Adrian Rogowski (say row-gof-skee; noun) is an admitted Advocate of the High Court of South Africa and a member of the Cape Bar. Since 2013, Adrian has moved towards intellectual property law, focusing specifically on music law. In 2015, he completed his Master of Laws in Intellectual Property (graduating cum laude). His thesis focused on music law under the supervision of South Africa’s most respected copyright law expert, Professor Owen Dean.

The new EU Copyright Directive proves that technology moves too fast for laws to keep up. The internet alone, in its ever-changing state, has resulted in more laws having being promulgated than ever before. Worldwide, there are probably as many pieces of legislation related to the internet as there are people in Liechtenstein. We now have another one to the mix, and this one is especially important for copyright owners (i.e. musicians).

This week the European Parliament passed the Copyright Directive. The EU Copyright Directive was drafted having copyrights and the internet in mind. It therefore brings copyright laws into the digital realm. Although there are already a few laws that advance copyrights on the internet, this Directive makes serious changes in favour of the copyright owner. Why? Because it gives you, the copyright owner, more money.

If you Google “Copyright Directive” or “Article 13” you will get a lot of posts informing you about it. Some for it and others against it. But for you musicians, it’s generally good news. Paragraph 37 of the preamble succinctly states that “Rightholders should receive an appropriate reward for the use of their works or other subject matter”. Their words, not mine.

Here are the summarised points of the Directive to the extent that they are relevant to you:

  • Online content sharing service providers (i.e. YouTube, SoundCloud, Facebook) must get your permission first before they can have your music on their site.
  • These sites must install upload filters which prevent others from uploading your works.
  • If these sites feature your music without your permission, without having sufficient upload filters and don’t take the music off timeously when asked, they will be held liable in terms of the countries copyright laws that they are based in.
  • Unauthorised uploading of your music may occur if the uploaded work is protected by the “fair use” exception, namely for: criticism, review and parody – so if a YouTube vlogger uploads a video that contains your song, and they review your song, then that is permitted.
  • These sites must provide a ‘complaints and redress’ platform for you if you wish to complain or address them about something concerning your uploaded music.

The following points are broader in that they relate to any person or platform that you license your music to for the purpose of exploitation of your copyrights.

  • Rightsholders are entitled to “appropriate and proportionate remuneration” when they license their copyrights.
  • The publishers (people exploiting your copyrights) must be transparent and give the rightsholders detailed insight into the exploitation of their (the rightsholders) copyrights.
  • You must be afforded an opportunity to renegotiate the original terms of your licensing agreement, even if you were already paid, if it is found out later that the amount you received was too low when compared to the industry standard.
  • You are entitled to have your copyrights returned back to you if they are not being sufficiently exploited.

Now I know what you are thinking, how does this Directive help South Africans. The Directive forces all EU member states to implement the changes into their own law. All companies who are based in these countries will have to comply with these new laws. Despite you not being a European per se, the companies you deal with most often are, and they have to follow these rules, which means all rightsholders, including you, should benefit from these changes.

The respective European countries have 2 years to implement these changes into their laws, so let’s wait and see what happens. But for now, good news.