Towards a modern and more European Copyright framework – Education, research and access to knowledge a priority

Text written by Jonas Holm – Chair of The Working Group on Copyright (which falls under the Advocacy & Communications Steering Committee at LIBER) & Lawyer at Stockholm University.

After a good two years of work, the European Commission has presented their proposals they would like to see for the reform of the copyright legislation.

In the work, consideration has been given to the views of the European Parliament, and to priorities of the Presidency of the European Union, which next year will be handed over from Luxembourg to The Netherlands. Stakeholders as well as European citizens have also had their say. Liber (The Association of European Research Libraries) has been an active voice representing the sectors of Research, Education and Libraries in this process.

Several of the proposals are of interest for the Library and Higher Education sectors

A reform under the banner “Digital Single Market” has been on the list of ten priorities of Commission President Jean Claude Juncker since the appointment of the new Commission. The objective has been to build upon the single market to achieve a “modern, more European copyright framework”, given the territorial nature of copyright where copyright legislation remain within the national jurisdictions, whereas copyright protected works lives their digital lives independent of national borders.

The reform will come in gradual instalments during the spring of 2016

Instead of one single reform package that will replace the Infosoc-directive from 2001 (The Infosoc directive contains a list of copyright exceptions that can be adopted on a voluntary basis in the member states).

Promoting cross border access to copyright protected works

Top priority is to promote cross border access to copyright protected works. To balance the interest of stakeholders, given that territorial markets is still a constituent part of right holders business models, the first step towards this will be regulation on portability. Hopefully, this will enable the European citizen to use streaming services such as Spotify or Netflix while travelling in another member state.

Copyright exceptions for the visually impaired

Portability will be paired with regulation against geoblocking, in order to end the experience of the disclaimer “the content provider has not made this clip available in your region” while trying to use a Public Service Broadcasting Play service abroad or trying to access a video clip linked to a different jurisdiction. The first round of proposals will also include the accession of the EU to the WIPO Treaty on copyright exceptions for the visually impaired.

Copyright exceptions to be made mandatory union wide

The next step will be to introduce a set of copyright exceptions to be made mandatory union wide. When it comes to exceptions, science, research and “access to knowledge” will be a priority. To the higher education and library sectors this might mean improved opportunities to digitise, preserve and make available information and works through the internet.

It will also mean a union wide exception for illustration in teaching. LIBER especially welcomes an exception for Text and Data Mining although it has concerns over the Commissions indication that such activity will be allowed only for academic purposes.
There will also be a so called panorama exception, permitting the use of works that is permanently located in the public space, to be photographed, for instance.

Now the process of processing the proposals through parliament remains

Compared to a single European Copyright Title or to full cross border access the proposals are humble but it’s nonetheless welcome. The commission have understood that the current framework is out of date in the digital age and that some aspects of the territoriality makes no sense to the citizens of Europe. In addition, it’s welcome that science, research and access to knowledge is top priority in the copyright reform.

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