Reda’s draft report is a good first step towards putting the debate around copyright reform on the right track. The report identifies some major shortcomings of Europe’s current copyright framework and implicitly recognizes that Europe’s rules will increasingly stand in international competition with the legal regimes of other countries and regions. That is important to understand: just like the competition for talent is global, so is the competition for capital. Modern and future-proof copyright rules will be one of the factors that will either encourage or discourage investing into European businesses. It will also matter to European innovators building their companies in Europe.
In that context, copyright rules have a role to play to encourage innovation and technological progress. MEP Reda rightly points to the need for an ‘open norm’ which would allow to embrace technological change more easily. In a fast changing environment, flexibility is key. A second, important issue addressed by the report is the current imbalance between exclusive rights and exceptions and limitations to copyright. A more harmonized approach to exceptions and limitations has to be encouraged which would lead to greater legal certainty and pan-European market scale.
The report also stresses that basic online activities like hyperlinking to publicly accessible content need to be preserved. What sounds like a basic activity performed by millions of Internet users per day was actually challenged in a court case and was largely resolved in last year’s Svensson judgment. However, pointing people to freely accessible, legal content online is more broadly being challenged by laws that try to extend copyright protection to subject matter that has never been intended to be covered by copyright. Germany’s and Spain’s ancillary copyright legislations which target online aggregation services as well as snippets generated by search engines are a good example of how copyright is being abused for industrial policy purposes — i.e. aiming to subsidize the publishing industry at the expense of online players. (For more background information on ancillary rights, please see this CCIA background paper).
MEP’s Reda’s report clearly resists this vision of copyright law. On the contrary, it is a useful contribution towards a more forward-looking and innovation-friendly copyright policy.