EU Commissioner Kroes: Copyright Is 'A Tool To Punish And Withhold'; New Business Models, Not More Enforcement Needed

from the she-really-gets-it dept

Neelie Kroes is that rare thing: a politician who actually seems to understand digital technologies. Before she became the European Commissioner for Digital Agenda, her current post, she was European Commissioner for Competition, and in that capacity made a speech about open standards in 2008 that included the following interesting statements:

It is simplistic to assume that because some intellectual property protection is good, that such protection should therefore be absolute in all circumstances.

and

if we extend intellectual property protection for technology, then we should only do so when it is justified under intellectual property principles, i.e. on the basis of evidence that such extension will lead to more innovations and will therefore promote consumer welfare.

Those comments were about problems with the patent system, and now Kroes has brought her frankness to bear on copyright:

let’s ask ourselves, is the current copyright system the right and only tool to achieve our objectives? Not really, I’m afraid. We need to keep on fighting against piracy, but legal enforceability is becoming increasingly difficult; the millions of dollars invested trying to enforce copyright have not stemmed piracy. Meanwhile citizens increasingly hear the word copyright and hate what is behind it. Sadly, many see the current system as a tool to punish and withhold, not a tool to recognise and reward.

That’s pretty stunning stuff for an EU Commissioner to be saying, given the European Commission’s whole-hearted support for ACTA, and its plans for IPRED 2. Kroes goes on:

We need to go back to basics and put the artist at the centre, not only of copyright law, but of our whole policy on culture and growth. In times of change, we need creativity, out-of-the-box thinking: creative art to overcome this difficult period and creative business models to monetise the art. And for this we need flexibility in the system, not the straitjacket of a single model. The platforms, channels and business models by which content is produced, distributed and used can be as varied and innovative as the content itself.

Again, that focus on new business models rather than ever-more punitive copyright enforcement is a refreshing recognition by a very senior European politician of the real problem facing the creative industries: their failure to adapt to the vastly-different business landscape created by the Internet. Kroes picks up on that theme in her conclusion:

There are many new ideas out there ? ideas, for example, like extended collective licensing as practised in Scandinavia, or other ideas that seek to both legitimise and monetise certain uses of works. Are these ideas the right ones to achieve our goals? I don’t know. But too often we can’t even try them out because of some old set of rules made for a different age ? whether it is the Berne Convention, the legislation exceptions and limitations on the VAT Directive or some other current law. So new ideas which could benefit artists are killed before they can show their merit, dead on arrival. This needs to change.

I can’t set out for you now what the model should be and indeed it’s not the kind of model that should be developed from the centre. Rather we need to create a framework in which a model ? or indeed several models ? can develop organically, flexibly, in ways that support artists.

I see how some European stakeholders see with horror the arrival of Netflix, or the expansion of iTunes. We need to react, not to be paralysed by fear. Let’s take chances. As Zygmunt Bauman put it, “the function of culture is not to satisfy existing needs, but to create new ones”.

So that’s my answer: it’s not all about copyright. It is certainly important, but we need to stop obsessing about that. The life of an artist is tough: the crisis has made it tougher. Let’s get back to basics, and deliver a system of recognition and reward that puts artists and creators at its heart.

It’s tremendously good news that Kroes has not only recognized these problems but is prepared to articulate them publicly. It suggests that at least someone within the European Commission gets it. Too bad, then, that Kroes seems to be as exceptional in that respect as in her grasp of the underlying digital technologies that are driving these huge changes.

Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or identi.ca, and on Google+

Filed Under: , , , ,

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “EU Commissioner Kroes: Copyright Is 'A Tool To Punish And Withhold'; New Business Models, Not More Enforcement Needed”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
55 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

Quick, name a single Dutch film (without using a resource). Of course she is anti-copyright, her country’s entire economy revolves around chocolate, bulbs and wooden shoes. Why should she care. According to this entry in Wikipedia, she’d nuttier than squirrel shit too, which makes her point of view all the more appropriate:

“According to her husband, Bram Peper, from 1993 to 2001 Kroes relied on astrologers and clairvoyants for personal and business advice. Until 2004 Kroes maintained an office in the castle of Jan-Dirk Paarlberg, a real estate mogul who was convicted to four and a half years in prison for money-laundering and extortion. One of the astrologers advising Kroes during that time was Lenie Drent, who had been providing business advice to Paarlberg for decades.”

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Of course she is anti-copyright

Are you an idiot or a troll? Anti-copyright?

“…some intellectual property protection is good…We need to keep on fighting against piracy…We need to go back to basics and put the artist at the centre, not only of copyright law, but of our whole policy on culture and growth…[Copyright] is certainly important…”

And that was just from Techdirt’s quotes, there may be more in her full text.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re:

“According to her husband, Bram Peper, from 1993 to 2001 Kroes relied on astrologers and clairvoyants for personal and business advice. Until 2004 Kroes maintained an office in the castle of Jan-Dirk Paarlberg, a real estate mogul who was convicted to four and a half years in prison for money-laundering and extortion. One of the astrologers advising Kroes during that time was Lenie Drent, who had been providing business advice to Paarlberg for decades.”

According to her EX-husband…
she occasionally frequented astrologers and clairvoyants.
(Did it work? Did she make money?)
She had an office in a building owned by a convicted money-launderer.
(I lived in a building owned by a drug dealer. And no, I didn’t buy/sell/do drugs.)
The building’s owner used one of the astrologers she used.
(And…”guilt by association” is back in fashion?)

Gwiz (profile) says:

Re:

Quick, name a single Dutch film (without using a resource). Of course she is anti-copyright, her country’s entire economy revolves around chocolate, bulbs and wooden shoes.

Quick, name a country, anywhere, who’s entire economy revolves around the film and music industries.

Oh wait. You can’t. I believe the figure is somewhere less than 0.5% of the GDP for any given country.

G Thompson spells it out much more eloquently than I could here.

So in light of all that, what was your point again?

Anonymous Coward says:

Misquote in the Title

“Meanwhile citizens increasingly hear the word copyright and hate what is behind it. Sadly, many see the current system as a tool to punish and withhold, not a tool to recognise and reward.”

You titled your post to indicate that the politician said copywrite is a tool to punish and withold. When in fact the direct quote is, “Sadly, many see the current system as a tool to punish and withold…”

She is not agreeing with that belief, she is not saying that those are her beliefs. To the contrary, she specifically says that it is regretfull that some people feel that way.

D- Title Fail

Richard (profile) says:

Misquote in the Title

Clutching at straws here aren’t we?

She is not agreeing with that belief, she is not saying that those are her beliefs. To the contrary, she specifically says that it is regretfull that some people feel that way.

It’s not clear that the source of her regret is the opinions of the “some people” or the actions of the authorities and copyright holders that have created those opinions, or simply that the situation has arisen. My reading is that it is one of the latter two.

Of course, given her current position as a European civil servant (not an elected politician) it would be improper for her to express her own opinions anyway.

Hulser (profile) says:

The *people* should be the center, not the artists

We need to go back to basics and put the artist at the centre, not only of copyright law, but of our whole policy on culture and growth.

While I agree with the general principle that we shouldn’t lock ourselves into the current IP model, I think the mess we have today with IP is a direct result of the hyper-focus on the artist over the interests of the population as a whole. The artist should not be at the center of any country’s IP policy. Not only is it too easy for content industry to corrupt the system in the name of the artists, the system was not set up for the benefits of the artists. Benefiting the artists is a means to an end, not then end itself. Should we do our best to maximize justice for artists under any system? Sure, but this is a secondary goal, not central goal.

Narcissus (profile) says:

Envious much

“her country’s entire economy revolves around chocolate, bulbs and wooden shoes”

I’ll speak up for my country because you seem stunningly ignorant about us.

I’ll have you know The Netherlands has a very nicely stable economy that is still showing some (small) growth, even in these difficult times. I’m going to go out on a limb here and assume you’re American. How high was your unemployment again? 9% and going up? In NL it’s lower than 5%, we have a reasonably balanced state budget plus we have very good universal health care and unemployment benefits etc. Additionally you might want to check the Dutch stock exchange because you might recognise some names there.

So, please fix your own FFing country before dissing us because if anything is depressing our economy it’s the mess YOU made. /Rant

On an interesting note: Kroes is actually considered quite right wing in the Dutch politacl spectrum 😉

Anonymous Coward says:

Re:

Quick, name a single Dutch film (without using a resource). Of course she is anti-copyright, her country’s entire economy revolves around chocolate, bulbs and wooden shoes.

Quick, name a country, anywhere, who’s entire economy revolves around the film and music industries.

Oh wait. You can’t. I believe the figure is somewhere less than 0.5% of the GDP for any given country.

G Thompson spells it out much more eloquently than I could here.

So in light of all that, what was your point again?

Sorry, what percent of pirated content is Dutch? Something like .0000000001%?

Gwiz (profile) says:

Re:

Sorry, what percent of pirated content is Dutch? Something like .0000000001%?

Ahhh. I get what you are saying here, since the percentage of pirated content that is Dutch is low, they shouldn’t get any say in the matter.

I don’t agree with that at all, but let’s carry that line of thinking out further.

Since the film and music industry only represent less than 1% GDP of the economy, their opinions on breaking the internet should be ignored and minimized also, right?

Killer_Tofu (profile) says:

Envious much

On behalf of the more sane group of Americans I would like to apologize. While the d-bags do abound in our country, not all of us are jerks.

I also dislike those who want the US to be insanely imperialistic and force our laws upon the rest of the world. As you can tell from TechDirt, there are quite a few of us who try to fight it.

So again, sorry for the jerks of America and the messes they have caused around the world.

– A level headed American

Richard (profile) says:

Re:

Sorry, what percent of pirated content is Dutch? Something like .0000000001%?

I suggest you try telling the Dutch anti-piracy outfit (Brein) not to bother then – because they obviously don’t have anything worth protecting – so they can all go home. I’d be very happy if they took your advice – because they have been one of the most aggressive players in Europe in recent years.

Insighter says:

Idle talk

As much as I appreciate Mme Kroes’ insight. She can talk a lot about copyright without ever being able to do anything. The whole patents and copyright portfolio is in the hands of her colleague Michel Barnier who has very different views on that subject (he even appointed a former music industry lobbyist as head of the copyright unit – guess why!)

Anonymous Coward says:

Envious much

“her country’s entire economy revolves around chocolate, bulbs and wooden shoes”

I’ll speak up for my country because you seem stunningly ignorant about us.

I’ll have you know The Netherlands has a very nicely stable economy that is still showing some (small) growth, even in these difficult times. I’m going to go out on a limb here and assume you’re American. How high was your unemployment again? 9% and going up? In NL it’s lower than 5%, we have a reasonably balanced state budget plus we have very good universal health care and unemployment benefits etc. Additionally you might want to check the Dutch stock exchange because you might recognise some names there.

So, please fix your own FFing country before dissing us because if anything is depressing our economy it’s the mess YOU made. /Rant

On an interesting note: Kroes is actually considered quite right wing in the Dutch politacl spectrum 😉

Yeah, yeah, yeah. Go surrender to Germany or something.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re:

Chocolate? That’s Belgium, you prick.

We are the cheese-making, pot-smoking, windmilling, wooden shoe wearing tulip farmers.

btw, nice smear campaign there, who’s paying you?

Belgium….. Holland… pretty much the same thing. Insanely dull socialist states. Were it not for legal drugs and prostitution in Holland, it would enjoy the level of international recognition as Vanuatu.

G Thompson (profile) says:

Re:

What percentage of the human population actually resides in the USA?

Oh yes of course.. 4.48% (US census data divided by 7 billion).

And of that only 0.4% is part of the Film/Television/Music Industry making a total (lets be generous) of 0.018% of the worlds actual output/value.

So Seeing as how the actual Industry you are trying to protect is really only a small subset of the actual FTM Industry (producing/recording sector) then well yes of course your protection you seek under these new laws and mindsets is ethically and morally just..

For an egotistical power hungry control freak who is in the last stages of it’s death throws that is

Frost (profile) says:

Truth, and a glimmer of the big truth.

Certainly sounds hopeful, but while this is true as far as it goes, it doesn’t delve nearly deeply enough into the underlying problem, specifically that we’re using a system that is inherently non-functional. It is only through massive corrective input in the form of laws, bans, patents and copyrights we can make the money-based society we run limp along in pathetic fashion, and even then we have a billion people starving. To be sure some of that is also because we are nuts – we spend the equivalent money required to feed the world on the militaries of the world every 8 days, but it all goes back to the money approach coupled with national boundaries, which leads to a need to literally kill each other over resources.

This shit’s got to go, in the words of Jacque Fresco.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »