EU Offers Public a Chance to Fix Copyright Law

Copyright and the Internet have been struggling to get along for many years and some feel we are now due a comprehensive update of the former in order for it to work more harmoniously with the latter. In deciding how to progress the EU Commission has opened a public consultation which allows all citizens - even those in the U.S. - a rare opportunity to change the path of copyright law. But with just three weeks left, time is ticking away.

europe-flagYear after year there are cries that copyright law is not only unfit for purpose in the digital age, but also heavily biased towards the entertainment industries and their corporate masters. Many feel that such laws are simply imposed but in reality the people can have their say, if only they can make their voices heard. That chance is here.

In 2014 the European Commission (EC) will decide whether to propose new copyright laws and to that end is inviting everyone to submit their views in a public consultation. No matter what stake an individual has in the future of copyright, from copyright holder to artist to regular Internet user, all responses are welcomed – and not just from EU citizens either.

“Note that you can [participate in the consultation] even if you do not live in Europe,” the EFF explains. “Just as United States laws can influence legislators in the rest of the world, so can European legislation have an impact on all Internet users: Both through our interactions with users and companies in the region and in how they can set new policy precedents.”

The consultation is some 80 questions long, which is enough to deter many people from participating. However, there is no requirement to answer all of the questions and people are able to respond to as many or as few as they like. That said, the open-ended nature of the questions means that it can sometimes seem difficult to see which relate to a particular issue. No need to worry though since help is at hand.

There are two great sources for simplifying the process. The first, at CopyWrongs.eu, provides a simple tick-box format which directs submitters to the questions that matter to them and filters out those that don’t. Respondents that are interested in file-sharing, DRM, content geo-blocking, infringement notices or industry-biased copyright law, for example, need only click a few boxes and fill in their experiences.

ameliaSecondly, Swedish Pirate Party politician and Member of the European Parliament Amelia Andersdotter has published a straightforward guide on how to respond to the consultation by directing respondents to the questions that matter to them.

“If you want to legalize file-sharing, you need to emphasize that sharing of culture and making private copies on the internet should be permissible when you answer questions 22-26,” Andersdotter explains. “You can also add additional comments on enabling the legally certain operation of torrent trackers in question 80.”

Those concerned with Fair Use should head to question 24 while those looking for action on liability for intermediaries should focus on questions 75 to 77. There are many other topics too, including copyright term limitations, exceptions, remixing and issues of importance to libraries, so every key aspect is addressed in some way.

Those happy to dive into the full 80 question consultation should head over to the European Commission’s site here, but whichever method people use to respond the important thing is to have a say.

“European copyright reform may greatly improve the free exchange of knowledge and culture, but it may also make things worse!” Andersdotter explains.

“Industry lobbyists have a lot more resources available to reply to public consultations. To have the voices of the people heard and to steer copyright reform in the right direction, it’s important to counter-balance industry’s replies with a lot of perspectives from users and creators.”

The deadline to do so is February 5th, just three weeks away….

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