C4C reaches out to European policy makers in Brussels

C4C held a successful dinner event at the European Parliament in Brussels on June 14th. A total of 37 guests followed our invitation to discuss the needs of creators, archivists, and educators in transforming creative works and how the European copyright framework could be improved to meet their challenges. Participants included members of the European Parliament, the European Commission as well as representatives from libraries, right-holders, business and the academic community. C4C coordinator Nick Ashton-Hart, who moderated the event, opened the evening by thanking MEP Eva Lichtenberger for hosting the event, and MEPs Helga Truepel and Mariejete Schaake for co-hosting. He further announced that he will hand over the coordinator role to his colleague Matthias Langenegger to focus more on other areas of his work. Konrad Boehmer, composer and ex-president of the Dutch author’s society BUMA/Stemra, presented the composers’ perspective on copyright. He noted that there is widespread confusion between “copyright” and “author’s right”, even in official EU-documents, which has to be addressed. He further pointed out that creativity is a continuum, whereby elements of existing works are being re-used to create new ones. This is as true now as it was in the 18th century, where it was common to “sample”, “remix” and “cover” each other’s works. In Konrad’s words “every artist is a thief”, as he draws on the works of others to find inspiration. However, the current copyright regime slows down this innovation process as any use of a prior work requires a license to be concluded manually with rightsholders that are hard or impossible to find. To get the balance right again and to ensure that the legal regime is capable of dealing with the current challenges, Konrad called for the introduction of international, non-transferable authors’ rights limited to the author’s lifetime. MEP Eva Lichtenberger noted that one of the problems is the lack of impartial studies. Policy makers are often confronted with biased studies which make it difficult for them to get a good understanding and offer sensible solutions to the problem. She further pointed out that during its last plenary session, the EP adopted a resolution on European Contract Law to improve the harmonization of national contract laws. With this resolution, the EP is asking for further research on cross-border contracts for artists which would be a step towards a truly common market for creative goods. Martyn Ware, an internationally successful British musician and producer, followed up on Konrad’s presentation with a pragmatic analysis of the current state of copyright. He reinforced Konrad’s point about the innovation process and noted that copyright has not been able to keep up with the technology which has made digital sampling and remixing an essential part of the creative process. Martyn reminded the participants that the fundamental purpose of copyright was to enable creativity. However, he noted, we have gotten ourselves into a situation whereby copyright is perceived by many as a barrier to creation. According to Martyn, what we need is a global clearing house and rights management database, in addition to international copyright reform and harmonization. Martyn reinforced the importance of access to music for educational institutions on preferential terms – ideally, that accredited institutions should not have to pay for non-commercial uses of works as part of the education process. In a follow-up on Martyn’s point about online file sharing, one of the participants noted that in the Netherlands, artists recently formed a coalition with consumers to speak out against the criminalization of their audience. Wilma Mossink, an expert on copyright management for educational institutions highlighted the difficulties faced by universities and research institutions trying to use audiovisual content in e-learning material, especially in cases where only a part of a work is needed as this often requires special approval. The lack of exceptions for educational purposes prevents the use of different kind of multimedia materials in a innovative way and hampers the availability of other material than texts to students. This problem is even more important in the case of cross-border education because different rules apply in different countries. Last but not least, Ben White from the British Library explained the problems faced by libraries and archives in their digital preservation efforts. Because the current copyright regime only includes exceptions and limitations as a non-mandatory option, a lot of EU Member States allow only one or two digital copies, which is problematic since digital preservation requires archivists to make several copies on different servers and in different formats as formats change in relatively short periods of time. In some member countries digital preservation is illegal, which creates a risk that works from those countries will not be available in digital format for future generations. While most of the attendees seemed to agree that there is a need for international harmonization and copyright exemptions for archiving and learning material, some held that current copyright was sufficient to enable innovative online services and to meet the needs of libraries and learning institutions. One of the participants further noted that the real problem was plagiarism and stressed the importance for every work to be remunerated to enable further creation. The friendly, informal setting of the event encouraged the participants to make comments and ask questions. We have been told by many, including some of the attending policy makers, that they enjoyed the evening and appreciated the thought-provoking discussions. It was also mentioned that one of the problems European policy makers face in this area is that there is no venue for direct contact with artists, an opportunity which this event was able to provide. Similar events are scheduled to take place later this year and early 2012 in Ireland, Spain, Germany and France.

Speakers’ Bios

Martyn Ware Martyn Ware was a founding member of the internationally successful pop bands the Human League and Heaven 17 and a producer of multi-million-selling worldwide hit recordings for Tina Turner, Terence Trent D’Arby, Chaka Khan, Erasure, Marc Almond and Mavis Staples amongst many others. He also lectures extensively on music production, technology and creativity and creates cutting edge three-dimensional sound and light-based multimedia installations in collaboration with other creators. He brings an understanding of how performers, composers, and digital artists collaborate in digital media and the inherent needs they have to reuse and transform creative works of other as a part of that process. Konrad Boehmer Konrad is a noted composer of orchestral, dramatic, chamber and electronic music and for 35-years a professor of composition and music history at the Royal Conservatory, The Hague. He has been active in the authors’ rights movement as a member of CIAM, the international body representing composer-members of authors societies worldwide for 40 years as well many years spent as the immediate past President of BUMA/Stemra, the authors’ society of the Netherlands. He brings an understanding of the changing creative process for composers over recent decades of dramatic technological development and an insiders view of how the digital age has affected the management of rights and what can be done to improve access to works for all whilst ensuring creators’ rights are respected. Ben White Wilma Mossink