english francais deutsch

IRIS 2010-1:1/3

European Commission

Communication on Copyright

print add to caddie Word File PDF File

Ana Ramalho

Institute for Information Law (IViR), University of Amsterdam

On 19 October 2009, the European Commission adopted a Communication on Copyright in the Knowledge Economy. The document was prompted by the results of the public consultation on the Green Paper on Copyright and the Knowledge Economy (see IRIS 2008-8:4).

The Communication aims at offering an overview of these results on the one hand, and at paving the way for future follow-up actions on the other. As regards the former, the Communication identifies the two antithetical positions that emerged from the public consultation: unsurprisingly, libraries, archives and universities support a flexible copyright system, whereas publishers, collecting societies and rightsholders favour a stronger regime. Roughly speaking, the first group supports a shift towards a more permissive copyright system and the second advocates the maintenance of the status quo.

These two divergent interests are apparent in the specific issues dealt with by both the Green Paper and the Communication, which include: the digital preservation and dissemination of scholarly, cultural and educational works; orphan works; copyright exceptions for persons with disabilities; and user created content. Hence, the main challenge ahead is the conciliation of these views.

The Communication sets forth a number of steps to be followed. In relation to the digital preservation and dissemination of works in general, it clarifies that the strategy to pursue will include an analysis of the legal implications of mass-scale digitisation and the suggestion of options to tackle the costs of rights’ clearance. In this arena, the Commission is bound to examine all possible solutions and to verify whether further initiatives - e.g., the establishment of an exception for this kind of digitisation - are needed.

Specifically as concerns research and learning materials, the Communication underlines that the Commission is already active in the area of granting open access to publicly-funded research results. Moreover, it is recognised that universities face a cumbersome task when licensing copyright works. Thus, this issue will be on the Commission’s agenda, as it will be the object of a consultation on best practices. Finally, the Commission will continue monitoring activities in the field of distance learning.

In regard to orphan works, the Communication remarks on the need to establish common standards for rights clearance and to find a solution for the infringement of rights in orphan works. The Commission will be working on an impact assessment, but possible solutions might include a legally binding instrument, an exception to Directive 2001/29/CE or guidance on mutual recognition of orphan works.

Furthermore, it is acknowledged that more works should take into account the needs of persons with disabilities. The Commission will organise a stakeholder forum on that issue, with a particular focus on visually impaired persons, cross-border trade in works in accessible formats and access to online content.

Lastly, the Communication determines that the Commission will carry out consultations on options for rights clearance for user created content.

It is therefore recognised that copyright policy has to be prepared to face the current knowledge economy. And, it is noted, the selected strategy will be to coordinate the different interests at stake.

Communication from the Commission on Copyright in the Knowledge Economy, Brussels, 19 October 2009, COM(2009) 532 final EN