Europe Provides a Road Map to a Better Internet for Authors

The Writers' Union of Canada
Press Release

For Immediate Release

The Writers’ Union of Canada (TWUC) is delighted with the results of this week’s European Parliament vote on a pathway to strong new laws for writers and other artistic creators in the internet age. The Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market passed with an overwhelming majority through the European Parliament (EP) by a vote of 438 in favour, and 226 opposed. The Directive lays out new rules for how content is shepherded, protected and paid for by giant tech platforms that have long avoided regulation and requirement to pass a share of their profit to writers and publishers. Draft EU legislation will now be written based on the Directive’s approved details.

The Copyright Directive suggests fairer contract rights for authors, including greater transparency on sales and royalties, and what is being called a “bestseller clause” allowing for renegotiation of royalties in the instance of unanticipated sales success. It also spells out a new “publisher’s right,” requiring platforms and aggregators online to pay licenses for the use of content snippets. As well, the Directive imposes greater responsibility on platforms for lawful sharing of online content — a measure that should help in the fight against content piracy, and provide a new licensing opportunity to authors for the use of their work online.

“The European Parliament is setting a global example of how to fairly compensate and reward writers and other creators in the Digital Age,” stated TWUC Chair Eric Enno Tamm. “Everyone says that ‘content is king’ on the Internet, and yet the very creators of all this content have been treated like serfs, with declining incomes and ever-weakening copyright. Europe is clearly stating that culture matters, and cultural workers need to be treated fairly. Canadian Parliamentarians should look to Europe’s example.”

This week’s vote was made necessary in early July when the EP declined to bring the Directive to the floor of the legislature, sending it back for more discussion and possible amendment. At that time, European lawmakers faced what looked like an overwhelming wave of protest against the Directive. Some Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) reported receiving tens of thousands of emails and social media messages opposed to new measures strengthening artists’ rights. Much of that protest was later revealed to have been automatically or robotically generated through online platforms.

“This is a brilliant result in Europe,” said John Degen, TWUC’s Executive Director and Chair of the International Authors’ Forum in the UK. “We know the positive voices of professional artists were being all but drowned out by robo-messaging and automated emails from the ‘no’ side. With determined work we managed to get our message to Europe’s lawmakers, and they chose an optimistic future for the internet. You can bet we’ll be working to bring this same result home to Canada.”


The Writers’ Union of Canada is our country’s national organization representing approximately 2100 professional authors of books. The Union is dedicated to fostering writing in Canada, and promoting the rights, freedoms, and economic well-being of all writers.

For additional information:
John Degen, Executive Director
The Writers’ Union of Canada
416.703.8982 Ext. 221

DATE: September 13, 2018