Copyright Hardliners Adapt 'Copyright Reform' Language; They Just Mean In The Other Direction

from the must-try-harder dept

Neelie Kroes has emerged as perhaps the most Net-savvy politician in the European Commission, with her repeated calls for a new approach to copyright in Europe that takes cognizance of the shift to a digital world. That’s one measure of how mainstream the idea has become. Another is the fact that even copyright hardliners like Michel Barnier, the Commissioner responsible for the Internal Market in Europe, are starting to frame the discussion in a similar way. A recent speech, for example, is entitled “Making European copyright fit for purpose in the age of internet“, where he asks whether Europe has found the optimum balance between a number of factors:

The widest possible access to quality content for Europeans;

Fair remuneration for creators;

Sufficient incentives for those that invest in creation,

And legal certainty for content distributors

He rightly answers:

I do not think so.

As well as the generally-accepted issue of Europe’s poor cross-border licensing, he raises a more contentious area that is causing problems:

I want a copyright framework that provides the right incentives for those that create and invest in content and that ensures the right balance with other policy objectives such as education, research or innovation.

We need an equilibrium. Copyright enables rights holders to function in commercial markets. Removing rights goes quite far: it removes rights holders ability to authorise the use of their content, or to gain reward for their investments. So when can a limitation on these rights be justified? And when should users better acquire a licence to use others’ rights for their own commercial gain?

This betrays Barnier’s perspective that this is all about money — that if you are building on someone else’s work there will naturally be profit involved somewhere along the line, and that profit should be shared. What this overlooks, of course, is the massive scale of online creativity that has nothing to do with money — the sharing and mashups that are routine on social networks like Facebook and Twitter, with their often casual reworkings of existing material.

But Barnier will have none of this:

I do not share the view of those that think copyright protection should be weakened so others can develop new commercial services free of cost. This would simply amount to legislating for free-riding: shifting wealth from the content industries — many of which are based in Europe creating jobs and paying taxes here — to other industries. This cannot be right.

This is a clear dig at Google, demonized once more for allegedly building its business by exploiting the work of others, made worse by the fact that it pays little in the way of European taxes. But the fundamental problem here is that Barnier equates a “weakening” of copyright protection — what should rather be called a rebalancing — with generalized free riding. And even though he says he is open to evaluating “the need to update our system of limitations to copyright”, the idea that the public might deserve a fundamentally better deal when it comes to copyright never seems to cross his mind.

He also makes clear that his “vision” includes the following:

A copyright framework that continues to provide incentives must include meaningful enforcement.

With the crisis it is more than ever necessary to eliminate illegal business models that are based on IP infringing activity. This is how we can pave the way for legal offers, especially by innovative start-ups and SMEs. This is also how we transform “informal” economy jobs into real, sustainable job opportunities.

Worryingly, this seems to subscribe to the copyright industry view that before there can be more legal services, illegal ones must be eliminated — as if that were even possible. It flies in the face of the evidence that it is precisely through the provision of better digital offerings that serve the public’s needs that people will be encouraged to turn away from unauthorized sources.

Sadly, in the end, Barnier’s “copyright fit for the Internet age” looks depressingly like the current, dysfunctional version: one based on a non-existent scarcity, on treating the public as passive consumers, and on pursuing unachievable enforcement goals with ever-harsher punishments.

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Comments on “Copyright Hardliners Adapt 'Copyright Reform' Language; They Just Mean In The Other Direction”

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kenichi tanaka says:

The one thing that I keep asking myself is this: if the entertainment industry is so intent on putting a stop to piracy, then why don’t they make their content available online, so that music and movie fans don’t have to fileshare?

Instead, they sit back, don’t make that content available and wait for someone else to license it. Well, nobody is licensing their content because they want a ransom for their content to the point where no business model could successfully profit from making that content available.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

I think that they missed the boat with Napster.

If they had taken Napster and turned it into something legal and useful (like, pay X a month and download as much as you want), they could be sitting on a pile of cash right now, and piracy would be pretty much dead.

Instead, they wasted their time fighting it, and now, their window of opportunity is long gone.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

It is becoming apparent that the copyright cartel are attempting to use piracy in order to obtain control over the internet. Apparently they think this will lead to money in their pockets. With enough whining and campaign contributions it is possible they may achieve this, however – it will not produce the desired outcome.

LOL …. square peg -> round hole – Doh!

TroutFishingUSA says:

Re: Re:

I think you’re remaining willfully blind to the problem, which incidentally is right in front of your face.

The legal services are the true victims of piracy. Think about it, why do you suppose Spotify only charges $10 a month and dares not charge one penny more? Because they know they’d lose the subscribers who would infringe rather than pay more for the content they consume. IF the free option of easy piracy is eliminated, they could charge a rate more inline with the market costs of production and promotion; and then they could pay for the music they distribute without bitching like little babies. (Who am I kidding? They’d still complain that any money going to the supply chain is too much.)

It’s really Spotify and Pandora that are “competing with free.” That’s why you see these blatant land-grab, free speech-stifling attempts at legislation like IRFA; because they realize it will be easier to screw artists than it will be to curb piracy. “Free” is incredibly hard to compete with. (P.S. I notice no one here seems concerned about the very real threats to freedom of speech in that proposal. How telling.)

JMT says:

Re: Re: Re:

“Think about it, why do you suppose Spotify only charges $10 a month and dares not charge one penny more? Because they know they’d lose the subscribers who would infringe rather than pay more for the content they consume.”

You mean the customers have decided how much the service is worth to them, and don’t want to pay more? How shocking! Do you realise you make the same evaluation every time you pay for something?

“IF the free option of easy piracy is eliminated…”

Pretty much anything said after this statement is just not worth listening to. You can’t have a serious discussion about is issues if you kick off with a ridiculous fantasy.

JP Jones (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

What market costs? This is where the old way of doing business is WAY out of line with the new. You don’t need production and promotion costs!

Modern technology has made what used to be the domain of hollywood and big studios available to the home user. Production can be done at a fraction of the cost it used to require; the only reason it still costs so much is because of all the licensing deals with the old systems that drive the prices through the roof.

And promotion is now essentially free. All a creator has to do is make something good and stick it online. If it’s on a service that someone suscribes to or is paid by advertising (i.e. Netflix, Hulu, Pandora, etc.) word will get around. The internet will, for free, promote the heck out of anything it likes.

If these services weren’t profitable and couldn’t compete with free they wouldn’t exist at all. They do, despite ridiculous licensing fees and inane distribution restrictions (*cough* Hulu Plus *cough*). Remove those restrictions and artificial costs, take out the useless middlemen, and the creators make more profit than ever.

If companies spent even a fraction of the money they now spend on lawyers on production instead this whole copyright issue would be irrelevant. If you want to know where all the money is going it’s not the internet “pirate,” it’s the copyright pirate-er, lawyer.

Anonymous Coward says:

Meaningful enforcement?


I love to see what useless ideas he has that will be meaningful to enforce anything.

People couldn’t enforce monopolies before and they can’t enforce them today.

But I guess what he refers too is to give crazy people the power to abuse by force others, this will end up only one way, with a massive wall of people running after those idiots.

Anonymous Coward says:

considering he is in the Union pour un Mouvement Populaire party, i would say it’s about time he was forcefully removed. considering his age, he is typical of the politician that hasn’t got a clue about the modern age, let alone modern technology, the way the Internet works or the way the people relate to things in the internet age. he is obviously a member of, got interests in, friends in the entertainment industries or has the hand of someone from that industry stuck firmly up his back, cranking him like a puppet. he needs to wake up and smell the coffee. the entertainment industry is the most selfish, self-interested industry on the planet. it is also the most restrictive one as well, not only for others being able to use what it classes as it’s content (even when it isn’t) but on almost everything else as well. i enjoy movies and music but could do without it. it’s not like it is a life essential, is it?

Anonymous Coward says:

It’s not about “free” and never has been when it’s not possible to buy (useable) legal content online. Just try to buy access to tv online. Read the rights, licences and requirements to move content from the television to computer access and it makes tax code read like a kindergarden primer – that for some reason the public should feel “responsible” to pay for. Is it public’s fault that favorite bands or shows are not licensed for a particular area, device or the actors and musicians want to limit their audience? I don’t think so.

Of course this will increase useage of alternate DNS, dark nets, VPN’s and services that haven’t been imagined yet. Way to go – They’ve already lost 2 generations of customers, now they want to make it to 3.

Even with a higher than average interest in this debate, it’s hard to read headlines or articles about it without thinking “boring” since the arguements never change. There is no reasoning with these people and they aren’t dying quickly enough.

anon says:


The “industry” had created an environment where everyone is a pirate,People are now embracing that label as a show of support for meaningful copyright reform, reform that will actually help the “industry” even though they do not realise it or want it at the moment.

And no the “industry” does not have the right to sell there content for whatever they want, they only survive because of the monopoly in copyright laws. this was given to them to encourage more content to be made available to the people of the world, not for them to have an unfair advantage in there business environment.

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