EU Commissioner Warns Copyright Middlemen To Get With The Times

from the about-time dept

TorrentFreak points us to a recent speech given by Neelie Kroes, European Commission Vice-President for the Digital Agenda, in which she gives a warning to "copyright middlemen," that they need to adapt to the changing times:
Borders are now crossed more easily than ever before in history. It is a great opportunity for artists and creators of all kinds, as art has no limits but those of our minds. Art enriches itself by eliminating artificial barriers between people such as borders between countries.

Just as artists have always travelled, to join sponsors, avoid wars or learn from masters far from home, now digital technology helps them to cross borders and break down barriers. Their work can be available to all. In a sense, the internet is the realisation of the Renaissance dream of Giovanni Pico della Mirandola: all knowledge in one place.

Yet, it does not mean there are no more obstacles to sharing cultural and artistic works on the net. All revolutions reveal, in a new and less favourable light, the privileges of the gatekeepers of the "Ancien Regime". It is no different in the case of the internet revolution, which is unveiling the unsustainable position of certain content gatekeepers and intermediaries. No historically entrenched position guarantees the survival of any cultural intermediary. Like it or not, content gatekeepers risk being sidelined if they do not adapt to the needs of both creators and consumers of cultural goods.
Of course, the real issue is that middlemen who are used to being gatekeepers need to get away from the gatekeeper mindset, and realize that it's time to be enablers instead of gatekeepers -- but that's difficult to do.

There's also the admission that copyright "should not be an end in itself," which it too often appears to be for some in the industry:
Take for instance copyright. For 200 years, it has proved a powerful way to remunerate our artists and to build our creative industries. But copyright is not an end in itself. Copyright exists to ensure that artists will continue to create. Yet we see more and more often that it is not respected. In some sectors, the levels of piracy demand that we ask ourselves what are we doing wrong. We must ensure that copyright serves as a building block, not a stumbling block.

Look at the situation of those trying to digitise cultural works. Europeana, the online portal of libraries, museums and archives in Europe, is one key example. What a digital wonder this is: a single access point for cultural treasures that would otherwise be difficult to access, hidden or even forgotten.

Will this 12 million-strong collection of books, pictures, maps, music pieces and videos stall because copyright gets in the way? I hope not.
Of course, what Kroes is really pitching is the ongoing campaign to harmonize European copyright laws into a single copyright law across the EU, that will also include a single licensing setup. This effort has been under way for a while, and hasn't gone all that well, in part, because the various countries that make up the EU know that there are vast differences in each market, and they're not convinced a single copyright regime actually does make sense. So, while the language Kroes uses sounds good, it's probably more about complaints concerning regional differences, rather than a recognition that overall copyright law is broken.
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Filed Under: copyright, gatekeepers, middlemen, neelie kroes


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  1. icon
    PaulT (profile), 11 Nov 2010 @ 2:10am

    Nice... glad to see someone with some power can actually see some sense. I've certainly always wondered why EU free trade is suddenly optional when it comes to digital media (e.g. I can buy any CD from Amazon UK, France or Germany but I'm not allowed to buy MP3s from the same site). I can physically cross any border in the EU, usually with no checks at all, but I'm blocked from transmitting binary information for legal purchases. Ridiculous.

    "In some sectors, the levels of piracy demand that we ask ourselves what are we doing wrong."

    Truer words have rarely been spoken. If only the labels had done this 10 years ago, they wouldn't be in the mess they are now.

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