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Loneliest Pirate's EU copyright report secures MEPs' approval

Panorama drama resolved, but real proposals are still to come from Oettinger

The European Parliament adopted the “Reda report” on copyright yesterday.

Pirate Party MEP Julia Reda’s report on the functioning of the current Infosoc Directive is widely seen as a bellwether for the coming copyright legislation overhaul. Digi Commissioner Gunther H-dot Oettinger is due to present his proposals before the end of the year.

The report was approved by 445 votes to 65, with 32 abstentions.

The plenary session decisively removed one of the more controversial proposals – to restrict the so-called “freedom of panorama”. Despite efforts from French MEP Jean-Marie Cavada, of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, who insisted that commercial use of pictures of public buildings and sculptures should require authorisation from the rights-holders, MEPs decided to keep the status quo – thereby allowing countries to decide for themselves whether or not to allow freedom of panorama.

“[The EU] Parliament conclusively rejected the suggestion to limit the right to freely photograph public space. This decision exemplifies a core message of the report: the upcoming reform proposal by Commissioner Oettinger must reflect the essential, multi-faceted role exceptions play – giving authors the room to create, users legal certainty for their everyday actions and everyone access to culture and knowledge,” said Reda after the vote.

The parliament also rejected a renewed attempt from conservative MEPs to pave the way for an ancillary copyright for press publishers, also known as the “Google Tax”.

According to Cavada, “virtually all the value generated by creative works is transferred to digital intermediaries, which refuse to pay authors or negotiate extremely low levels of remuneration.”

His wording was left in the final approved text, but no specific ancillary copyright provisions were included.

“The problem with ancillary copyright rules is they create a business climate that favours incumbent companies in both press publishing and the digital economy – as only the biggest players have the infrastructure to deal with such rules,” said the Computer and Communications Industry Association of Europe's director, Jakob Kucharczyk.

Collecting agencies angrily disagree. Cécile Despringre, executive director of the SAA (Society of Audiovisual Authors, who represent collecting agencies in nearly 20 countries) described the report as “user-focused” even though it calls for “measures to ensure fair and appropriate remuneration for all categories of right-holders, including with regard to digital distribution of their works, and improve the contractual position of authors and performers in relation to other right-holders and intermediaries.”

“We know this resolution has had a long and difficult path to adoption, but every side seems to defend the importance of authors receiving fair remuneration but fails to put forward any concrete proposals to correct current failings,” argued Despringre.

A last-ditch effort by Labour MEP Mary Honeyball to create “an unwaivable right to remuneration subject to collective management” for performers for downloads and streaming services was also struck down, much to the chagrin of the Fair Internet campaign, which is made up of organisations such as the International Federation of Actors and the International Federation of Musicians.

“Performers are still not fairly rewarded when their performances are exploited via legal online on-demand services. Most of them receive an all-inclusive fee at the time of the recording for all type of exploitation of their performances. Others receive an insufficient proportional remuneration,” said a statement from Fair Internet, which says it represents more than 500,000 individuals through its 35 Europe-based collective management organisations.

The report also calls on the European Commission to look at the possibility of providing an exception for libraries to lend works in digital format and for scientists to mine text and data.

Now the serious lobbying will really start. Reda’s report is a first step, but the commission's proposals will be even more closely fought.

“The report is the beginning of an ongoing debate signalling to the European Commission which aspects of substantive copyright law merit reform,” said Kucharczyk. ®

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