UK turns its back on new EU Copyright Directive | Fieldfisher
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UK turns its back on new EU Copyright Directive


United Kingdom

We have been reporting on the progress of the new Copyright Directive for a few years now and news broke last week that this much-debated Directive that aims to update copyright law for the 21st Century will not now be implemented by the UK. Read our previous blog It's official! New Copyright Directive 2019/790 

Chris Skidmore, Minister for business, energy and industrial strategy, confirmed the UK government's new policy position on the Copyright Directive on 21 January 2020 in response to a written question posed in the UK parliament by Labour MP Jo Stevens,

The deadline for implementing the EU Copyright Directive is 7 June 2021. The United Kingdom will leave the European Union on 31 January 2020 and the Implementation Period will end on 31 December 2020. The Government has committed not to extend the Implementation Period. Therefore, the United Kingdom will not be required to implement the Directive, and the government has no plans to do so. Any future changes to the UK copyright framework will be considered as part of the usual domestic policy process."

Despite the reforms not being universally supported by all Member States (the Netherlands, Poland, Italy, Finland, Luxembourg and Sweden all voted against the new law), the UK was one of the countries which voted very much in favour of the reforms and was indeed a key player in developing the provisions.  Various British musicians, such as Paul McCartney and Annie Lennox, were amongst some of the most active campaigners trying to push the law through, so it comes as no surprise that the music industry has now expressed grave concerns about the UK's volte-face. Tom Kiehl, deputy CEO of UK Music which represents various musical artists, has written an open letter to Chris Skidmore expressing his disappointment and requesting 'an urgent meeting' to discuss the issue,

"If it is the case that Brexit presents an opportunity for the UK to write its own laws, then there is no excuse for a delay to our existing call for the Government to set out a road map outlining how it intends to take forward its support for the Directive’s key proposals".

The Music industry is not alone in its concern for the UK turning its back on the Directive. The Authors' Licensing Collecting Society (ALCS), which supports writers and ensures they receive the money they are entitled to when someone copies or uses their work, has also called an urgent meeting with Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport, Baroness Nicky Morgan. The ALCS is particularly concerned about losing Chapter 3 of the Directive, which provides for mechanisms to ensure fair remuneration for authors and performers.         

On the other hand, some commentators see this as a positive stance because it might allow the UK to agree to more suitable copyright provisions in free trade deals with other countries and perhaps render our own copyright law more fit for purpose. We must not forget that whilst the Directive contained suitable provisions for some industries, this was not necessarily the case for others. Online platforms were very concerned at the onerous obligations imposed on them under Article 17 of the Directive so some see this as an opportunity to negotiate more technology-friendly provisions.


This is an interesting move by the UK Government ahead of Brexit day on 31 January 2020 and is the first time that we have really seen such substantial divergence between EU and UK laws as a result of Brexit. Is this is an indication of what's to come? We will have to wait and see. What we do know is that the announcement has sparked very mixed reactions – some are concerned that it will have a seriously detrimental effect on the creative industry, but some see it as a new start for the UK to create a more polished version of some of the provisions, which prove to be more fit for purpose.