nettime's avid reader on Mon, 8 Nov 2010 12:07:41 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> Copyright reform is on the EU commission's agenda

Jim Killock 05 November 2010,

Commissioner Neelie Kroes today announced [1] that the EU Commission wants 
to reform EU copyright.

She -- like David Cameron yesterday [2] -- stated clearly that current 
copyright laws are creating a barrier to creativity and trade:

    "Today our fragmented copyright system is ill-adapted to the real 
essence of art, which has no frontiers. Instead, that system has ended up 
giving a more prominent role to intermediaries than to artists. It 
irritates the public who often cannot access what artists want to offer and 
leaves a vacuum which is served by illegal content, depriving the artists 
of their well deserved remuneration. And copyright enforcement is often 
entangled in sensitive questions about privacy, data protection or even net 

    It may suit some vested interests to avoid a debate, or to frame the 
debate on copyright in moralistic terms that merely demonise millions of 
citizens. But that is not a sustainable approach. We need this debate 
because we need action to promote a legal digital Single Market in Europe."

These are fine words -- and could easily have been said by the Open Rights 
Group at any time during the Digital Economy Act debates.

Kroes is calling for two very important reforms. The first is pan-EU 
copyright  licenses. This would allow simpler trade in legitimate copyright 
works. iTunes, for example, has never provided services to many EU states, 
because getting licenses is too complicated.

The second reform is about allowing the use of the vast swathes of music, 
books, films and photos where the copyright owners have long since 
disappeared, generally because they have died, and it is unclear where 
their relatives might be. These are called 'orphan works'. While the best 
solution would be shorter copyright terms, there are other possible 

Here, Kroes' solution is likely to be more limited and less ambitious. ORG 
participated in the evidence gathering and debates in the EU, following the 
Google Books case in the USA. Orphan works create complicated political 
debates, where particularly photographers have been worried that their 
works may be incorrectly classed as 'orphan'. The Google Books debate also 
showed that there are commercial questions about who might be able to allow 
access to 'orphan' works, and where any money goes.

The result is that an EU orphan works solution may well be designed to deal 
with academic archival uses, rather than commercial uses. That's ok as far 
as it goes, but may mean many old recordings, films and books stay out of 
print even when they have been digitized.

So today is another good today for those of us who want modern, flexible 
copyright: but both Kroes and Cameron will need to hold to their principles 
if we are to get the benefits they are talking about.



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