Following a debate on content in the digital economy held yesterday (5th December), the European Commission has agreed on a path to modernise copyright for the digital economy.
The Commission's objective is "to ensure that copyright stays fit for purpose in this new digital context," a statement said. "The Commission will therefore work for a modern copyright framework that guarantees effective recognition and remuneration of rights holders in order to provide sustainable incentives for creativity, cultural diversity and innovation; opens up greater access and a wider choice of legal offers to end users; allows new business models to emerge; and contributes to combating illegal offers and piracy."
The process will begin with a "structured stakeholder dialogue" launching at the start of 2013. It will address six issues where the Commission said rapid progress is needed: cross-border portability of content; user-generated content; data and text-mining; private copy levies; access to audiovisual works and cultural heritage.
Discussions are set to explore "the potential and limits of innovative licensing and technological solutions in making EU copyright law and practice fit for the digital age."
This process will be jointly led by Michel Barnier, Neelie Kroes and Androulla Vassiliou and will reach its conclusions by December 2013.
The dialogue "is intended to deliver effective market-led solutions to the issues identified, but does not prejudge the possible need for public policy action, including legislative reform", the statement said.
While the stakeholder dialogue is being carried out, a separate action path will see the completion of market studies, impact and legal drafting work with a view to a 2013 decision on whether to table proposals for legislative reform. The Commission said four areas would be explored: "mitigating the effects of territoriality in the Internal Market; agreeing appropriate levels of harmonisation, limitations and exceptions to copyright in the digital age; how best to reduce the fragmentation of the EU copyright market; and how to improve the legitimacy of enforcement in the context of wider copyright reform."
In response, the Federation of European Publishers issued a statement saying: "We are ready to pursue our engagement with the other stakeholders in order to find solutions beneficial for all, citizens, creators, retailers, publishers. To put it in the words of Donato Carrisi, Italian bestselling author, who spread an appeal on Facebook, calling to defend creators' right and copyright: 'Without copyright I would not have my job'."
But the FEP added: "Any proposed reform should always be scrutinised, based on legal and economic evidence and not contribute to loss of sales of cultural products we create and invest in. European publishers have always been in favour of adapting and thus engaging in discussions with other stakeholders. We hope to remain associated with any follow-up actions agreed upon during the orientation debate to work together towards a balanced modernised copyright.
"European publishers are very concerned by issues of interoperability so any support on portability is welcome. We have started an in-depth discussion on text and data mining and are happy to continue to do so. Finally, we have always engaged in positive talks with cultural institutions and welcome balanced dialogue on any issues these may have."
Richard Mollet, chief executive of the Publishers Association in the UK, said: "The Commission's proposed stakeholder dialogue will provide the PA with the opportunity to deliver the message that the copyright framework is the driver of growth and innovation in Europe. We will be working closely with other rightsholders to demonstrate how copyright underpins licensing business models which ensure access to works and the development of a hugely successful digital economy.
"This is the latest stage in the debate with those companies pursuing a copyright-avoidance agenda."