During his election campaign for President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker set himself five key priorities. Juncker’s number one priority, according to these pledges, was the creation of a European Digital Single Market. This was an integral part of Junker’s strategy for growth and jobs, potentially creating €500 billion of additional growth in Europe and hundreds of thousands of new jobs by the end of his mandate in 2019.
Commission Vice-President Andrus Ansip and Commissioner Guenther Oettinger have been tasked with formulating this Digital Single Market strategy, including proposals on copyright reform. Existing EU copyright rules are mostly laid out in a Directive from 2001 (before Facebook, YouTube or Twitter existed), but the rules are flexible and each Member State essentially has its own law on copyright.
Proponents of reform argue that this confusing set of different copyright rules has fragmented markets along national lines, impeding the establishment of a true Digital Single Market. Indeed, we had a comment sent in to us by Ingemar, who believes that Europe should move towards a single intellectual property regime, where copyright rules can only be made at the EU level.
To get a reaction, we spoke to Andrus Ansip, Vice-President of the European Commission and the EU Commissioner responsible for the Digital Single Market. How would he reply to Ingemar?
The European Union has already created single regimes for some intellectual property rights, such as patents and trademarks. A single copyright title and the accompanying full-scale harmonisation of copyright across Europe would take much time and necessitate a massive intervention at EU level to bridge the differences between regulations of the Member States and replace national copyright laws.
Ultimately this may raise questions of proportionality and subsidiarity, which are key principles guiding EU actions. And we do not have much time, the digital revolution is taking place now. This is why we want to come soon with a targeted reform modernising copyright in the areas where digital technologies have the most important impact and where there is a clear cross-border potential. We are looking at all these issues in the context of the copyright modernisation proposal which will be presented later this year.
We also had a comment from Nic, who said he was worried that a single EU copyright regime might be exploited by lobbyists and big multinational companies, to the detriment of the consumer.
To get a response, we spoke to Julia Reda, a German MEP with the Pirate Party who authored a report for the European Parliament on copyright reform. Her report called for the introduction of a Single European Copyright Title, and the harmonization of copyright terms and exceptions across Europe. How would she respond to Nic’s concerns?
Finally, we had an interesting question from Lillie, who wondered what copyright really means in a world where so much content is being created by users on social networking sites like Facebook and YouTube:
[Can there] be a universal agreement on intellectual property in the digital information age when users as individuals create much of the content that is found in the social networking space, but are not well organized to protect their intellectual property interests?
What would Julia Reda say to Lillie?
And how would Andrus Ansip respond to Lillie?
User-driven creation and online sharing are indeed part of our daily life! They have also proved beneficial to professional creators and a range of successful businesses. Europeans can also state their views on copyright. In the public consultation carried out by the European Commission last year, the majority of the almost 10.000 replies came from consumers. These contributions are feeding into the proposal we are preparing right now. We also invite you all to share your views on the creation of the Digital Single Market on our forum Digital4EU.
Should there be a single EU copyright regime? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below, and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!