Wednesday

14th Nov 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.

... or 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Current copyright legal framework in the EU is woefully outdated.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.

Macron's 'European army': why is everyone talking about it?

Few people commented on one key point in Macron's statement: he did not justify the idea of a European army by the need to intervene in Africa, which would have been France's traditional approach. Instead, he invoked the Russian threat,

EU 'Magnitsky Act' must bear its proper name

Sergei Magnitsky gave his life to fighting corruption. The least we can do is to honour his sacrifice in the name of the legislation that his heroism inspired.

News in Brief

  1. EU Commission to give verdict on Italy budget next week
  2. EU's Tusk is Poland's most trusted politician
  3. Finland prepares to step in for Romania on EU presidency
  4. Trump threatens tariffs on EU wine
  5. US defence chief backs Nato amid 'EU army' calls
  6. Italy defies EU deadline on changing budget
  7. Report: FBI looking into Brexiteers Farage and Banks
  8. Italian journalist unions protest 5MS 'whores' jibe

Why 'Spitzenkandidat' is probably here to stay

The power of the parliament to 'appoint' the president of the EU Commission is new, highly-contested - and not universally understood. In fact, even some of the lead candidates to replace Jean-Claude Juncker are against it.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  4. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  5. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  6. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  7. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  8. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs.
  9. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  10. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  12. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs

Latest News

  1. How the 'EU's Bank' fails to raise the bar on accountability
  2. Knives out on all sides for draft Brexit deal
  3. Romania data chief defends forcing press to reveal sources
  4. EU to review animal welfare strategy
  5. Macron's 'European army': why is everyone talking about it?
  6. Merkel calls for 'real, true' EU army
  7. Italy defiant on budget on eve of EU deadline
  8. EU action on Hungary and Poland drowns in procedure

Stakeholders' Highlights

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

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us