User-generated content (UGC) is a core element of many internet platforms. A delicate question arising from this user involvement concerns copyright infringement. UGC may consist of self-created works and public domain material. However, it may also include unauthorized takings of third party material that enjoys copyright protection. As UGC has become a mass phenomenon and a key factor in the evolution of the modern, participative web, this problem raises complex issues and requires the reconciliation of divergent interests: users, platform providers and copyright holders are central stakeholders. In the European Union (EU), the UGC problem featured prominently in the debate about a so-called ‘value gap’ in the online distribution of copyrighted content and led to the neutralization of the traditional liability shield for online content platforms. Rather than erode the safe harbours for intermediaries without offering additional safeguards for user involvement in the creation of online content, this chapter argues that the time has come to enrich the EU acquis with alternative means of addressing the value gap. One option is to introduce a UGC exemption that includes an obligation to pay equitable remuneration, using the existing regulation of private copying as a model.
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