30 September, 2016

Change is Scary - The EU Commission Sets Out Proposals for New Copyright Changes

Copyright seems to have been immersed in a perpetual sea of change in the last couple of years, especially here in the UK and the EU as a whole. While this change is hugely important, including for the harmonization of aspects in technological change that have profoundly shaped the sphere in which copyright operates. With the EU's recent dive into a new perspective on the Single Digital Market having been published a little over a years ago (more on which here), future, more concrete changes have yet to be released; however, this changed only a few days ago.

As said, the EU Commission just recently published its propositions to modernize copyright in the wake of the Digital Single Market strategy. While the documents themselves are quite extensive, this writer would aim to discuss the proposed changes more in the broader sense, hopefully to encapsulate the main points of the propositions themselves.

Better choice and access to content online and across borders

As outline in the DSM strategy, access to online content within the EU is paramount to the Commission, with intentions to stop geo-blocking and allow for access to domestic content even abroad (i.e. using the BBC iPlayer when on vacation in the EU). This was expanded on in the proposition as an introduction of "...a legal mechanism for broadcasters to obtain more easily the authorisations they need from right holders to transmit programmes online in other EU Member States". Clearly this seems to envision a cross-EU licencing scheme, or the broadening of existing licences to cover more than their origin country. Initially, as outlined in the proposal, this would be done through a dialogue with the audiovisual industry on licencing issues; however, this writer would not see it as an impossibility that this would be legislated on somehow in the future if progress is not made as desired.

This is expanded on in the Commission's communication, which sets out measures to be taken in relation to access to online content, copyright exceptions and a more efficient enforcement regime.

Improving copyright rules on research, education and inclusion of disable people

Change is scary, so lets manage it!
There are also desires to improve the rules surrounding research, education and inclusion of disable people, particularly broadening access to protected materials for these types of uses. The proposal would include "...a new exception to allow educational establishments to use materials to illustrate teaching through digital tools and in online courses across borders", with additional provisions dealing with cultural heritage institutions (and their preservation of that heritage, as well as access to the content for citizens). While research and access to cultural heritage are very important, the EU sets out the desire to implement the Marrakesh Treaty, which aims to "...facilitate access to published works for persons who are blind, have other visual impairments or are otherwise print disabled", as well as adding measures that will allow for the full participation of disabled individuals in society by providing access to materials (or ways to convert such materials, presumably) that are protected by copyright.

Some of the proposed provisions include an exception for the use of works and other subject-matter in digital and cross-border teaching activities and the copying of cultural heritage materials without infringing copyright. Especially considering the former, the activities must be legitimate, and will undoubtedly be prescribed to certain situations and contexts, much like existing exceptions for research.

A fairer and sustainable marketplace for creators and press

Lastly, the Commission's proposed Directive on Copyright in the Single Market aims to (including the above) "...reinforce the position of right holders to negotiate and be remunerated for the online exploitation of their content on video-sharing platforms such as YouTube". The Directive would impose an obligation on the service providers to have an automatic system that tags and/or removes illegal content, much like YouTube's Content ID system already does (irrespective of its controversial nature). One can imagine this will be a treacherous and unpredictable imposition on service providers, and would remain to be seen how it is genuinely implemented, and whether the providers would face sanctions for lax or non-existent enforcement.

The EU Commission's proposals are quite interesting, and pose, at least in theory, a possible modernization of copyright in the Digital Single Market. As an individual with an international background, I welcome more access to content when abroad, and the expansion of teaching opportunities and the preservation of cultural heritage. What will be interesting are the measures deployed against large service providers, whose users might upload large or small quantities of illegal content on their systems. The provisions, however, in this regard seem to be aimed at cooperation and coexistence, but can pose a problem if presented as one-sided affairs for rights-holders.

Source: IPKat

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