C4C Sends Letter to European Commissioners Ahead of Copyright Discussion

On November 30th, C4C transmitted a letter to the college of European Commissioners ahead of their December 5th orientation debate on copyright, led by the Commissioner for Internal Market and Services, Michel Barnier.

Commissioner Barnier outlined his vision for European copyright reform in a recent speech at the Brussels-based Center for European Policy Studies (CEPS) – seemingly to drive a debate in what many expect is the the run up to a re-opening of the copyright directive.

While a review of the copyright directive would be very welcome, C4C is concerned that the Commissioner appears to have taken a position before the debate has even started when he says, for example, “I will propose to launch a new partnership with industry, “Licensing Europe”: to deliver concrete progress. From mapping the problems to delivering pragmatic solutions.” Licensing has an important role to play, but a fact-based assessment of alternatives to licensing, particularly exceptions and limitations, is also required to establish appropriate balance. Exceptions and limitations serve the public policy purpose of securing access to digital content; an outcome that should not be left entirely to the market.Reasons for a more flexible copyright regime include:

Access to information in the digital age – While in the physical world, the principle of exhaustion permits libraries to buy and lend printed works, there are no safeguards to protect equivalent activities in the digital environment. As a result, a number of the biggest trade publishers are refusing to sell e-books to public libraries in European and other countries. To address this problem, libraries require an exception to the right of communication to the public to permit e-lending, and protection from licence terms that undermine statutory exceptions.

Consumers in the Single Market – Consumption of digital media may occur under an exception in one member state of the EU that does not exist in another. This presents problems for consumers exercising their freedom of movement.

Media pluralism – an extension of copyright to ‘snippets’ as is currently proposed by the Leistungsschutzrecht being debated in Germany could result in thousands of smaller publications being removed from search engine and aggregation indexes thus damaging media pluralism.

Growth and jobs – The Internet and the ICT industries play a key role in job creation and growth. A flexible regime that applies consistently across the European Union is indispensable to the completion of the Digital Single Market.

Visually impaired – Even in the most developed markets, only about 5% of published books are available to persons who are print disabled. The resulting “book famine” is aggravated by a lack of harmonisation of copyright exceptions for print disabled people across Europe.

Research – Text and data mining and data-driven innovation are drivers of growth and scientific advance. Such activities do not conflict with the way works are sold, rented or otherwise normally exploited by right holders and should not be subject to copyright licenses.

Cultural Heritage – Archives are especially dependent upon exceptions and limitations because for most material in their collections, such as unpublished letters or family films, there are no representative bodies to provide licensing and there is little prospect of new licensing models. A ‘Licensing Europe’, could therefore develop into a serious drawback for free information exchange.The letter was sent to Commissioners Barroso, Barnier, Ashton, Almunia, Kroes, Vassiliou, Tajani, Geoghegan-Quinn, Rehn, Reding and De Gucht on November 30th.