7 May 2015 – Yesterday, the European Commission has published its “Digital Single Market Strategy for Europe”. One of the pillars of the DSM Strategy is the upcoming copyright reform. Vice President Andrus Ansip has repeatedly said that the present EU copyright rules are not fit for the digital age and that citizens should be able to access media content from everywhere in the EU.
The Commission announced to publish legislative proposals before the end of 2015, “to reduce the differences between national copyright regimes and allow for wider online access to works by users across the EU, including through further harmonisation measures. The proposals will include: (i) portability of legally acquired content, (ii) ensuring cross border access to legally purchased online services while respecting the value of rights in the audiovisual sector, (iii) greater legal certainty for the cross-border use of content for specific purposes (e.g. research, education, text and data mining, etc.) through harmonised exceptions,(iv) clarifying the rules on the activities of intermediaries in relation to copyright protected content and, in 2016, (v) modernising enforcement of intellectual property rights, focusing on commercial scale.”
All of these actions are of course tied in with economic interests, but the non-commercial sector is also clearly mentionned: The proposals will include harmonised exceptions at least for research and educational purposes.
17 April 2015 – The European Parliament is preparing a resolution on the implementation of the Directive 2001/29/EC, the so- called “InfoSoc Directive”. The Directive intended to harmonise certain aspects of copyright, including the exceptions and limitations to the use of copyright protected works, but it has failed to do so. The existing legal framework is also maladapted to new technologies and the increase of cross-border cultural exchange. Rapporteur is the German MEP Julia Reda (The Greens / EFA). Reda’s report calls for, amongst other things, a more user-friendly approach to copyright, better remuneration and fair contracts for authors, a single European copyright title, the harmonisation of the protection term (death of the author(s) + 50years), and the mandatory implementation of the exceptions and limitations in the member states, as well as a broad exception for research and education, which should enable cross-border collaboration and encompass also non-formal education.
As expected, the reactions were hugely controversial. The big majority of MEPs doesn’t want to challenge the status quo of EU copyright. All in all, the MEPs have tabled 556 amendments. COMMUNIA, the International Association on the Public Domain, has published the ten worst and five best amendments.
The position of film and cultural heritage institutions is best represented by the Dutch MEP Marietje Schaake (ALDE) and the Polish MEP Lidia Joanna Geringer de Oedenberg (S&D). Schaake proposes to expand “mandatory exceptions beneficial for public interest institutions, such as libraries, museums and archives, which play a central role in facilitating online access to cultural heritage, and access to information that allows them to make protected works in their collections, that are not in commercial circulation anymore, or otherwise actively managed by their rights holders, available for online access by the public” (AM 348). Geringer de Oedenberg asks for making “uniform andmandatory all the 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 certainty” (AM 341). The vote in the Plenary is scheduled for early May.
Background information: The Reda Report has been prepared in the context of the Commission’s initiative to revise the EU copyright rules. A public consultation, which was carried out early 2013, received 11.000 responses. This is one of the highest participation rates ever. You can access the ACE response to the consultation here.