Contrary to some reports the “Licenses for Europe” stakeholder process on the future of copyright in the EU has nothing to do with a frank discussion of sorely needed EU copyright reform. As the name states the discussions that will continue until November are about extending licensing into every corner of life and never about limiting them. As one frustrated representative of a giant publisher exclaimed: “This meeting is about licences for Europe, not exceptions for Europe”. The four working groups that make up “Licenses for Europe” are obliged to focus on how to deal more successfully with the present legal status quo; not how to change it. The ideas of Nelly Kroes have been ignored, Michel Barnier´s path is totally dominant here.
Great efforts have been by the European Commission to straitjacket and narrowly define the debate in at least 3 of the 4 working groups, cross-border portability, user-generated content and data mining, by the European Commission chairs, under the energetic guidance of DG Market´s copyright chief. We are continuously reminded that we should not speak of anything that is “outside the current legal framework”, that all the workshops were meant to be “industry-led” and oriented toward “short term, practical solutions” that revolve around “best practices.” Whenever anyone speaks of fair use, exceptions or the non-applicability of copyright, he or she is called to order by the chair. Over and over again we hear about making licensing easier, quicker and more prevalent. Practically no concrete proposals are made. The pro-access arguments of NGO´s, libraries and SMEs are totally ignored in the conclusions done by the EC chairs.
In the Text and Data mining working group where I have been present, unlike the other working groups, there has been a fair balance between pro-access and pro-status quo representatives. Libraries, researchers, SMEs and NGOs gave very well documented and varied arguments on why licences were the problem and not the solution. The publishers with the help of the Commission have been clearly on the defensive.
We have written a letter to the Commission explaining the severe limitations of the framework of the “Licences for Europe” debate and have requested a broader scope that could include the consideration of legal changes including exceptions and other flexibilities. If the response is positive, we shall continue participating in the process. On the other hand, if the goal of the meetings remains only to speak to extending licences to consolidate the present copyright regime, we feel that our presence could be used to legitimize a socially discredited legal framework. In that case it would be better for us to abandon in block the stakeholder process.
David Hammerstein, TACD