Barnier and Kroes in a copyright reform stand-off

18 July 2014

These were an interesting couple of weeks for the copyright reform enthusiasts. Not only was the White Paper draft leaked based on the Europeana Copyright Consultation of the summer (Paul explained why it was lacking of ambition here), Digital Agenda Commissioner Neelie Kroes also gave an inspiring speech on the cry for copyright reform for a Digital Market during the Information Influx conference organised by the Institute for Information Law (read it here and read our response here). 

Yesterday Commissioner Kroes gave another speech at the opening of the Open Knowledge Festival in Berlin where she touched upon the need for open and copyright reform. Though she was mostly complimenting the open movement for our good work (thanks Ms. Kroes!) and repeating her stance on the need for copyright reform, it was obvious that there was something between the lines. It became explicit right after she left to go back to Brussels when it was made clear in a report by European Voice (registration required) that the final draft of the White Paper on copyright reform will be postponed until September.

Though these two months do not seem to be a big deal on paper, the reason behind it is quite interesting. The opposition that Kroes has been mounting inside the Commission seems to be successful. From the European Voice piece:

“Barnier’s draft of the white paper is being sent back to officials for further inter-departmental consultations, in an attempt to build greater consensus. Adoption of the white paper has therefore been delayed until September. That pushes the publication date even closer to the end of the current Commission, and runs the risk that it may be deemed too controversial to publish.”

Apparently Kroes has found strong support in her critique in the non-ambitious White Paper from Màire Geoghegan-Quinn, the European commissioner for research, innovation and science, who is keen for copyright rules to be less of a burden on researchers and companies, particularly over their use of publicly available data. Other commissioners have also expressed disappointment with the paper’s ambition.

We hope that the commission will take these two months to review part the 11.000 responses again and proposes a roadmap that solves the pressing problems with the current copyright system in making cultural heritage available, create and use open education, make sure that the law allows for flexibility and many other issues. To quote Kroes:

“When uncertainty prevents people remixing or creating their own content, how does that boost creativity? When teachers are afraid to share teaching materials online, how does that help our society? When a European Video-on-Demand provider tries to expand to new markets, but gives up because clearing copyright is so catastrophically cumbersome: how does that benefit our economy?”

We want creativity, we want reuse, we want copyright reform. 

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