ll be supportive of the creative industries we have within the UK.

Where is the balance between creators  wanting fair pay for their work and consumers looking for  free content?
This shouldn’t be about a race to the bottom, about everything being for free. There needs to be quality, and creators need to be rewarded. For me, it’s a bit of a no brainer. I have to say, I struggle somewhat with the alternative view to that.

How do you think Brexit negotiations are going and how do you think our split from the EU is going to affect the music industry?
I think it’s important that all sectors within the UK economy and creative industries front up to the fact now that we are definitely leaving the EU. We need to ensure we get the best possible Brexit deal. In addition, before we leave, we need to ensure we can influence as much legislative change as possible, so we can bring advantages to music businesses, organisations and creators in the UK.

That’s why my colleagues and I are not easing up in any way. Indeed, we’re trying our very best to accelerate matters here. What we don’t want to do is leave the EU with lots of unfinished business come March 2019.

John Procter became the Conservative Party’s newest MEP in December 2016, replacing Lord Timothy Kirkhope. He has been Leeds city councillor since 1990 and is the Deputy Leader of the Conservative Group. In the nineties, Procter co-owned the Bonding Warehouse music venue in York, which played host to early gigs from the likes of Snow Patrol and Shed Seven.

This article appeared in the M64 print edition of M magazine.

The post MPs working on a copyright deal for post-Brexit Britain appeared first on M magazine: PRS for Music online magazine.

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