Julia Reda is a politician for the German Pirate Party and she’s just recently released a draft report of the 2001 EU Copyright directive, with ambitious reforms in mind. As she notes, “The EU copyright directive was written in 2001, in a time before YouTube or Facebook.” And EU Copyright “is blocking the exchange of knowledge and culture across borders today“.
We need a common European copyright that safeguards fundamental rights and makes it easier to offer innovative online services in the entire European Union.
Highly necessary copyright reform
You should first understand that this draft has been a long time coming. This piece of legislation is one of a handful that don’t rely on feel alone or on rightsholders’ data, but draw information from scientific studies and the EU public consultation on copyright from last year. That consultation, the first of its kind in the EU, has brought in 11,000 responses – most of which were from end-users and creators (both categories usually nonexistent in copyright discussions).
This draft review tackles important aspects of copyright, which have always been a subject of strong debate, but safely put on the side. And these aspects directly deal with you – the average person’s activities. These activities were once set outside of copyright, but are now highly important to your “social, cultural and economic lives” and deal directly with modern copyright. If you didn’t know you were on the wrong side of the law, here are some key issues you need to hear about.
If you’re a creator:
- The draft proposes that parody, pastiche and caricature are free to create, regardless of purpose. Right now, there are certain limitations to this, meaning you can be sued for creating a parody, if you can believe that.
- It recommends flexibility: creating works that don’t conflict with the original author’s exploitation should be legal – that means remixes, fan works and other future forms of derivative works should be made legal. Currently, they’re not. The draft also proposes a number of exceptions to copyright, much like the US Fair Use doctrine.
- It proposes that photos/videos of public spaces should be entirely permitted under law. Right now it’s illegal to photograph the Eiffel Tower or the Brussels Auditorium at night, for example. The light arrangements are protected by copyright, even though these public buildings were created with public money. Scratch your head about that for a second.
- The draft recommends making a statement that linking is a not a copyright offense. There are lots of people out there who have tried to make a courtroom case about this, even though the internet = linking.
If you’re an educator/researcher:
- The review calls for exceptions for the purpose of education or research. The current regime labels you a copyright infringer (with an option of the rightsholder to sue you) if you make copies of articles, movies or sounds you want to present in your class. You can be sued for damages, just like any other person can be. That goes for research, too.
- It also calls for an exception for libraries to be able to lend books in digital formats – currently pretty illegal.
If you care about the commons:
- The draft proposes a reduction in the term of protection from 70 to 50 years after the death of the author – which could be awesome! Copyright terms have never EVER been reduced, but have always been extended, due to increasing lobbying pressures. But if this draft goes through, it will finally mean that lawmakers understand what we all stand to lose if we don’t see the far end of this monopoly. Copyright term extensions are known to negatively affect the availability of works and to cause culture to disappear on a massive scale.
- It also recommends safeguarding the Public Domain and making sure works don’t get put back under copyright once they pass their limitations. We all build upon the public domain and should recognize its importance: all access and use should be free.
- At last, the draft proposes excluding the use of technological measures (DRM) when accessing works not subject to copyright: it is legal to make a copy of a public domain movie for example, but it is illegal to circumvent the DRM of your own DVD so that you can use your own public domain movie as you please. It’s just insane.
There are lots of other important points in the draft we really need to keep an eye on. Like harmonizing copyright across the EU – so videos on Youtube can be seen from any country, and not be blocked by GEMA in Germany, for example. There’s also the question of fair remuneration, data mining, compensation and levies, and much more. Copyright is more broken that you’d think and it’s time legislation addressed all these issues.
If you’re curious which lobby group had interest in meeting Reda, she’s openly put that data out for us too. She had meeting requests from Disney, met the guys from Google, Apple and GEMA/SACEM, but also met with Wikimedia, EDRi and the Free Software Foundation. Pretty awesome.
This needs our support
Finally, we should point out that this is just a draft review of the EU’s copyright law. For the time being, it’s just a set of proposals for the improvement of copyright law. That’s how laws work. First there’s analysis, then there’s debate, then some change. The law is always the last to change.
But, fear not. This review goes a long way in improving an otherwise unadapted law, and makes a lot of excellent points that deserve our full attention. The downside is that it may be watered down by amendment proposals from the Legal Affairs Committee (until the 24th of February).
The committees of Industry, Research and Energy; Internal Market and Consumer Protection & Culture and Education will be giving their opinions about this report too, so it’s quite important that this draft receives big public support. Otherwise, we could see a very different report voted in the Legal Affairs Committee and then before the entire Parliament during May.
Julia Reda will be covering all the amendments on her blog and we should all keep our eyes on this.
We strongly suggest that you read and share her report on copyright reform, so more people understand the importance of these issues. Reda has also created a document on Discuto, where everyone is invited to comment on each paragraph of the draft and help create an even better one. You can share and comment with the links below.