European Parliament Report Proposes Wide-Ranging Copyright Reform, Including Reduction Of EU Copyright Term

from the she-said-what??? dept

Last year, we wrote about a European Commission consultation on copyright, which revealed the vast chasm between the views of the public and those of the copyright industry. In particular, where the former wanted many aspects of copyright to change, the latter thought things were pretty good, and should be left as they were.

Often such consultations are just filed away, as is currently happening with the one on corporate sovereignty. But in the case of copyright, the person appointed to write a report on what should happen next is the lone Pirate Party Member of the European Parliament, Julia Reda, and she is clearly determined to use the results of the consultation to help reform EU copyright. The draft version of her report for the European Parliament evaluating the current 2001 copyright directive turns out to be remarkably faithful to many of the Pirate Party’s ideas on copyright. Here’s Reda’s (intentionally Tweetable) encapsulation:

Although the directive was meant to adapt copyright to the digital age, in reality it is blocking the exchange of knowledge and culture across borders today.

The accompanying press release provides a summary of the report’s approach and its proposals:

Drawing on the responses to a public consultation on the topic by the Commission in 2014 as well as scientific studies, the report calls for common European rules: “The goals set out in the [copyright] directive can be best achieved with the introduction of a Single European Copyright Title“, it states, emphasising the need to ?allow equal access [?] across borders? to achieve the goal of a digital single market.

The report calls for the harmonization of copyright terms and exceptions across Europe, new exceptions for emerging use cases like audio-visual quotation, e-lending and text and data mining, as well as the adoption of an open norm to ?allow for the adaptation to unanticipated new forms of cultural expression?. It recommends ?exempting works produced by the public sector [?] from copyright protection? and demands that ?exercise of exceptions or limitations [?] should not be hindered by technological measures?.

That short summary rather downplays the boldness of the proposals, which are well-worth reading in full. In another sign of Reda’s Pirate origins and general Net-savviness — she also references Techdirt’s “The Sky is Rising 2” report — she has posted the full text of her draft on an online discussion platform that lets anyone comment and rate individual sections. Remarkably, the “harmonization of copyright terms” mentioned above is downwards:

Calls on the Commission to harmonise the term of protection of copyright to a duration that does not exceed the current international standards set out in the Berne Convention;

That is, life plus 50 years, rather than the widespread life plus 70 years. Reda also wants to protect and expand the public domain:

Recommends that the EU legislator should further lower the barriers for re-use of public sector information by exempting works produced by the public sector — within the political, legal and administrative process — from copyright protection;

Her proposals for harmonizing exceptions are equally dramatic:

Calls on the Commission to make mandatory all exceptions and limitations referred to in Directive 2001/29/EC, to allow equal access to cultural diversity across borders within the internal market and to improve legal security;

Not only does Reda want to bring in all the allowed exceptions and limitations across the whole EU, she also proposes a mechanism for creating new ones:

Calls for the adoption of an open norm introducing flexibility in the interpretation of exceptions and limitations in certain special cases that do not conflict with the normal exploitation of the work and do not unreasonably prejudice the legitimate interests of the author or rightholder;

She calls for the clarification of a number of important questions that have arisen recently. These include confirming that hyperlinking is not an infringement of copyright; allowing the use of photographs and videos of works that are displayed in public places; confirming that the caricature, parody and pastiche exceptions apply regardless of the parodic purpose; permitting text and data mining; exceptions for research and educational purposes, as well as allowing libraries to lend out ebooks. She also tackles DRM:

Stresses that the effective exercise of exceptions or limitations, and access to content that is not subject to copyright or related rights protection, should not be hindered by technological measures;

And adds this rather unusual rider:

Recommends making legal protection against the circumvention of any effective technological measures conditional upon the publication of the source code or the interface specification, in order to secure the integrity of devices on which technological protections are employed and to ease interoperability; in particular, when the circumvention of technological measures is allowed, technological means to achieve such authorised circumvention must be available;

As those excerpts make clear, practically everything here is likely to make the copyright maximalists howl — particularly the unprecedented suggestion that copyright terms should be reduced for once, instead of constantly extending them, as in the past. Of course, not everything will survive the lobbying barrage that will hit the various EU committees as they review the text, nor will the European Commission adopt every proposal when it puts together its proposal for the new directive on copyright to update the current one.

But the report is nonetheless an amazing achievement for someone who has been a Member of the European Parliament for less than a year: Reda and her team should be proud of their work. It is also hugely important, because it raises in such a clear and thoughtful way most of the key problems with today’s copyright. In doing so, it provides an excellent basis on which to have a wide-ranging discussion, both in the European Parliament and beyond, about ways to make the 300-year-old copyright system fit for the digital age.

Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or, and +glynmoody 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 “European Parliament Report Proposes Wide-Ranging Copyright Reform, Including Reduction Of EU Copyright Term”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
Anonymous Coward says:

Nice idea that will never happen. It will be fought tooth, nail, and bribe. When the smoke clears they’ll claim it too tough to do since it is in trade agreements.

The whole copyright mess has gone way too far in favor of middle men and the entertainment industry. Nothing you hear in your lifetime will be in public domain. Nothing has gone into public domain in quite some time. So what you hear and see in regards to IP protected works aren’t available to be used during your lifetime. The idea to promote the progress of science and the useful arts is dead. Killed by the ongoing and expansion of copyright. Therefore the contract with the public over licensing for copyright is broken and dead. It no longer serves any purpose but to enrich the middle man.

Edward Teach says:

Re: What's the purpose of copyright?

Given the nominal purpose of copyright, why shouldn’t copyright terminate at the creator’s death?

I mean, copyright exists as a way to encourage people to contribute to the public domain by granting a limited monopoly on the expression of an idea. If a creator can’t recoup costs or receive adequate compensation for the expression of an idea before death, I kind of doubt anything more can be done to encourage that creator to make the expression.

If you, personally, view copyright as some kind of ownership of ideas, then you’re on the wrong side of the law, and probably on the wrong side of civilization itself. Get right with civilization!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: What's the purpose of copyright?

“Given the nominal purpose of copyright, why shouldn’t copyright terminate at the creator’s death?”

Be careful what you wish for. I’m envisioning a cryogenic storage room full of Walt Disney zombies kept “undead” solely for the purpose of keeping their copyrights from expiring.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: What's the purpose of copyright?

I mean, copyright exists as a way to encourage people to contribute to the public domain by granting a limited monopoly on the expression of an idea.

That idea is basically political spin, as the real purpose of copyright is to protect the publishers interests in setting up to produce and distribute copies. Interesting as production and distribution costs have come down, copyright has been extended to protect the lesser investment by the publishers.

Edward Teach says:

Re: Re: Re: What's the purpose of copyright?

he real purpose of copyright is to protect the publishers interests …

I agree with this Chomkskyite appraisal of copyright, but I was trying to argue based on the official, nominal purpose of copyright. If lawyers are going to come here and troll, they deserve to have to argue from legal starting points, not the actual facts. I guess either way they’d just argue crap, but I can’t help but try to hold their metaphorical feet to the fire.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: What's the purpose of copyright?

“That idea is basically political spin, as the real purpose of copyright is to protect the publishers interests in setting up to produce and distribute copies”

It’s not political spin at all. I think that to argue that’s not the real purpose is the political spin.

It’s what the Constitution actually says, so it’s the “real” in this mess. The problem is that copyright law has been so thoroughly subverted that it can no longer accomplish the purpose it exists for. In other words, the current, corrupt goals represent the fake purpose.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 What's the purpose of copyright?

The US constitution gave congress the power to enact such laws if they promoted the progress etc., and that has been grabbed by the publishers as the excuse to get copyright laws enacted and extended. That is the constitution in this case set the political arguments to be used to have copyright laws passed.

cpt kangarooski says:

Re: Re: What's the purpose of copyright?

Copyright shouldn’t terminate upon the death of the creator or on any date based on the death of the creator (e.g. death + 50, death + 70).

Instead, copyright should last for a term of years. This provides definiteness; everyone knows that the copyright will expire no later than a particular date. The copyright holder can form his plans around it, as can members of the public. Death would be irrelevant; the term would carry on whether the author lived or died.

Given that the vast majority of works have no copyright-related economic value, and that most of the remainder exhaust most of their copyright-related economic value shortly after publication in a given medium (e.g. most of the copies of a book that will ever be sold will be sold within about 18 months of first publication) a maximum term of sufficient length, but no longer, can allow copyright holders to wring out most of their possible profits on the work, while still getting the work to the public rapidly. Basing a term on death of the author will rarely provide a proper term length; it will often be too long, which almost always does not help anyone.

The only variation that is acceptable is to allow the term to end earlier than the fixed latest date. For example, a schedule of fixed dates for renewal terms can be used. So there would be a short copyright term, and a number of optional renewals; if the copyright holder failed to renew, the work would enter the public domain sooner.

This sort of system worked fine in the U.S. for nearly 200 years. No reason it can’t be done again.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Howl? Why? This is the first time a reduction has ever been included. If it passes, it’ll be a cause for celebration.

And who knows – the RIAA has constantly demanded 20 year extensions. If there’s a force that can constantly demand 20 year reductions and get them, that’ll be impressive. What’s good for the goose and all that.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Why? Simple. Every time I have expressed my personal view in the Techdirt comments, that tt’s reasonable for copyright to last the creator’s life time, plus 20-30 years, I get people jumping down my throat about how copyright should end with the death of the creator. Despite the fact that what I’m saying is reasonable is a reduction by greater than half of the current post death copyright. A reduction in length greater than what Ms. Reda is currently proposing. This happens even when the rest of my post is pointing out the number of modern franchises created out of public domain classics, or that old legends have much in common with fan fiction.

Sure enough, these comments have Edward Teach, and The One Guy going on rants about how copyright should end at death in response to my cheap shot. Teach apparently thinks I’m a copyright lawyer or something by his comments, not just some random person expressing their own view of a small aspect of the copyright problem.

Further down, you see Max, OldGeezer, and followRufus mocking the proposed reduction in length, rejecting it as inadequate. Seemingly ignoring all the other improvements she proposes in the process.

So we have one Julia Reda, a member of the Pirate Party who is working hard to use something that would normally be effectively ignored in an attempt to generate some real push back against the tides of copyright within the constraints of the system. And we have the previously mentioned Techdirt commentators effectively spitting on her work because she’s taking some realistic steps instead of trying to give them the sun, moon, and stars.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

If you don’t want people ‘jumping down your throat’, maybe don’t post comments intentionally designed to provoke people into responding. You don’t get to smack someone upside the head(figuratively of course), and then act shocked when they respond in a less than pleased fashion.

As for ‘reasonable’, even if you believe in life+20/30, and she’s proposing life+50, while your stance may be more reasonable, comparatively, to the current life+70, to someone who doesn’t believe in life+anything, neither of them are at all reasonable.

Now, would it be good if her proposal actually made it through the ocean of money that’s likely to be thrown around in opposition? Yes, absolutely, but less because life+50 is reasonable, and more because it would be perhaps the first time ever that copyright duration has been decreased, rather than increased. If she managed the impossible, on that detail, or even better on her other proposals in addition to that detail, then that would be awesome, but it would not stop life+50, or even life+20/30, from being a ridiculous duration.

followRufus (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

life+50 is NOT reasonable

life + 14, as Professor Rufus Pollock found IS REASONABLE

because Pollock studied scientifically and economically the duration of profitable economic utilization

people sponsoring life +50 what kind of objective and scientific arguments do they have to propose life+50 excepted their own thoughts about this subject?

in addition to this,

life + 50 IS NOT REASONABLE because this was the previous term that was inopportunely extended in 1993 to 70. So, now the reduction should be not 20 year, but 20 + 20 = 40 years and 70-40 = 30

apart this there are the ORPHAN WORKS locked down by copywrong

a publisher may make money publishing an orphan works without fear to see seized phisical copies of deleted scanned images of work

a private cannot share orphan works


That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

because Pollock studied scientifically and economically the duration of profitable economic utilization

Profitable to whom?

Other countries may have different reasons for copyright, but in the US at least it was meant to provide benefits to exactly two groups: The creator, and the public(the side-effect and the goal respectively). That’s it. So if the creator isn’t profiting from something(and how can they, they’re dead at that point), and the public isn’t profiting off of it, then that should be enough to say that the duration is excessive. I couldn’t care less if it was found to be ‘ideally profitable’ to the heirs or whatnot, they weren’t part of the deal.

Copyright, before it was turned into a corporate tool, was never meant to be something to be passed down to children, or inherited, or provide money for the child(ren) of a creator, it was meant to motivate creators via limited monopolies, as a means to ultimately benefit the public, those were the only two parties involved that mattered.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

I get people jumping down my throat about how copyright should end with the death of the creator

Gee, maybe you should think your commentary through before you write it, because you answered your own query.

> in response to my cheap shot

You’re not even trying to mask the fact that you’re really only here to troll for responses.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re:

If the ones pushing for ‘lifetime plus X number of years’ are willing to admit that the only real beneficiaries of copyright that long are those other than the creators, then they can make their arguments about how the tradeoff is a fair one.

However, as long as they continue to lie and pretend that corpses have a pressing need for copyright, then they will continue to be faced with people demanding that they justify their claims about just why the duration needs to last decades beyond the life of the creator, to the detriment of the public.

Mason Wheeler (profile) says:

Recommends making legal protection against the circumvention of any effective technological measures conditional upon the publication of the source code or the interface specification

Yes please, but I’d take it a step further.

In the physical world, you can copyright a blueprint, but not a building built from it. Why should the digital world be so different?

Executable software (a program or “app” that you download, install and run) is not a blueprint; it’s a building. Programmers don’t write these programs; they write source code (blueprints) which are then compiled into executable programs (buildings) by a specialized program called a compiler. The term “build” is commonly used by programmers to describe the process of compiling a project, both as a verb and as a noun (ie. “this is build #3158” or “your latest code change broke the build”).

So why is it that copyright applies to executable software at all?

The legal fiction that executable software is equivalent to a creative work, rather than an object derived from the specification laid out by a creative work, has had a severely detrimental effect on the state of software development. No one would expect students attending an English class to have never read a book before, or students attending a Music or Filmmaking class to have never listened to music or watched any movies. In all these cases, (with a few exceptions in filmmaking related to special effects,) the finished product is exactly what went into the work, and you can look at it, take it apart, analyze it, and learn from it. But this is the state for all too many students going into their first programming class: they’ve never worked with source code before, and many of the best examples are completely unavailable to them when they begin to study.

I’ve mentioned Brandon Sanderson, the bestselling fantasy author, a few times on here before. When he had a few (really good) published novels under his belt, Robert Jordan, author of the epic The Wheel of Time series, died, leaving his magnum opus close to completion but unfinished. His widow Harriet, (who was in a unique position to competently judge such things due to having also been his editor throughout the entire series) chose Sanderson to finish up The Wheel of Time, and his work at concluding it was widely regarded as a great success. In fact, many fans regard Sanderson’s work on the series as better than Jordan’s.

When someone asked Brandon Sanderson about this, he gave a very insightful comment: “I think the biggest advantage I had over Robert Jordan is that I was able to grow up reading the work of Robert Jordan, and he wasn’t.” And that’s the way it is throughout the creative arts. The Beatles openly confessed that “The Beatles” never would have happened if it hadn’t been for Elvis Presley. George Lucas drew upon Japanese samurai films, World War II movies, and Joseph Campbell’s The Hero With A Thousand Faces in building Star Wars. And when Isaac Newton famously said “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants,” he was quoting Bernard of Chartres, who lived centuries before him.

But when the source code of the most successful products is locked away, not available for study at any price, what is there for students to learn from? What if the Beatles had not had Elvis’s music to study? What if George Lucas had been ignorant of the earlier films that inspired him to build one of the most iconic works in the history of cinema? Then the state of music and cinematography would probably look a lot like the state of software development today.

Because the stated purpose of copyright protection is to “promote the progress” of the creative arts, and because any meaningful progress in said arts requires the study of the techniques involved in earlier works, it makes no sense to give copyright protection to that which cannot be studied. From this perspective, the only sensible copyright system for software is to give copyright protection to source code and source code alone, and only if it is published like any other creative work.

any moose cow word says:

Re: Re:

Great point, software is treated differently from practically every other creative endeavor covered by copyright. Studying software is much more like studying architecture than music or poetry. In architecture, all that is readily apparent is the surface elements exposed to the public, much of the structural details are hidden away. Someone who is skilled in the art can make inferences about such details without ever looking at the blueprints, but such skills takes years of study. That comes back to the issue of how to gain that knowledge when much of it is locked away. Architecture is more like traditional apprenticeship, learning from those who have professional experience. In my experience, however, instruction in software design is mostly by those who have either been out of industry for at least a decade or have never been in the industry at all. They argue that the “fundamentals” don’t change, which is somewhat true, but the state of the art and industry practice can change quite a bit. Think about where computers and software were 10 or even 20 years ago. Then imagine how well someone who hasn’t done any substantial development since then now preparing students to become the software engineers of tomorrow. Sounds ludicrous, but that’s exactly what I had to put up with.

David says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Out of touch because of writing code with vi? You probably consider it not worth reading books these days where the manuscript was written by hand.

Reminds me of the (likely apocryphal story) where Ernest Hemingway complimented the photographer Ansel Adams on his work and asked which camera he used for his pictures. Whereas Adams complimented Hemingway in turn and asked which typewriter he used for his stories.

Well, and learning C++ is probably as important for computer science as knowing your way around the largest scrapyard in the vicinity is for mechanical engineering. It’s a moving target anyway, basically the history of computer science in one standard. They haven’t gotten around to functions with variable-dimension multidimensional array parameters yet, though. So basically they still have to catch up with the state of Fortran IV for actual numeric libraries. There are some

At least C finally tackled this embarrassment with C99 (though I think they marked it as optional in a later standard). GCC was there a lot earlier.

So yeah. C++ is really important for computer science, and you should not be writing it with vi.

And if you want to write a serious novel, don’t use a typewriter. At least not one with cursive lettering.

DannyB (profile) says:

Fix a few other copyright messes

Impose a substantial penalty for misusing any takedown mechanism (such as the US DMCA, or other national equivalents) when the person doing the takedown is not the owner, nor an agent of the owner, or the use is clearly fair use, or if the takedown is clearly to silence protected speech.

How about allowing reverse engineering or circumventing protection mechanisms for interoperability.

No more taxes on blank media.

Make it the law that search engines have no liability for doing the very thing they are designed to do — help you find what you are looking for. Which is useful to copyright enforcers to find pirated content in order to get it removed at the source rather than removed from the search engine. Make it the law that copyright owners must go after the source of the piracy not intermediate parties or search engines. Or blog posts.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: WOW! only life + 50?

While I too wish the copyright term length wasn’t linked to the year in which the creator dies, anything other than the bare minimum will be dismissed out of hand by those opposing any downwards change in the term length

Proposing that the term be reduced to life+50 is a rather pragmatic move by Ms Reda.

followRufus (profile) says:

Ue extended from 50 to 70 years copywrong in 1993! Now it wants to return to 50 again? It is not a progress...

this is a very bad story…

Do you should remember that UE in 1993 EXTENDED copywrong from 50 to 70 years!

“It is evident in light of the social, legal and economic justifications outlined by the EC in the 1993 Duration Directive, that the extended term of protection to life of the author plus 70 years for copyright works was a mistake”

Now, hearing that they give us the mercy to return to 50 sounds like a joke!

Professor Rufus Pollock, an Oxford teacher on economic matters, examined on the scientific side the duration of economical urtilization of works after the author’s death with the help of math and the economical models

he concluded that 14 years is the optimal duration, after author’s death, for monopoly on economical utilization that prevents us from sharing freely his works

obviously, Ue ignored completely the studies of Professor Pollock in its answer to the consultation

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Ue extended from 50 to 70 years copywrong in 1993! Now it wants to return to 50 again? It is not a progress...

As I said in this comment above, this move is a pragmatic one by Ms Reda.

The Berne Convention would be used as a very convenient excuse by those who oppose any reduction in the term length – by avoiding that trap she forces opponents to actually try and make the opposition argument on merit rather than technicality.

David says:


That’s the European Parliament. They are just the elected representatives and basically a clown show.

The actual people creating the laws are the heavily lobbied European Commission. Yes, they cannot bypass the parliament, but all the power the European Parliament has is to say “uh, no, that wasn’t it, try again”. Until they manage to sneak the thing past some holiday parliament session.

Which means that the European Parliament is not able to change the status quo against the will of the European Commission, the mouthpiece of the industry.

They can tell the EC what they want, but if the EC does not deliver, they have no way to enforce change. At best they can block stuff for as long as they don’t let down their guard once.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Yawn.

The commission did get a Monsanto GM crop through, not because a majority wanted it, but because not enough was against it…

Yes, the commission is where the right to initiate and veto-powers lie. The parliament is often ignored when they ask the commission to propose something. I will wait for the commission with lobbyist favourite Oettinger in charge to come up with a proposal that moves in the same direction before I am impressed.

Anonymous Coward says:

A good start. I doubt most of these sensible measures will make it through what will undoubtedly be a huge amount of whining from copyright maximalists.

Still, if some good can make it into law, it will be a victory, with hope for much more down the line.

The reduction of copyright does not go far enough, but it’s a step in the right direction for a change, that cannot be disputed.

The maximalists took one step at a time towards today’s unreasonable copyright terms, no reason we can’t push limits the right direction in the same fashion.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

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 »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...