14 June 2015

Help Reform EU Copyright: Please Write to your MEPs Now

Although it's rather dropped off the radar, an extremely important revision of the EU Copyright Directive has been underway for years. The biggest development recently has been the excellent work by the German Pirate Party MEP Julia Reda, who put together a draft report on the existing Copyright Directive and some bold but sensible proposals for what the next iteration should contain. Naturally, that report has come under fierce attack from the copyright maximalists, who believe that copyright should only ever get stronger and longer for their benefit, and that it should never be changed for the benefit of the public, who are regarded simply as consumers that must pay for every use of everything.

Reda's report has received over 500 amendments, many of which not only weaken it, but completely reverse its intent. Next Tuesday, the main European Parliament committee responsible for this dossier, JURI, votes on which amendments to incorporate into the report. It is therefore important for people to contact their MEPs, asking them to pass on messages about which amendments must be rejected. Communia has put together a good guide to both good and bad amendments, which you might want to draw upon.

I have included below what I am sending to my MEPs; please feel free to draw on it, but do not copy it verbatim, since that lessens the impact of sending a personal message. To find out who you MEP is, you can use WriteToThem.

I am writing to you in connection with the JURI vote on Julia Reda's draft report on revising the Copyright Directive. As you know, this is an extemely important opportunity to make copyright fit for the digital age. If it is not taken, it is likely to impact adversely the EU's competitiveness and also lead to an increasing disregard for copyright law, especially among young people. I would therefore like to urge you to pass on to your JURI colleagues the following comments about some of the key proposed amendments, and why they should be rejected.

Reject amendments 252 to 257

These all attack the public domain. Copyright is an exceptional monopoly granted for a limited time; after that time expires, works enter the public domain, which therefore forms the foundation of all copyright laws. The public domain represents the great store of knowledge that all can draw upon to create anew. It must be defended.

Reject amendment 409

This is an extraordinary attack on the hyperlink, which lies at the heart of the Web. It would impose an impossible responsibility on everyone creating Web pages: to know the exact legal status of the Web page to which they link. That is a job for judges, not people sitting at home sharing interesting links with their friends and family.

Reject amendment 279

Copyright has been getting stronger, longer and wider for the last 300 years. It is now so unbalanced that the vast majority of Europeans ignore it every day as they use the Internet. In order to salvage at least some respect for the law, copyright needs to be rowed back, not pushed forward even more.

Reject amendment 421

It is absurd that people cannot take pictures of public scenes without worrying about copyright issues. What is public must remain public, for anyone to use, otherwise we are effectively destroying the public sphere.

Reject amendments 236 to 244

The public pays for public sector information, and has a right to use it. But there is another powerful reason for placing public sector information in the public domain: it allows the creation of huge new markets. Perhaps the best example is the information from the Human Genome Project, which was placed in the public domain, and has added $1 trillion to the US economy as a result (http://www.nature.com/news/economic-return-from-human-genome-project-grows-1.13187).

Reject amendment 446

Text and data mining are hugely important new tools that could lead to major scientific discoveries. Attempts to require researchers to pay for the legal right to carry out these techniques on material they have already paid to access is double-dipping, and completely unreasonable.  It is likely to put European researchers at a serious disadvantage compared with their peers elsewhere.

Reject amendment 531

DRM overrides basic rights; it is another example of where copyright is completely unbalanced. It has the ironic effect of making unauthorised copies of works without DRM more attractive than legal ones hobbled by it, and giving power to US companies like Apple and Amazon that control the DRM used for European works.

It is vitally important to get copyright law right, since it is now completely out of step with how people use the Internet, and how they create and share works. If the copyright directive is not updated appropriately now, there may not be another opportunity because copyright will have become completely irrelevant in the digital world.  Thank you for your help.

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