Authors must be central to copyright reform

Rapporteur Julia Reda's proposals on copyright reform are missing the point, argues Virginie Rozière.

By Virginie Rozière

16 Mar 2015

Julia Reda - a member of the European pirate party - is in charge of the report on the implementation of the 2001 directive on copyright and related rights ('infosoc directive'). This initiative report is supposed to adapt copyright rules to the digital era, and should have made an assessment of the current directive, offering recommendations for the future.

The project that has been tabled unfortunately fails to display real evaluation of the current situation, and instead consists of a series of legislative proposals. Due to a lack of proper analysis and thorough assessment, it has resulted in an ideological document. 

This is especially regrettable as this work is based on a shared diagnosis - developments in digital usage have deeply affected the way in which we access cultural content.

Reda indeed asserts, as do I, that she is willing to reinforce authors' position in the cultural landscape. But our commonalities end here. Authors are only mentioned once, in article three. 

"Fighting against the illegal use of authors' work must be a priority, especially as this results in colossal profits that the artists do not benefit from"

The overall philosophy of the report focuses on a touching romantic vision of the 'user', who nurses an inextinguishable and selfless thirst for cultural content.

But the economic value chains around the cultural industry on digital media have deeply changed. It has been said that we have moved from a three-party relationship - between the artist, the producer and the consumer - to a bilateral relationship, between the artist and the consumer. 

We have actually moved to a four-party relationship between the artist, the producer, the intermediary and the consumer. In this context, intermediaries, and especially internet giants, capture most of the generated value. I must insist this point should be pivotal to our work that is yet to come.

I want to point out two other issues we must take into account. Currently, authors are not protected against the illegal use of their work, especially online. Some countries have adopted a repressive approach, but this is neither suitable nor efficient.

Yet fighting against the illegal use of authors' work must be a priority, especially as this results in colossal profits that the artists do not benefit from. There is also the issue of territoriality, which should not be confused with portability.

It is perfectly legitimate for someone who has paid for content such as films and music to be able to access it wherever they are located.

But assuming that we need total European harmonisation in the matter when it is already quite significant in terms of exclusive rights seems unfair. 

Reasons for limiting territorial access often have nothing to do with copyright: business models, stakeholders' economic capacity, cultural diversity preservation, diverse populations. Multiterritorial licenses are already available, and stakeholders are welcome to make use of these if they wish to do so.

Let's not fool ourselves - the whole point of copyright rules is not to generate any kind of hindrance protectionism. It is simply a way to ensure authors can make a living from their creations. And this principle alone should motivate our work.


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