Reda Report adopted: A turning point in the copyright debate16 June 2015
Today, the Legal Affairs Committee of the European Parliament, with a broad majority passed an amended version of the INFOSOC report drafted by rapporteur Julia Reda and amended by the JURI Committee members, with a broad majority.
(The final adopted text is not yet available – we will link to it as soon as it goes online.)
The amended report was supported by all political groups – the only two opposing votes were cast by MEPs from the far-right French Front National.
In this report, the Parliament recognises that copyright reform is urgently needed not just to improve the Digital Single Market, but also to facilitate access to knowledge and culture for all people in Europe.
It calls on the Commission to consider a wide variety of measures to bring copyright law up to speed with changing realities and improve cross-border access to our cultural diversity, going further than the plans so far announced by the Commissioners.
The report marks a turning point: After decades in which the focus was on introducing new restrictions to protect the material interests of rightholders, this is the strongest demand yet to reconsider the rights of the public – of users, cultural heritage institutions and scientists, and of authors who build on what has come before. It is a call to reduce the legal uncertainty Europeans face in their everyday online interactions with copyrighted works today – while at the same time also protecting creators from exploitation. Its proposals, if implemented, will have no overall negative effects on the livelihood of creators, but greatly increase everyone’s ability to participate in culture and education.
For the first time, the Parliament asks for minimum standards for the rights of the public, which are enshrined in a list of exceptions to copyright that up to now have been completely optional for the Member States to implement. The report stresses that the use of these exceptions may not be hindered by restrictive contracts and that DRM may not restrict your right to make a private copy of legally acquired content.
The introduction of completely new exceptions is also on the table, namely:
to allow libraries and archives to digitise their collections efficiently,
to enable the lending of e-books over the Internet and
to allow the automatical analysis of large bodies of text and data (text & data mining).
There is no Parliamentary majority for the public majority
At the same time, reaching broad agreement on the report came at a cost. It proved impossible to build a Parliamentary majority for several common-sense reform ideas demanded by the vast majority of respondents to the public consultation the EU conducted last year and supported by scientific research and expert assessments.
The report no longer calls for making all exceptions mandatory across the EU, which would have prevented rights of Europeans to interact with copyrighted works from ending at national borders.
There was no majority for a flexible open norm, which would have allowed the legislation to cover future developments unforeseen today.
Instead of meaningfully reducing copyright terms, which would have curbed the „20th century black hole“ effect where a large part of our recent cultural history has become unavailable because it is no longer commercially viable yet still protected, the Parliament could only bring itself to calling for an end of the extensions in copyright terms, and to eliminating national additions to the copyright term, such as the French +30 years that are awarded to the works of war heroes.
Works created by governments will still be subject to copyright, supposedly to protect them from the sovereign who financed their creation, the Commission is only asked to simplify their re-use.
The big political groups not only turned their backs on these ideas that enjoy vast public support according to the consultation – they specifically insisted that the mention of the unprecedented number of responses by end users be deleted from the report.
This was the most successful political participation effort on copyright issues ever – and we must keep reminding politicians of the results. It is unacceptable that so many voices are ignored.
The necessity of compromise also resulted in a significant weakening of the language in the report. Where my draft report made bold demands, the final version now frequently just asks the Commission to assess certain ideas. Unfortunately, this does not set up the Parliament as a strong player in the upcoming debate on the legislative proposal.
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On July 9th, the plenary – all 751 members of the Parliament – will vote on the report.
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