Today, ARTICLE 19 is addressing the International Conference on European Internet Governance and Beyond on the subject of the future of European Copyright Reform.
ARTICLE 19 has raised repeated concerns that the right to freedom of expression has increasingly been eroded by copyright holders using outdated laws to restrict access to online material and seriously limit freedom of expression on the internet.
However, there is now a rare opportunity to turn the tide. In an effort to modernise the EU copyright rules and make them fit for purpose in the digital environment, the European Commission launched a public consultation which ran from December 2013 to March 2014. Based on our right to share principles, ARTICLE 19’s submission to the consultation highlights the essential changes required to ensure freedom of expression is protected and respected in the online environment. These issues include:
- Cashed copies: cached copies are basic necessity without which the internet could not function and should not be subject to copyright.
- Hyperlinking: Hyperlinks are a fundamental part of how the internet operates. Linking to copyrighted content should not, in general, require the right holder’s permission.
- Copyright exceptions: The protection of teachers, researchers, scientists and the disabled from copyright rules should not depend on the EU country in which they reside. Therefore, the exceptions to copyright protecting these and other groups should be compulsory for all member states.
- Fair dealing and fair use: A mandatory fair dealing or fair use provision should be introduced to ensure EU copyright law can move with the times and does not unduly limit new and innovative types of expression such as user generated content.
- Copyright terms: The current copyright term of 70 years after the death of the author, is excessive and constitutes a limitation on creativity and an unjustified restriction on freedom of expression. The EU term should be reduced and should constitute a mandated maximum that no EU country can exceed.
- Raising awareness: It is vital that the restrictive effect of copyright on freedom of expression is recognised by decision makers. The European Commission should do more to educate the various actors involved including relevant public authorities and the judiciary on this issue.
ARTICLE 19 calls on the European Commission to use the opportunity provided by the consultation to re-balance copyright law and ensure fundamental rights are protected in the online environment.