EU parliament backs copyright reform proposals

MEPs have voted in favour of Julia Reda's own-initiative report on harmonising EU copyright rules and protecting freedom of panorama.

By Julie Levy-Abegnoli

13 Jul 2015

Parliament last week adopted a report on recommendations to update the EU's copyright framework, with European digital economy and society commissioner Günther Oettinger expected to bring forth a legislative proposal by the end of the year.

Perhaps the most controversial item in the file was the attempt to limit the freedom of panorama - the right to freely use photos of public buildings and monuments - which MEPs had approved in parliament's legal affairs committee but was not part of rapporteur Julia Reda's original report and which she opposed.

This proposed amendment was voted down in plenary, with the Greens/European Free Alliance vice-chair explaining that, "most countries will allow people to post selfies including images of public buildings online and view photos of famous buildings on Wikipedia unencumbered by copyright."


She pointed out that, "this decision on freedom of panorama embodies a central message of the report: commissioner Oettinger should not just limit his upcoming reform proposals to improving conditions for cross-border trade."

"Priority should also be given to reforming exceptions to copyright protection since exceptions fulfil such an essential, multi-faceted role: they provide creators with the space to create new works, users with legal certainty for everyday activities, and access to culture and knowledge for everyone."

Additionally, "the report marks the first time that parliament has demanded mandatory minimum standards for user rights in copyright, which may not be restricted by technical copy protection measures or contractual terms."

MEPs have also urged the commission to reduce geoblocking measures - when a person is unable to access content online due to their geographical location - "particularly to allow cultural minorities to access content in their language online."

The adopted recommendations also call for "consideration of new exceptions for libraries and scientists when dealing with digital works", as well as, "strengthening of creators' rights in their negotiations with publishers", says Reda.

Parliament's group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D) shadow rapporteur Mary Honeyball complained that, "an unfortunate amendment has sadly overshadowed an otherwise positive report. Clearly the idea that you could find yourself in legal trouble for a sharing a photo of the London Eye or Guggenheim in Bilbao is ludicrous."

"The S&D position on the amendment was very clear, we voted for its deletion and any mention of panorama in the report. Legislation differs greatly between member states on this issue and we did not believe a one-size fits all approach made sense at this time."

She also stressed that, "we should not let this overshadow everything positive about this report. We have sent a strong message to the commission that we need comprehensive copyright reform. This must include fair remuneration for creators and protect consumers' rights."

"The commission must look seriously at the role of intermediaries in the provision of cultural content. It is not right that artists, composers and writers struggle to make a living, while large corporations get rich from their work", the British deputy added.

Jean-Marie Cavada, parliament's Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe group shadow rapporteur, called the outcome of the vote "a victory for artists and the defence of creators' values, which I will continue to support relentlessly."

"The future of copyright, which is crucial for innovation in Europe, was maintained and I am therefore pleased that the competitiveness of a cultural Europe has been recognised."

Kostas Chrysogonos, parliament's Confederal Group of the European United Left/Nordic Green Left shadow rapporteur, underlined that, "the debate on protecting producers' copyright in an information society is one that requires several simultaneous objectives: protecting the producers and their rights, renewing our heritage and, at the same time, creating new access opportunities for artistic creation."

Julia Reda's work is an own-initiative report, meaning it is not legally binding, however, MEPs will resume discussions on copyright reform once the commission has presented its proposals.


Read the most recent articles written by Julie Levy-Abegnoli - MEPs vote against beginning negotiations on updating EU copyright laws