British Library Hosts Copyright For Creativity Event

The British Library hosted a ‘Copyright for Creativity’ (C4C) event in London with Members of European Parliament (MEPs) and UK Members of Parliament (MPs) Feb 10. The goal was to highlight and understand the complexity caused by an Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) system, which was invented before the Internet was even thought of. Representatives from libraries, universities, and the music industry joined the policymakers in order to provide a better understanding of the underlying problems from a cultural, educational, and artistic perspective.CCIA joined the C4C initiative in May 2010. C4C is a broad coalition of civil society, libraries, consumers, and the ICT industry signing up to the C4C Declaration. The core of the Declaration calls for European copyright law to be adapted to the digital era and highlights the need for a ‘balanced, flexible and harmonized system of exceptions’. In contrast to the US ‘fair use’ doctrine, Europe’s system of exceptions and limitations to copyright is not harmonized across the EU since Directive 2001/29/EC, which also serves to implement the 1996 ‘WIPO Copyright Treaty’, includes only non-binding and optional provisions in this respect. In terms of economic growth, a recent study released by CCIA in 2010 shows that Europe enormously profits from industries relying on exceptions and limitations, but it could do even better if the EU implemented a harmonized and binding system.The lack of harmonization is a particular burden on cultural and educational establishments. By stating that ‘Member States may [emphasis added] provide for exceptions or limitations to the reproduction right […] in respect of specific acts of reproduction made by publicly accessible libraries, educational establishments or museums […] which are not for direct or indirect economic or commercial advantage’, Art. 5 (2)(c) of Directive 2001/29/EC effectively led to a greater divergence of laws across the EU.

As a consequence, libraries’ digital preservation activities remain illegal in some countries. This problem is further cemented by the fact that digital preservation often involves the making of multiple copies for backup purposes.

Educational institutions face similar challenges as regards the use of audiovisual material. Today’s technologies enable educational institutions to develop innovative ways of learning through the inclusion of audiovisual material in university online platforms. However, such innovations are severely hampered because universities frequently have to clear the copyrights for audiovisual content, which involves burdensome dialogues with right holders and collecting societies. This is a consequence of a lack of binding, cross-border exceptions for education and research purposes.

Artists highlighted the need for a new, integrated way for copyright clearance with low administrative barriers. New methods of rights management must encourage collaboration between rights holders and those who want to make use of protected works since the enforcement of the current regime proved impossible in practice. A new regime for rights management can be a force for creativity but only if it takes into account and adapts to societal and technological change.

After the 2008 Green Paper on copyright in the knowledge economy and its2009 follow-up Communication, the Commission is expected to present new proposals on collective management licenses, digital libraries, and audiovisual works in 2011. Against the background of these initiatives as well as current policy debates on a more flexible approach to copyright in Ireland, the Netherlands and the UK, it is important to frame the debate on the copyright regime not only in terms of protection and enforcement, but also in terms of exceptions and limitations for the benefit of society at large. All too often the discussions on a proper copyright regime in Europe revolve primarily around classical considerations, which makes it difficult to make progress on the shortcomings identified above. Furthermore, an IPR system that worked well in the analogue world is clearly facing barriers in the digital era.

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