The European Union has its own revolving door, one that allows lobbyists to enter government agencies in order to directly regulate the same industries they so recently stumped for. Maria Martin-Prat went from directing "global legal policy" for IFPI (the international RIAA) to being the EU Commission's point person for copyright issues.
In the past, Martin-Prat has gone on record as being against any sort of private copying exception to copyright law, stating that:
"private copying has no reason to exist and should be limited further than it is."
The private copying exception varies from country to country, but in Martin-Prat's mind, the best case scenario is likely "not at all… anywhere." So, why is Martin-Prat, an admitted hardliner on copyright issues, suddenly discussing the unfairness of certain copyright contracts
Speaking at a Westminster Forum seminar, Maria Martin-Prat, EC Head of the Copyright Unit for the Internal Market Directorate General (DG MARKT), said the Commission should look at whether contracts were fair.
She told us that the infinite assignment of rights that authors must agree to in most EU countries to get their work published was what she had in mind.
In the digital era, freelance authors and photographers in many members states have been asked to assign their rights to an intermediary in “infinite” deals.
Forever contracts are, indeed, the sort of unfair deal that the EU Commission should take a longer look at. Here in the US, the reversion of copyright
back to the creators (for pre-1976 recordings) has prompted record labels to argue that everything created was a "work for hire," and thus belongs to the label in perpetuity. (This argument also took the form of a midnight run to Congress to get copyright law amended in the recording industry's favor.) An infinite contract obviously closes that potential loophole for artists to reclaim their work after a reasonable amount of time.
Seems like a good start, but Martin-Prat continues, dispelling any notion that serious copyright reform will occur under her guidance.
The distribution of “the share of the value in the internet” was worth examining said Martin-Prat - particularly “who gets the profits?”
Ah, the old "the Internet owes everyone
a living" argument, wherein (probably) Google is blamed for every low number on the copyright industries' balance sheets and asked to kick in to make up for the shortfall. Note that Martin-Prat asks "who gets the profits," rather than asking how to divide
the profits, which indicates she already has an answer in mind. Why address problems in any logical fashion when you can just use the weight of the EU Commission to make internet services bend to the will of misguided court decisions
and nearly two decades' of useless complaining from the recording industry?
Then Martin-Prat steps even further away from copyright moderation and takes a swing at the few remaining rights purchasers of creative works have, citing specifically the UsedSoft decision
, which agreed that sold software was a "license" rather than a sale, but despite this distinction, could still be resold.
“In both cases the Court was pushing the boundaries of the copyright rules to help the function of the internal market,” she said. “UsedSoft was desperately trying to turn software licensed by a user into a good - so they could enjoy free movement of goods,” she observed. “The Court cut a few corners” in its interpretation, she thought. However, “if we don’t do something at some point the CJEU will keep pushing.”
So, it looks as though Martin-Prat will be pushing back on this decision in order to remove something that actually helps sell new software -- the possibility of resale. Whether the copyright industries like it or not, people consider this factor when purchasing new items and if the possibility exists to make something back, it actually encourages a few more sales. There's nothing inherently "unfair" about not being able to profit from every sale, but the industries still think it's just another way they're being screwed -- hence the push to call everything a "license," even if it's a physical
Martin-Prat offers to take on an inherently unfair contract (the infinite copyright contract) but only because she has a desire to protect other unfair contracts (you can't resell what your purchase). The first will likely end up riddled with loopholes (for all intents and purposes, most recording contracts may as well be "infinite," considering how hard it is for artists to reclaim their copyrights) and the latter will just help the industries further pare down the few copyright law exceptions that currently exist.