What rights for writers in the new Europe?

Britain’s relationship with the EU will be one of the issues in this year’s General Election. WGGB’s Europe Consultant Pyrrhus Mercouris warns writers to pay close attention

I started working on a Policy Paper for the WGGB only to blunder on an obscure European Commission “policy paper”.

Just before Christmas the EC published a “Communication” which sets out its approach towards the next five years. I can conclude that it is rather unpleasant reading.

The newly appointed Commission is planning to be as “business friendly” as possible. That means its funding programmes more than ever will focus towards business interest and projects enhancing the “free market”. Meaning less money for culture and for tackling social problems.

Plus the regulatory and legal framework of the EU is to be reviewed with a focus on simplifying the rules for business. That is coded language to go after social and employment laws, health and safety and environment rules. The document even says that any ideas on standardising maternity leave are out.

The Communication has half a page on “a Connect single digital market”. It states: “The Digital Single Market holds one of the main keys to a new dynamic across the European economy as a whole, fostering jobs, growth, innovation and social progress. All areas of the economy and society are becoming digital. Europe needs to be at the forefront of this digital revolution for its citizens and its businesses. Barriers to digital are barriers to jobs, prosperity and progress”.

The document goes on to say that the EC is developing a strategy around six strands:

1. Building trust and confidence,
2. Removing restrictions,
3. Ensuring access and connectivity,
4. Building the Digital economy,
5. Promoting e-society,
6. Investing in world-class ICT research and innovation.

To do these six things the Commission will continue “ongoing” inter-institutional negotiations on proposals such as a common European data protection reform and the regulation of a “Connected Continent”. But what kind of consultation does “inter-institutional” mean? The parliament is still new, they have only just now started talking about it.

There will also be new initiatives, legislative and non-legislative, “to bring the Digital Single Market to the level of ambition needed to respond to the existing challenges”.

In this context, the Commission will:

  • Tinker with or radically change rules applied to telecoms (does this mean making the rules even more “business friendly”?),
  • “Modernise” EU legislation on copyright and audiovisual media services (does this mean reducing authors’ rights?),
  • Simplify the rules for consumers making online and digital purchases,
  • Facilitate e-commerce,
  • Enhance cyber-security,
  • Mainstream digitisation across all policy areas.

If you are a professional writer, you need to worry about all these trends. The EU is looking to reform the relationship between businesses and consumers – but is ignoring the creators whose work is essential to our culture and entertainment.

One thing is for sure – the WGGB will continue and strengthen its work in lobbying senior European Commission executives and key members of the European Parliament.