Future European copyright law looms on the horizon

Neelie Kroes, the European Commission Vice-President for the Digital Agenda, seems to be taking a tough approach in regards to reforming copyright laws – an approach which will leave current intermediaries, that is record labels and movie studios, shaking in their boots.

In a speech Kroes today stated her position was that “we must look beyond national and corporatist self-interest to establish a new approach to copyright. We want “une Europe des cultures” and for this we need a debate at European level.” The Commission is thus looking at unifying existing and deeply fragmented national copyright laws, as well as the various private copyright levies. She said the current copyright system was not able to handle “the real essence of art, which has no frontiers”.

Kroes made a point of criticising certain organisations, saying “it may suit some vested interests to avoid a debate, or to frame the debate on copyright in moralistic terms that merely demonise millions of citizens.” She added this was “not a sustainable approach” and stated a debate would be necessary to “to promote a legal digital Single Market in Europe.” In other words, lobbyists will be facing a tough time.

In addition, she claimed the existing, fragmented laws has been placing a focus on intermediaries instead of artists. The public may have difficulty accessing an artist’s works, making illegal content attractive.

The content of Kroes’ speech was strikingly similar to the arguments German Federal Minister of Justice Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger held in the middle of June. Back then, Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger stated laws on intangible goods, as intellectual property is called in German law, should uphold the rights of artists, not intermediaries. “To what degree creators market their works over the internet and to what extent intermediaries become superfluous is not a question of law, it is a question of competition,” declared Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger.

On the EU-level, however, things are still highly problematic in regards to an approach worthy of the future. First off, the EU is currently involved in negotiations on ACTA, an internationally binding agreement containing highly repressive measures to uphold patents and copyright. These measures are of such nature that rising economies such as Brasil and India are considering chucking the entire agreement out of the pram.

The European Parliament also recently voted for the rather nonsensical “Gallo Report on enforcement of intellectual property rights in the internal market”. Although being a non-binding rapport, the Gallo Report is highly problematic as it for instance puts file-sharing on a level with organised crime. The report also used false figures.

It was chalked up by a party croney of Nicholas Sarkozy, who in turn is married to French pop star Carla Bruni. This has left the field open to speculation of Sarkozy using his party to act as principal and agent to create a repressive regime benefitting the oh-so glorious culture of La Grande Nation.

It would be nice to see Kroes’ and Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger’s level-headed stance being adopted throughout the EU’s institutions.