Saturday

21st Jul 2018

Opinion

Let's fix EU copyright law

  • Europe's copyright legal framework is "a relic" (Photo: Ken Hawkins)

The web today is far more than a network or platform - it’s also our collective canvas.

A global public canvas is an exceptional thing. It spurs innovation and creativity. It unlocks opportunity, empowers educators and fuels economies. In the 21st century, we should have laws that enshrine the power of the web.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... our join as a group

But in the EU, some laws haven't yet caught up with the web.

Current copyright legal framework in the EU is woefully outdated. A messy patchwork of laws in various countries is stifling innovation and freedom of expression online. This is a framework that was created when the postcard, not the iPhone, was the primary way of saying hi from a distance; when cameras didn’t fit in our pockets; and when “gif” hadn’t yet entered the dictionary.

As a result, technologists and content creators are afraid to innovate. And researchers are hesitant to mine data that could unlock scientific progress.

Europe's copyright legal framework is a relic. It doesn’t account for the way we access, share and create content and culture today. Consequently, the way many Europeans live their lives online is technically illegal.

That’s not hyperbole.

An app developer who is re-purposing existing content in new, innovative ways may be violating copyright law. Why? The existing copyright legal framework often doesn't allow technologists to iterate and build on existing material.

A teacher who uses news articles and papers in the classroom may be violating copyright law. Why? There are scarce copyright provisions or exceptions for education.

A DJ performing a mash-up of popular songs may be violating copyright law. Why? Again, the existing copyright legal framework doesn't allow reproductions or derivative works without the express permission of the copyright owner.

A traveller who posts a selfie with the Eiffel Tower at night is violating EU copyright law. Why? The Eiffel Tower’s night-time light array is copyrighted and tourists don’t have the artists’ express permission.

It’s time to fix copyright law. It’s time to harness technology - not repress it, or twist it to suit business models of decades past.

We're not asking to legalise plagiarism or piracy. It's important that creators are treated fairly, including proper remuneration, for their creations and works. As a former journalist and someone who has worked in media for a long time, I deeply care about treating creators properly. But wrong-headed copyright law dissuades internet users from working freely.

The good news: We have an opportunity to make a difference.

This autumn, the European Commission plans to reform the EU copyright framework. We need to call for copyright reform that fosters creativity, free expression and innovation online. People in the EU and around the world need copyright law that complements and enhances the internet’s potential, not undermines it.

We must build in openness and flexibility to foster innovation. Technology advances swiftly, and laws often can’t keep pace. That’s why our laws must be future-proof, designed so they remain relevant in five, 10 or even 15 years. We need to allow new uses of copyrighted works in order to expand growth and innovation. And we need to build into the law flexibility - through a User Generated Content (UGC) exception and a fair dealing clause - to empower everyday people to shape and improve the internet.

We need a new copyright framework that fits squarely in the 21st century. Let’s correct copyright law and keep the web our collective canvas.

Katharina Borchert is chief innovation officer at Mozilla and former CEO at Spiegel Online.

Focus

EU copyright reforms kicked into 2016

The European Commission appears to be postponing key reforms of the EU's fragmented copyright system, according to a leaked paper.

Focus

EU targets Google in copyright reform

Publishers welcomed EU proposals for a new right that could see them take a bite out of Google's income, but some say the law could end up hurting Google's smaller rivals.

EU must create safe, legal pathways to Europe

As the rapporteur for the European Parliament on an EU regulation on resettlement, my colleagues and I have outlined an effective plan based on solidarity and humanitarian principles.

How the World Cup exposed Russian chauvinism

The suggestion that Russians themselves play a role in the condition of their state today is often dismissed as "xenophobic" or "Russophobic". But if not addressed, the evils of nationalism, chauvinism, and imperialism will continue even after Putin is gone.

How the World Cup exposed Russian chauvinism

The suggestion that Russians themselves play a role in the condition of their state today is often dismissed as "xenophobic" or "Russophobic". But if not addressed, the evils of nationalism, chauvinism, and imperialism will continue even after Putin is gone.

News in Brief

  1. Libyan PM rejects EU migrant camps idea
  2. Italy's Salvini to sue critical anti-mafia writer
  3. EU countries send aircraft to Sweden to help with wildfires
  4. British ex-commissioner's jobs called into question
  5. May to tell EU to drop Irish border 'backstop' idea
  6. Trump threatens EU over Google fine
  7. Spain withdraws arrest warrant for Catalan separatists
  8. EU readies counter-measures on possible US car tariffs

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. IPHRCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  2. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow
  4. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  6. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  8. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma
  9. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network
  11. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future
  12. ACCAEmpowering Businesses to Engage with Sustainable Finance and the SDGs

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersCooperation in Nordic Electricity Market Considered World Class Model
  2. FIFAGreen Stadiums at the 2018 Fifa World Cup
  3. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Work Together to Promote Sustainable Development
  4. Counter BalanceEuropean Ombudsman Requests More Lending Transparency from European Investment Bank
  5. FIFARecycling at the FIFA World Cup in Russia
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersOECD Report: Gender Equality Boosts GDP Growth in Nordic Region
  7. Centre Maurits Coppieters“Peace and Reconciliation Is a Process That Takes Decades” Dr. Anthony Soares on #Brexit and Northern Ireland
  8. Mission of China to the EUMEPs Positive on China’s New Measures of Opening Up
  9. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOld White Men are Destroying Macedonia by Romanticizing Greece
  10. Counter BalanceControversial EIB-Backed Project Under Fire at European Parliament
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersIncome Inequality Increasing in Nordic Countries
  12. European Jewish CongressEU Leaders to Cease Contact with Mahmoud Abbas Until He Apologizes for Antisemitic Comments

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us