MEPs vote to protect geo-blocking from copyright reform

Julia Reda is the rapporteur on copyright reform. [Julia Reda/Flickr]

MEPs have watered down the report by Pirate Party member Julia Reda on copyright reform, refusing to accept the harmonisation of exceptions and asking the Commission to rethink the question of geo-blocking. EURACTIV France reports

The harmonisation of copyright in Europe, which had caused ferment among rights holders, has failed to gain the unconditional support of European lawmakers.

The European Parliament’s Legal Affairs (JURI) committee adopted a significantly more conservative position on the future reform than the one proposed by Julia Reda, the Pirate Party’s only representative in Brussels. The vote passed on 16 June, with 23 votes for to two against.

“After decades in which the focus was on introducing new restrictions to protect the material interests of rights holders, 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,” Julia Reda said.

>> Read: MEP Reda: Commission is too cautious on geo-blocking and copyright law

Several proposals from the MEP’s draft report were toned down in the final version, following pressure from rights holders in certain countries, such as France, which have very strong copyright protection laws.

>> Read: ‘This copyright reform will impoverish culture’

Among the proposals rejected by MEPs were the complete harmonisation of exceptions and limits to copyright across the EU 28. Member states will thus preserve the right to legislate to protect their own cultural and economic interests.

Limited harmonisation

The committee also threw out Julia Reda’s proposal to cut the duration of copyright protection from the current 70 years after the author’s death down to 50. Under the Berne Convention, copyright must be protected for a minimum of 50 years after the author’s death.

The organisation European Digital Rights (EDRI) criticised the outcome for “failing to reform the central problems of copyright,” such as the harmonisation of exceptions and limits.

>> Read: Parliament votes for easier copyright rules for online music providers

French Socialist MEP Virginie Rozière, said, “These proposals, which were a danger to the continuation and vitality of creation in Europe, have thankfully been defeated”.

Caution on geo-blocking

Many had feared that an overhaul of geo-blocking rules would undermine the territoriality of copyright within the European Union. But this thorny issue was also softened in the final text. MEPs chose to maintain the territoriality principle, “which allows each member state to guarantee fair remuneration” for rights holders.

But they did ask the European Commission to propose a system to allow better cross-border access to copyrighted information, when it presents the copyright reform bill later in 2015.

>> Read: Günther Oettinger promises copyright reform within two years (in French)

Freedom of panorama

To the rapporteur’s regret, the JURI committee chose to remove the “freedom of panorama” proposal in the draft report. This means that amateur photographers will still need permission from the rights holders of certain buildings, usually the architect, in order to share their photographs on social networks.

>> Read: Commission dilutes copyright reform in digital strategy

The European Parliament will vote on the Reda report in the July plenary session, before the European Commission unveils its final proposal for the modernisation of copyright law, by the end of this year.

Jean-Marie Cavada, a French MEP in the ALDE group, said, "Subjects as important as access to European culture and the preservation of diversity deserve a considered and nuanced cross-party agreement: it’s this agreement that has allowed us to come up with balanced solutions to strengthen copyright for the digital era and offer the best protection to artists".

The modernisation of copyright law is one of the priorities of Jean-Claude Juncker's presidency of the European Commission.

"All sectors of the economy and society are becoming digital. Europe should be on the front line of this digital revolution for its citizens and businesses. Obstacles to digitalisation are obstacles to employment, prosperity and progress," he said during his announcement of the European executive's work programme.

President Juncker's strategy for a single European market is as follows: to build confidence between stakeholders, to bulldoze obstacles, to guarantee connectivity and access to digital technology across the EU, to build a digital economy, to promote e-society and invest in research in technology and information. Andrus Ansip, the Vice-President of the Digital Single Market, is leading this initiative.

  • 9 July 2015: vote in plenary sessionon parliamentary report on copyright reform
  • Autumn 2015: Commissioner Günther Oettinger to start work on copyright reform proposal
  • Late 2015: planned publication of Commission’s reform proposal

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