By Heini Järvinen

On 23 July 2014 the European Commission Directorate General Internal Market and Services (DG MARKT) published Summary Report of the Responses to the public consultation on the review of the EU copyright rules. The consultation held between 5 December 2013 and 5 March 2014 was part of the European Commission’s effort to review and modernise copyright rules in the EU and to adapt the current system to the digital age.

The consultation drew over 9 500 responses. In addition, the Commission received over 11 000 messages, including questions and comments, related to the consultation. The report mentions the initiatives launched by stakeholders that nurtured the debate around the public consultation, such as “Fix Copyright!”, “Creators for Europe” and “Copywrongs.eu”, and suggests that these initiatives played a part in generating the exceptionally high number of responses.

The respondents were asked to indicate to which group they belong: end users/consumers (e.g. individual citizens, consumer associations), institutional users (e.g. libraries, museums, universities), author/performer (e.g. writers, actors, musicians), publisher/producer/broadcaster, intermediary/distributor/other service providers (e.g. Internet Service Providers (ISP), internet platforms, film distributors, telecom companies), collective management organisations (CMO), public authority, member state or other. The vast majority of responses, 58,7 %, was submitted by respondents categorising themselves as end users/consumers, and 24.8 % of the responses came from authors/performers. The report analyses the responses to the 80 questions of the consultation bundling them according to the category of the respondents, and explaining the general trends that could be seen in the input from each group.

The vast majority of end user/consumer respondents stated they have faced problems when trying to access online services in another member state. They consider the blocking of content to be mostly arbitrary and unpredictable. The majority of broadcasters saw a need to restrict rights on a territorial basis and to guarantee full exclusivity to distributors who are pre-financing productions to enable them to make return on their investment. Some broadcasters, mainly commercial, did not see any need for legislative change, while others, especially public service broadcasters, considered it would be needed. The vast majority of service providers distributing digital content believed that further measures are needed to increase cross-border availability of content.

The majority of end users/consumers and institutional users considered that hyperlinks to a work or other protected contents should not be subject to authorisation by the rightholder. They emphasised that the ability to freely link from one resource to another is one of the fundamental building blocks of the internet. The majority of authors and performers, as well as publishers/producers/broadcasters stated that the provision of a hyperlink to publicly available content should, at least in some cases, be subject to the authorisation of the right holder. According to them, authorisation should be required especially for embedded or framed links within websites, since directing viewers to another site potentially reduces their advertising revenues. Most of the member states that responded considered that hyperlinking does not amount to an act of communication to the public and therefore rightholders’ authorisation is generally not needed.

All but one of the member states that replied to the consultation were against a further extension of the term of protection. They stressed that copyright terms should encourage creation without being longer than justified. The vast majority of authors/performers and CMOs considered that the term of protection currently set out in EU law is appropriate, while the end users/consumers generally considered that the current terms of copyright protection are inappropriate. They pointed out that protection should be shortened since long terms are counter-productive for creators, and a burden to innovation. Consumers would like to see competition between physical and online formats which they believe could bring down prices.

Many end users wanted to preserve or strengthen existing exceptions and limitations, and to provide room for member states to experiment with new exceptions adjusted to the digital environment. Institutional users generally supported copyright harmonisation which implies making exceptions mandatory and harmonising their scope to a greater extent. Authors/performers, publishers/producers/broadcasters as well as CMOs generally considered that exceptions have a damaging effect on cultural production. Most respondents in these groups were against any further harmonisation, which they considered would risk a weakening of copyright protection at the expense of creators. However, a number of authors and performers stated that the private copying exception should be made mandatory and further harmonised and that fair compensation should be ensured in every member state.

Report on the responses to the Public Consultation on the Review of the EU Copyright Rules (23.07.2014)
http://ec.europa.eu/internal_market/consultations/2013/copyright-rules/docs/contributions/consultation-report_en.pdf

Public Consultation on the review of the EU copyright rules
http://ec.europa.eu/internal_market/consultations/2013/copyright-rules/index_en.htm

BREAKING: Report on responses to Public Consultation on EU copyright now available (23.07.2014)
http://ipkitten.blogspot.be/2014/07/breaking-report-on-responses-to-public.html

EU copyright Public Consultation responses Katseries #2: linking and browsing (24.07.2014)
http://ipkitten.blogspot.be/2014/07/eu-copyright-public-consultation.html

EDRi’s response to the consultation
http://edri.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/EDRi-answer-copyright-consultation-2014_web.pdf

EDRi’s booklet on copyright
http://edri.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/paper07_web_20130202.pdf

 

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