In May 2015, the European Commission put copyright reform as key part of the Digital Single Market strategy. techUK's Laura Weidinger argues why it is essential that the forthcoming reforms, the first major update since 2001, gets the detail right to create a functioning copyright framework fit for the digital age.
1. DON'T USE COPYRIGHT REFORM TO FIX UNRELATED PROBLEMS
The Commission has identified a range of diverse obstacles and aims in its Digital Single Market strategy, and copyright was one of the areas where more work was needed. It is important not to overburden copyright reform howeverand mix it up with other policy areas such as competition policy. It can only have negative unintended consequences if the wrong policy tools are used to fix a problem. The Commission should be rigorous to clearly identify and target problems with the right means, using copyright regulation only where problems specifically related to copyright arise.
2. HARNESS EXCEPTIONS TO DRIVE INNOVATION
The European Commission is right to look at ways to further harmonise copyright exceptions across Europe. Exceptions are building blocks for a copyright framework for growth, underpinning digital and creative innovation. Exceptions are also key in adapting to new realities, such as private copying. The UK's approach to copyright exceptions should be taken as a leading example in Europe. The UK has pioneered copyright exceptions for the digital age, meanwhile the UK's creative industries are growing three times faster than the wider UK economy, having successfully adapted to the digital world. Discussions on copyright exceptions for text and data mining should be informed about the whole range of new opportunities these big-data driven technologies bring for research and innovation.
3. MAKE SURE PROPOSALS ON CROSS-BORDER PORTABILITY ARE TECHNICALLY VIABLE
There are emerging signs of increasing consumer demand for the ability to carry service subscriptions to digital content with them when they travel across Europe. Following consumer demand, industry is increasingly offering portability of services across borders. Any proposals on cross-border portability should make it easier for businesses to offer these services – but they should be cautious not to mandate portability where it is not technically feasible. For a set of technical issues to consider in regard to cross-border portability proposals view techUK's initial discussion paper on cross-border portability.
4. PROTECT THE DECENTRALISED NATURE OF THE WEB
Blogs and independent journalists, small publishers and newspapers, and others who create and publish new content online can drive large audiences to their websites thanks to search engines. Using online search services, readers can find targeted, diverse, and new content without previously knowing the website that hosts this content. This is one of the fundamental benefits of the internet – increasing access for consumers and lowering the barrier to entry to the market for suppliers. It is important that the Commission recognises and protects the value of this new, disruptive development. New copyright proposals should be carefully tested against potential unintended consequences that threaten the decentralised nature of the web.