Reda Report has recently been adopted by the European Parliament’s Legal Affairs Committee (JURI) after voting on 550 amendments. Yet, the report is far from being accepted, according to many copyright professionals, artists and authors who see it as a threat for the future of creativity.
In December 2014, Julia Reda was appointed ‘rapporteur’ for the European Parliament’s first contribution to the upcoming copyright reform. Julia Reda comes from the German’s Pirate Party, which initially raised some questions. Many wonder why the European Commission’s President, Jean Claude Juncker, agreed to appoint the young and inexperienced Julia Reda for such a major task involving the future of copyrights, and creativity in general in Europe.
The criticisms have returned after the European Parliament’s Legal Affairs committee spent several hours voting on 550 amendments within the Report. The original report’s most controversial ideas included a single copyright, valid across the entire European Union, placing works created by employees of governments, public administration, and the courts, as part of their official duty in the public domain (which means no copyright needed). The report also allows audio-visual quotation (in online videos for example, with no copyright for the original author) and preserves the so-called ‘freedom of panorama’ (the ability to take pictures of public buildings and distribute and use them without the permission from the architect).
The most critical point might come from the number of exceptions to pre-existing national copyrights laws. The report, as adopted, includes a call for these exceptions regarding quotation, parody, research, education and much more, domains where the line is thin for creating content with other’s content. The upgraded copyrights laws, following Reda’s plans for Europe could represent a threat for the countries that already had an operational and efficient copyright legislation.
There are great disparities in the European countries as far as copyrights laws, countries like Germany or France for instance seem to be at an advantage when it comes to fighting pirates and protecting authors. Creating a trans-border copyright legislation, as Julia Reda is suggesting, may seem like a good idea for European enthusiasts, but appears to be threatening and to allow more room for pirates and illegal usage of creativity. “After decades in which the focus was on introducing new restrictions to protect the material interests of rightholders this is the strongest demand yet to reconsider the rights of the public – of users, cultural heritage institutions and scientists and of authors who build on existing material,” said Julia Reda to Arstechnica. But by trying to fight the ‘legal uncertainty’ that Europeans face in their daily online interactions when it comes to copyrighting, the Reda Report could create even more confusion, make authors more vulnerable, weaken creativity and make more room for the economic giants of online content like Amazon or Google. One of the rejected texts from the Reda Report granted publishers a so-called ‘ancillary,’ which is an extra copyright. It would have required online search engines (such as Google) to pay for the use of even small snippets.
In fact, Germany has had previous experiences with a similar system. Google once stopped using snippets from publications in order to avoid paying license fees that publishers had demanded. The negative impact on German newspapers and magazines was that their number of visitors on their sites dropped considerably. To counter that problem, German publishers ended up offering Google a free license for their content so that the search engine would once more display the snippets in the search results. Therefore they drive traffic to the publishers’ site, but now at what price?
The fact that Julia Reda didn’t take this potential threat for European magazines and newspapers into consideration in her report is spreading great fear among print and publishing professional across Europe. In France, for instance, many professionals from the publishing and printing industry met at the French Cultural Ministry to discuss the Reda Report that many see as a dangerous threat for their business or for the future of publishing in France in general. The President of the CNL (National Center of Books) summarized the talk by saying that the Report remains ‘Totally inacceptable, especially because of the libraries exception. It would kill the ebook market in France which is what we are trying to implement with the PNB (a way to rent ebooks in libraries), (…) I consider the report extremely dangerous.’
Among the architects and public spaces professionals, the Reda Report remains a threat. One of the main defeats for Reda with the Legal Affairs Committee is that her proposal to protect the ‘freedom of panorama’ wasn’t accepted. They instead adopted an amendment that stated ‘ commercial use of recordings of works in public spaces should require express permission from the rightsholders’. Reda protested saying it ‘could threaten the work of documentary filmmakers and the legality of commercial photo-sharing platforms.’ The main critique overall is that it is really hard to understand where Reda’s report stands and how it could benefit the creative work field. If some texts seem to have a positive impact, the great majority of the report remains incomprehensive for many professionals depending on certain copyrights.
The report will now be voted on by the full European Parliament this week and amendments could be made again before it is sent to the European Commission, which should use it as an input if it doesn’t become even more of contorted along the way.