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EU copyright law: Is the Pirate Party's MEP in FAVOUR of it?

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By Jennifer Baker, 19 Jan 2015

The Pirate Party's sole MEP, Julia Reda, unsurprisingly says that copyright law in the European Union is not fit for purpose.

Reda presented her report on the EU’s current copyright law (the InfoSoc Directive) on Monday. As might be expected from a Pirate Party politician, Reda was critical of the Directive’s failure to grant more freedoms to users of copyrighted material.

“The law sets in place mandatory rights for rights-holders, but has fallen short of harmonising rights for users," she said. "That means that users, individuals, companies and public bodies - including EU institutions - are violating the rules on a pretty regular basis because they are so opaque."

Reda’s report, which will be examined in committee on Tuesday (and probably put to a vote of the whole Parliament by May) makes a series of specific recommendations for the revision of the EU’s copyright laws - something Europe’s digi chief Gunther H-dot Oettinger has promised by autumn.

The report recommends that any exceptions or limitations on copyright available in the offline world be extended to online activity, in particular that the "fair use" right existing in some countries to quote from copyrighted material should expressly include audio-visual snippets.

Reda also said that automated data mining should be allowed on any legally acquired content. “If I ... have the right to read it, I should also be able to read it with the aid of a machine,” she said.

A Dutch court recently appeared to disagree with Ms Reda, saying that it's not OK to to scrape and collate data from websites merely because it's free and publicly available. In some cases one must have the owner's permission.

Reda's report also takes issue with so-called counter-piracy measures, aka DRM:

“Legal protection against the circumvention of any effective technological measures [should be] conditional upon the publication of the source code or the interface specification; in particular, when the circumvention of technological measures is allowed, technological means to achieve such authorised circumvention must be available.”

In other words, if a user wants to move his eBook from Kindle to another device, he should be able to. According to Reda, anti-copying technology is in fact creating a market for pirated material which is more easily transferable.

A public consultation on copyright has already been carried out, garnering nearly 10,000 comments and suggestions, of which 58.7 per cent were from end users. However, Reda said she had been primarily lobbied by business interests, including big names who would generally be in favour of weakening or loosening authors' rights such as Google, Apple, Intel and Samsung, and others who would prefer strong copyrights, like Vivendi.

“It was most difficult to get direct feedback from the authors themselves without going through these intermediaries who have their own interests,” Reda said.

Cécile Despringre, executive director of the Society for Audiovisual Authors (representing the interests of the collective management societies and their audiovisual authors’ members at the European level) was unimpressed with the report.

“It represents the Pirate Party programme, not an assessment of the implementation of the directive. There are attempts to please authors by calling for improvements of their contractual position," she said.

"However, there is no concrete proposal and an underlying lack of understanding of how authors’ rights work for audiovisual authors and how territoriality finances works in the audiovisual sector," she added.

Oettinger is expected to put forward a new copyright law before September and hasn’t so far ruled out the possibility of a single European copyright Regulation (directly applied across the whole EU, unlike the current Copyright Directive which varies from country to country) and something Reda said she would prefer to see. ®

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