What is safe harbour?

Safe harbour hosting provisions were introduced into copyright law through the E-Commerce Directive 2000.

The aim was to protect technology companies who were investing and developing the infrastructure needed to move content around the internet, from copyright infringement liability.

The rationale behind safe harbour was that these companies, at the time, couldn’t know if they were hosting or enabling the use of copyright material.

In return for this protection, they were required to remove content if they are notified of copyright infringements.

Years later, a number of platforms now exist that actively provide content rather than simply host it. These include video sharing platforms, digital locker services and User Generated Content (UGC) sites which are often generating vast revenues off the back of creators’ work yet who maintain, at best, a partial liability for the content they provide.

PRS for Music believes a company should only benefit from safe harbour’s defence if it is truly providing only a technical, automatic and passive service.

Some companies are exploiting safe harbour provisions, depriving creators’ of fair value for their endeavours and undermining legitimate music services in what is an increasingly important revenue stream for creators.

A strong, healthy and sustainable music industry needs a legal framework which ensures creators get fairly paid.