The idea of copyright is certainly not new and most countries worldwide have developed complex systems to ensure that it’s upheld, ostensibly to protect the rights of creators.
But with the unprecedented advancement of communications technology, especially in respect of the Internet, copyright frameworks often appear terribly outdated and unfit for purpose.
In 2015 the EU has its collective eyes on copyright reform and to this end has appointed an individual whose political party has more focus than most on the world of copyright.
Last November, Julia Reda, a politician for the German Pirate Party and member of the European Parliament, was tasked with producing a report on the implementation of the 2001 InfoSoc Directive.
Having already presented her plans during a meeting of the Legal Affairs Committee in December, this morning Reda released a first draft of her report. It will come as no surprise that need for reform has been underlined.
“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,” Reda’s core finding reads.
The report draws on responses to a public consultation and lays out a reform agenda for the overhaul of EU copyright. It finds that the EU would benefit from a copyright mechanism that not only protects past works, but also encourages future creation and the unlocking of a pan-European cultural market.
“The EU copyright directive was written in 2001, in a time before YouTube or Facebook. Although it was meant to adapt copyright to the digital age, in reality it is blocking the exchange of knowledge and culture across borders today“, Reda explains.
“We need a common European copyright that safeguards fundamental rights and makes it easier to offer innovative online services in the entire European Union.”
The draft (pdf) acknowledges the need for artistic works to be protected under law and calls for improvements in the positions of authors and performers “in relation to other rightholders and intermediaries.”
The document recommends that public sector information should be exempt from copyright protection and calls on the Commission to safeguard public domain works while recognizing rightsholders’ freedom to “voluntarily relinquish their rights and dedicate their works to the public domain.”
Copyright lengths are also tackled by Reda, who calls on the Commission to harmonize the term to a duration that does not exceed the current international standards set out in the Berne Convention.
On Internet hyperlinking the report requests that citizens are allowed to freely link from one resource to another and calls on the EU legislator “to clarify that reference to works by means of a hyperlink is not subject to exclusive rights, as it is does not consist in a communication to a new public.”
The document also calls for new copyright exceptions to be granted for research and educational purposes to not only cover educational establishments, but “any kind of educational and research activities,
including non-formal education.”
Also of interest is Reda’s approach to transparency. Since being appointed, Reda says she’s received 86 meeting requests from lobbyists. As can be seen from the chart below, requests increased noticeably after the Pirate was named as rapporteur in November 2014.
“I did my best to balance out the attention paid to various interest groups. Most requests came from publishers, distributors, collective rights organizations, service providers and intermediaries (57% altogether), while it was more difficult to get directly to the group most often referred to in public debate: The authors,” Reda explains.
“The results of the copyright consultation with many authors’ responses demonstrate that the interests of collecting societies and individual authors can differ significantly.”
Reda has published a full list of meetings that took place. It includes companies such as Disney and Google, and ‘user’ groups such as the Free Software Foundation Europe.
“Tomorrow morning around 9 I’m going to publish my report on EU #copyright, discussion in legal affairs committee on Tuesday,” Reda reported a few minutes ago.
The final report will be put to an April vote in the Legal Affairs Committee and then to a vote before the entire Parliament during May.