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.
— Julia Reda (@Senficon) June 16, 2015
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.