As I wrote last week, the European Commission’s consultation on copyright closes soon (5
February March to be precise – it’s just been extended.) As I also promised, I’m including here some of my own replies to this important opportunity to help shape EU copyright.
Things are made easier by the fact that you can download the consultation document (in ODF format if you wish, others also available from consultation home page) and fill it in directly before submitting it via email to [email protected]
In what follows I have pulled out a few questions that seem particularly important to me; you may well have different views. But in any case, I do urge you to make some kind of submission over the next few days: this really is a great opportunity, and we should seize it.
Question 11 is as follows:
Should the provision of a hyperlink leading to a work or other subject matter protected under copyright, either in general or under specific circumstances, be subject to the authorisation of the rightholder?
To which I replied:
Hyperlinks must never be subject to copyright: doing so would jeopardise the entire Web, which is built on links. Placing restrictions on linking is not compatible with the way the Web works.
Should the viewing of a web-page where this implies the temporary reproduction of a work or other subject matter protected under copyright on the screen and in the cache memory of the user’s computer, either in general or under specific circumstances, be subject to the authorisation of the rightholder?
Again, making temporary copies subject to authorisation will break the entire Internet, which is based on multiple copies at every stage. It would be unworkable.
Are the current terms of copyright protection still appropriate in the digital environment?
To which I replied:
Not in the slightest. They are far too long: in the digital world, people should be able to re-use materials much more easily and quickly. They should be far shorter – perhaps the original 14 years.
One important area concerns limitations and exceptions to copyright. Question 21:
Are there problems arising from the fact that most limitations and exceptions provided in the EU copyright directives are optional for the Member States?
As Professors Hugenholtz and Senftleben explain in their paper “Fair Use in Europe. In Search of Flexibilities,” available at http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1959554, there is huge untapped potential in using limitations and exceptions in Europe. They should be exploited to the full.
Question 23 offered the possibility of suggesting new exceptions to copyright:
Should any new limitations and exceptions be added to or removed from the existing catalogue? Please explain by referring to specific cases.
Here’s one that would solve a huge range of problems in the online world, one that recognises the reality of how people use the Internet:
Yes: non-commercial sharing of copyright material should be permitted under a new exception.
Question 54 asked about an extremely important area, that of text and data mining:
If there are problems, how would they best be solved?
My suggestion was to create a new exception to copyright that allowed text and data mining as a right:
Text and data mining should not involve copyright: it is about extracting information and creating new knowledge; any copies made are temporary and then destroyed, so copyright is simply not relevant.
There are several other major areas that I’ve not mentioned, that may well be of interest to you, so please download the document and take a look – but do respond.