A press release from the EU Commission fires the starting gun for a new round of copyright legislation and lobbying. Buried in the press release is a major political move in terms of the balance of power in the copyright debate. It is quite short and worth quoting in full with commentary...
Commission agrees way forward for modernising copyright in the digital economy
At the initiative of President Barroso, the European Commission has today held an orientation [is that anything to do with orienteering? Did they have a map?] debate on content in the digital economy.
The digital economy has been a major driver of growth in the past two decades, and is expected to grow seven times faster than overall EU GDP in coming years [although given how little GDP growth there is in the EU, that is not much of a claim]. Online, there are new ways of providing, creating and distributing content, and new ways to generate value. This represents a challenge and an opportunity for all the creative industries, authors and artists and other actors [are actors not artists? at least they didn't say "enterprises"] in the digital economy.
The Commission's objective is to ensure that copyright stays fit for purpose in this new digital context. Good progress has been made in implementing the May 2011 Intellectual Property Rights Strategy, but there remain [sic - a pedant would say "remains"] a series of issues which need[needs?] to be addressed to ensure an effective single market in this area.
The Commission will therefore work for a modern copyright framework that guarantees effective recognition and remuneration of rights holders in order to provide sustainable incentives for creativity, cultural diversity and innovation; opens up greater access and a wider choice of legal offers to end users [how can a copyright framework guarantee more legal services without some element of compulsory licensing?]; allows new business models to emerge; and contributes to combating illegal offers and piracy [contributes to piracy? - no, contributes to combating piracy... we hope].
Today the Commission has agreed on two parallel tracks of action:
1) Immediate issues for action: launch of stakeholder dialogue
A structured stakeholder dialogue [translation anyone?] will be launched at the start of 2013 to work to address six issues where rapid progress is needed: cross-border portability of content [I can take my iPad and my CDs across borders; surely the issue, or non-issue depending on one's perspective, is cross-border availability of services?], user-generated content, data- and text-mining [is this a copyright issue?], private copy levies, access to audiovisual works and cultural heritage. The discussions will explore the potential and limits of innovative licensing and technological solutions in making EU copyright law and practice fit for the digital age.
This process will be jointly led by Michel Barnier, Neelie Kroes and Androulla Vassiliou [THIS IS THE BIG NEWS - COPYRIGHT IS NO LONGER SOLELY CONTROLLED BY DG SINGLE MARKET BUT IS ALSO UNDER THE CO-CONTROL OF THE DIGITAL AGENDA TEAM, which is perceived to be more sympathetic to the agenda of Google and the other tech giants than to that of content and rights-holders, as well as the culture Directorate]. By December 2013 the College will take stock of the outcome of this dialogue which is intended to deliver effective market-led solutions to the issues identified, but does not prejudge the possible need for public policy action, including legislative reform. [so nothing is going to happen in any great hurry - after a year, the Commission will "take stock"]
2) Medium term issues for decision-making in 2014
This track will include the completion of the relevant market studies, impact assessment and legal drafting work with a view to a decision in 2014 whether to table legislative reform proposals[clearly they have not pre-judged anything, but why do they need to do legal drafting if there is no reform to be proposed...]. The following four issues will be addressed together: mitigating the effects of territoriality in the Internal Market; agreeing appropriate levels of harmonisation, limitations and exceptions to copyright in the digital age; how best to reduce the fragmentation of the EU copyright market [is this any different from "mitigating the effects of territoriality - anyone?] ; and how to improve the legitimacy of enforcement in the context of wider copyright reform. Based on the outcomes of this process the Commission will decide on the next steps necessary to complete its review of the EU copyright framework.