Political pick n mix before the copyright show

As a kid, one my treats was to get a pick n mix bag of sweets before going to watch a film.  I’d have to share choices with my sister and friends who’d throw in a couple I didn’t like, but it was all part of the excitement of going to the cinema.

The last 3 months have seen the members of the legal affairs committee play pick n mix with paragraphs and compromise amendments on Ms Reda’s report assessing the implementation of the 2001 copyright directive before the Commission launches its reform proposal (the main picture) later in the year.

There are a variety of different ‘copyright’ tastes in the committee so the discussions have been long- if the Commission hadn’t pushed back its own timetable they’d have missed the beginning of the main event.

The adoption of report on 16th June seemed to promote happy celebration from all political groups, quite rightly so, they had dedicated such a lot of time to put something to the committee that could be agreed upon.  They deserve a lot of credit for their patience and perseverance.

Outside the Parliament, there was less enthusiasm with relatively few public statements being made, and many of those to express disappointment on specific points.  With over 500 amendments submitted to the final draft and 31 compromise amendments (some of which were being negotiated up to the last minute), it was certainly difficult for us to have a clear view of what had been adopted and what hadn’t.

The final result is a diluted pick n mix, there is something for most people’s copyright tastes but very bold statements either way are generally lacking.  The report is a huge improvement on Ms Reda’s extreme draft.  The initial reaction from political groups seemed to leave her isolated and possibly unable to get a report through.  Ms Reda has, at her own admission, made a lot of compromises to get this through.  However, there are still so many provisions, no matter how weak, that question authors’ rights, that it is difficult to see it as a ‘good’ report.

As an example, there are multiple provisions which call for authors to be fairly remunerated for the online exploitation of their works.  Unfortunately these provisions stop short of making calls for concrete initiatives that would guarantee such fair remuneration.  The reversion right is the only thing that is included but is something that, although it might work in other sectors, would be of questionable practical value to screenwriters and directors.  We should maybe even be happy just to see the word ‘remuneration’ used. At one point in negotiations it had been replaced by ‘compensation’.

The compromise-ridden final report demonstrates the difficulty of trying to address too many issues.  Too many different elements come into play and get negotiated off against each other.  European copyright harmonisation has mainly involved identifying specific issues and dealing with those.  The number of provisions in this final report that calls upon the Commission to (or other bodies) to investigate or examine removing or implementing certain solutions or tools, suggests that any legislative initiative in those areas would get bogged down in long discussions and affect areas where a need for action is already clearly defined. Focussed action from the Commission will be needed if they are to achieve anything in a reasonable timeframe.

The Parliament is certainly now warmed up and aware of the stakes.  Pick n mix in hand, they can now start jostling for good seats for the main feature.

JT

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