EU Recognizes Need To Modernize Copyright, Announces Plan To Consider Reforms

from the necessary-reforms dept

It seems like the whole world is slowly coming to grips that our printing-press-era rules may not be the best way to stimulate creation and regulate information flows in hugely complex digital networks. The EU is now officially taking the lead in the worldwide discussions on copyright reform. This move may give much needed support to governments that have tried to touch on the topic, but for some reason withdrew or ignored good initiatives and advice.

Commissioner Barnier’s recent speech about “Making European copyright fit for purpose in the age of internet” was a sign of hope, but closer inspection revealed that he was planning no more than some relatively predictable updates of the current rules. Although the gesture was nice, it was more likely a reframing of his untenable previous maximalist position and lacked any fundamental meaning.

It appears now that two colleagues of his, Neelie Kroes (Digital Agenda) and Androulla Vassiliou (Education and Culture), have expertly called Barnier’s bluff and have taken the lead for full and much needed copyright reform. All three will sit on the board of a yearlong “structured stakeholder process“, which will commence at the start of 2013. This exercise will assess whether “the market” is able to address the current deficiencies of copyright in the following six topics: “cross-border portability of content, user-generated content, data- and text-mining, private copy levies, access to audiovisual works and cultural heritage.

In 2014 the three Commissioners will sit down again together, analyze the findings and decide whether concrete policy action is needed. Fortunately, we can already note that, indeed, substantial legislative reform will be needed to address the four areas the Commission is focusing on, namely:

1) Mitigating the effects of territoriality in the Internal Market;
2) Agreeing appropriate levels of harmonization, limitations and exceptions to copyright in the digital age;
3) How best to reduce the fragmentation of the EU copyright market;
4) How to improve the legitimacy of enforcement in the context of wider copyright reform.

Note how the first three areas are surprisingly similar, if not the same thing. The European copyright structure is based on territoriality, so addressing these three points requires extensive reform from many angles and on many levels.

The fourth area of concern (legitimizing enforcement) is the Commission admitting that ACTA was a bad idea. The Commission, just like Congress in the US after SOPA/PIPA, both realize they need to tread very carefully with any proposal that has an effect on fundamental rights on the internet, or internet freedom,as it we now call it. This is where the civil society and the actors who joined forces to stop ACTA, SOPA and PIPA can now step up and present a positive and realistic agenda for reform. Let’s not have the “copyright reform” movement be hijacked by special narrow interests who think they’re getting clever now by reframing the debate.

While the open democratic discussion on copyright reform will not commence today, hopefully this is a move in the right direction, which should open a window of opportunity for meaningful reform. Knowing the European Commission and their talent for delay-tactics, especially on the copyright dossier, it’s not likely we’ll have any real copyright reform any time soon. However, we do now have a firm commitment from a major international government that the copyright system is in dire need of a very close inspection.

Hopefully the British will now feel supported in implementing the recommendations of the Hargreaves report. Perhaps the Dutch will also feel justified to proceed with the idea to make their copyright system more flexible. Overseas governments may also feel reinforced to open the discussions on their copyright systems and join the EU in finding the new way forward. But will the EU’s move encourage the GOP to republish their recent insightful report on copyright reform?

Whatever the knock-on effects may be, there’s much more work to be done than suggested in this initiative to analyze the workings of the copyright system properly and to come up with a model for meaningful reform. However, this initiative deserves close attention by all interested groups to help steer it in the right way.

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Comments on “EU Recognizes Need To Modernize Copyright, Announces Plan To Consider Reforms”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: How long...

If you look at the reports on the way in the area, many of them have a strong bias against the existing system in the vignet. It seems that the EU has made the swing from strenghtening getting research funding to laxing getting funding.

Therefore this is in no way as much of a surprise as some think. Now, when the conclusions from these reports get acted upon, it is gonna be another story, with a parliament leaning to the right and business-friendly groupings…

Compared to earlier, this is a huge improvement. Earlier it was almost exclusively strenghtening getting researched and the “pirates” (which is a surprisingly multipartisan movement with strenghts in far left (anti-capitilism), the greens (pirate party) and the liberals (human rights)) was hardpressed to push back.

Given how Denmark acted lately, with removal of the DNS-block on illegal pharmaceutical sites and the slap in the face of the copyright industry they delivered, it is pretty clear that the wheels are turning towards a less stricht interpretation of copyright.

Links: (note that “Venstre” is looking at about 35% of the votes atm. and given “Enhedslisten” at about 10% and their strong anti-capitalist ideas, they almost already have more than enough mandates to keep those ideals up automatically.)

Josef Anvil (profile) says:

They might want to join the party

For all the trolling and name calling that goes on around here, one thing remains true. Reality.

Call us pirates or freetards or thieves or whatever makes you feel best, but at the end of the day, we the people who use the net, have already routed around copyright. It’s nice that the EU wants to modernize copyright and the rest of us will happily accept them when they join us in reality.

Laws work when they make sense to the populace and they don’t work when they don’t make sense to the populace. Copyright had its place when it was providing protections at the commercial level and still works commercially because that makes sense to the public and doesn’t interfere with our lives.

So the trolls can trot out all of their moral and legal arguments if they like. The rest of us in the US can relax and enjoy a beer while reading their posts. Yeah we can enjoy a beer because prohibition worked so well.

Richard (profile) says:

Re: They might want to join the party

Copyright had its place when it was providing protections at the commercial level and still works commercially because that makes sense to the public and doesn’t interfere with our lives.

Actually even the commercial protections were always a cost to the public, because the monopoly pushed up prices.

However the public accepted it (and still does) because it did not impact their lives.

The place that the public used to benefit was in the protection to the integrity of the work that copyright provided.

When piracy was last legal in the 16th and 17th centuries the accuracy of pirated editions was notoriously bad. This factor was a major influence in making the public accept copyright and making authors support it.

Digital reproduction has changed all that – and whereas a 1980’s pirated VHS video was typically of appalling quality a modern torrented version from a cracked DVD will be bit perfect with the original (except for the benefit of removing the unskippable warnings and adverts).

It follow that the one significant gain that the public made from copyright is now gone. The question is how long can it last?

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: They might want to join the party

“People obey the law if they believe it’s legitimate, not because they fear punishment”

A million times this. The history on this is extremely clear. With minor exceptions, people do not avoid breaking the law because they fear punishment. Fear of punishment changes the method they use to break them, not whether or not they do.

Anonymous Coward says:

‘but for *some reason* withdrew or ignored good initiatives and advice.’

fear of the the entertainment industries and the stopping of ‘lobbying’ funds. cut that out, and progress in more than just copyright and patent reform will be in leaps and bounds!

‘the Commission admitting that ACTA was a bad idea. The Commission, just like Congress in the US after SOPA/PIPA, both realize they need to tread very carefully with any proposal that has an effect on fundamental rights on the internet, or internet freedom,as it we now call it.’

had p;ublic interest groups been included in negotiations, LISTENED TO AND TOOK NOTICE OF, maybe things wouldn’t have gotten as bad as they did or be as bad as they are anyway!

atm there needs to be more transparency with TPP negotiations. it’s no good the US trying to condemn what is happening with the ITU talks but doing the same as them with TPP. transparency must be with all negotiations and must include public interest groups, not just big business. if only one side is taken notice of, it isn’t a discussion, it’s another dictatorship, only protecting certain people, while the ones that are relied on the most, the customers, are ignored.

pete carroll says:

Neelie Kroes gets it too

From Neelie Kroes blog today Dec 7th.

“But there are other ways for creators and others to make money online, across the value chain. Like free distribution supported by advertising, or using online content to promote tickets for live gigs. Imagine the ?buzz? you can generate for new films or music on social media, drawing attention and driving subsequent sales. And, the more direct the link between artists and their audience, the greater can be the rewards for creators.”

Seems like Neeelie Kroes has caught on to what Techdirt has been saying for ages.

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