California über alles? Is MEP Reda flushing Euro copyright tradition down the pan?

Barriers, rights and a bit of a squint


Change for the better?

“I don’t want to see the internet fundamentally change, or copyright fundamentally change, and society should give individuals strong rights. Both will probably change a little. People who’ve predicted apocalypses have a pretty poor success rate,” he notes.

It begs the question, if Julia Reda’s proposal exclusively reflects the American philosophy of copyright, did an American really write it?

The most effective way of persuading individuals to surrender a powerful human right is to get them to do so willingly, with a smile. And Silicon Valley’s internet industry would love it if people do just that, removing individual rights of ownership and permission over their own digital stuff, so they the multinationals can even make more money.

One European academic we talked to, who declined to be named, notes that Reda includes a passage could have been written by Google” - the demand to block the ancillary right:

“Some of her wording is straight from Google,” he noted. “She has spoken about the ancillary right for snippets of news. It was introduced in Germany, and Google hates it. It fought it hard and lost.”

What's the chance of Reda becoming a sock puppet?

More likely than Reda being a mere sock puppet is that digital utopians in Europe truly believe this stuff themselves, and simply look no further than Californian internet companies and think-tanks for their ideas.

Under Neelie Kroes, the European Commission for a Digital Agenda saw itself as a revolutionary vanguard, and instead of creating a distinctively European identity, became a kind of Google think-tank.

Levine sees the European Parliament’s vote as the start of an end of an era, rather than beginning of a new one.

“The Pirate Party is no longer growing — there’s a sense that people may not be as upset about copyright as she thinks they are. Clearly, some of her concern has resonated with people [still fewer than 1 in 12 voters at best], but once they realised the implications of her solutions, it faded. There is a reason people have rejected this kind of Pirate Party thinking.” ®

Bootnote

*Weirdly, Reda's report has an accompanying "campaign", called "Save Copyright Reform", as if copyright reform is an endangered species, like the blue whale. The implication is that copyright won't be revised if her own "campaign" fails.

In fact, there has barely been a year where any part of Europe's institutions are not discussing reform. For example, the DG INFSO/DG MARKT Reflection Document (2009), the 2011 blueprint, the Barnier Consultation, and more.

The European Court is mulling cases involving distribution rights, digital exhaustion, private copying levies, exclusivity, e-lending and many more issues, and will do so for years, regardless of the Digital Single Market initiative. Europe is constantly revisiting laws. It's just how it works.

Bootnote 2

Julia Reda’s personal mouthpiece got in touch with us - to complain. It’s not fair, he says, that we said that only “digital activists” back her plans for change. He then cited a list of groups who use rather than create copyright works and who want the law changed in their favour. The list includes Humanistica [digital activists], VZBV [digital activists], Bitkom [technology industry], AMEC/FIBEP [site scrapers], and library and archive groups EBLIDA, IABD, AFB and the League of European Universities. We’re very happy to clarify.

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