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EU MEPs accept lonely Pirate's copyright report – and water it down

Full vote in July, H-dot’s draft law on table by September

By Jennifer Baker, 16 Jun 2015

The European Parliament’s legal committee on Tuesday approved a non-legislative and non-binding report by Pirate Party MEP Julia Reda by a majority of 23-2 - albeit with several substantial amendments.

Reda's report examines the EU’s current copyright law, the so-called Infosec Directive from 2001.

A new draft directive is expected to be proposed by the EU's Digi Commissioner Gunther "H-dot" Oettinger by September.

“We have managed the impossible in getting a clear vote for copyright reform despite extremely controversial discussions," said Reda. "Our report goes beyond what was presented by the Commission in the Digital Single Market Strategy."

"Some of the most ambitious elements have been rejected, and it does not go as far as I would like, but overall I am satisfied,” she said.

MEPs submitted more than 500 amendments to the report, some of which removed the “ambitious elements” Reda mentioned, such as extending the copyright exemption for examples of parody or quotation to all media formats. This rule already exists in some countries but Reda wanted to make it mandatory for all countries. Her idea was rejected by 11 votes to 10.

DigitalEurope, a lobby group which represents the EU tech industry, was less upbeat about the amendments, arguing that “what we see from the vote in parliament is a clear lack of ambition ... Reda’s original proposal was ambitious."

"Unfortunately, many of her colleagues have been swayed by the rights holders community, who don’t want reform. The result is another copyright report destined to gather dust on a shelf,” said group director general John Higgins.

The report is destined for a vote before the EU parliament as a whole on 9 July.

An amendment by French MEP Jean-Marie Cavada, of the ALDE political grouping, which aimed to limit the "freedom of panorama" (a provision that permits taking images of buildings and art permanently located in a public place), was approved. The new text reads: “The commercial use of photographs, video footage or other images of works which are permanently located in physical public places should always be subject to prior authorisation from the authors or any proxy acting for them."

Reda argued that MEPs who voted for this text don’t seem to realise they are “asking for something to be forbidden that is already permitted in half the EU countries.”

However, Maltese MEP Therese Comodini Cachia of the right-leaning European People's Party grouping, who voted for the new text, said “the report reflects the balance that is required for end users to benefit from enhanced access to what is currently available as well as to new creative content.”

“The balance of rights reflected in the compromises will continue to foster investment in the creative industry, safeguard employment and encourage job creation, while at the same time give the industry an opportunity to embrace digital technologies," she added.

Elsewhere, the report calls for new copyright exceptions to include text and data mining for scientists as well as the creation of new fundamental rights of access to culture and education.

Belgium and France do not have a freedom of panorama in their national laws, so taking a photo of the European Parliament in Brussels or Strasbourg for commercial purposes is against the law.

This means that a huge number of images used by MEPs are, in fact, in breach of copyright. ®

The Register - Independent news and views for the tech community. Part of Situation Publishing