Hello, Cześć, Ciao. My name is Ula Furgał and I joined the Author’s Interest Project a few months ago. I am a postdoctoral researcher at the CREATe Centre, University of Glasgow, Scotland. As an odd European out, I am looking into the European solutions which allow rights to revert back to the authors, in the publishing industry and beyond.
Originally from Krakow, Poland, before moving to rainy Scotland, I spent a couple of sunny years in Florence, Italy, where I worked as a doctoral researcher at the European University Institute. I have defended my PhD thesis exploring the effects of copyright’s expansion into the news online on the EU copyright framework in February 2020.
For the past four years, I have been monitoring the development of the new EU copyright directive (Directive on Copyright in the Single Digital Market). First, fierce negotiations on its text, finally adopted in April 2019; and now, the ongoing implementation process in the Member States (documented on CREATe’s resource page).
While the discussion on the new EU copyright directive have focused on infamous arts. 15 (press publishers’ right) and 17 (intermediary liability aka upload filter), the directive also puts forward a number of solutions to strengthen the position of authors and performers in their contractual dealings with third parties. One of those solutions, is the right of revocation included in art. 22.
The right of revocation requires rightsholders to ‘use-it-or-lose-it’. EU Member States must provide authors and performers who licensed or transferred their rights on an exclusive basis with a right to revoke this transfer or license in case their works are not exploited. It is a general provision applying to all types of copyright works.
The final shape of the revocation right will take in EU Member States’ laws depends on the transposition process. Member States are left with a considerable freedom in implementing art. 22. They can decide whether to adopt special provisions for different sectors, different types of works, including collective works, as well as whether to introduce time limitations.
Inclusion of a revocation right in the directive went largely unnoticed both by the public and the stakeholders. No focused discussion on its merits or form took place. However, the revocation right is not a novelty to many EU Member States, with their national laws already including some mechanisms allowing authors to terminate agreements under certain conditions. This is very different to English-language countries including Australia, New Zealand, the UK, United States and Canada, none of which give authors statutory entitlements to get their rights back if they’re not being exploited.
Are there any lessons to be learnt from current national solutions to aid art. 22 implementation process? To find those valuable lessons, we are mapping provisions which are already a part of national laws across the EU, exploring how they work and how they affect creator contracts.
Art. 22’s revocation right provides a unique opportunity to strengthen the position of authors and performers. Thus it is important that Member States use this opportunity to the fullest. The EU and its Member States experiences with introducing a general revocation right have potential to inform the discussions on bettering authors’ contractual position taking place outside of the old continent.