Industry, Research and Energy Committee’s draft opinion is more conservative than it would seem

Participants of the first Solvay Conference, in 1911, Brussels, Belgium
Copyright is important for research & industry
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It is great that ITRE Rapporteur Zdzisław Krasnodębski joined IMCO Rapporteur Catherine Stihler in thinking that the right to read is the right to mine. As we explained in detail, his draft proposal opens up the TDM exception to anyone and makes sure any safeguarding measures won’t stand in the way of applying the technology. As progressive as it is, however, the fact that ITRE’s Rapporteur focused only on TDM and proposed a minor tweak of article 14 is also a statement. What is not mentioned is as significant as the changes that are proposed.

The fact that the most controversial articles are not a subject to any improvement by the ITRE draft opinion may of course indicate how the Rapporteur perceives the Commission’s mandate to propose input on copyright. Naturally, the TDM exception would provide an enormous opportunity for the European industry to expand their R&D without looking for an academic partner to benefit from the exception. But is that really all there is in the directive proposal that could benefit the realms of Industry, Research and Energy?

Better education makes better economy

In the information economy, modern accessible education is a cornerstone. Now that across all industries there is an enormous demand for workers that can keep up with developments in technology and knowledge, lifelong learning becomes an inseparable element of any professional career.

The ITRE Committee members should therefore consider widening the scope of the education exception (article 4). It needs to encompass teaching activities that take place outside of traditional classroom education to make sure Europeans can get access to tailored education throughout their lives. The costs of providing education might be more easily covered by big companies or well-off employees, but it could be a heavy burden for smaller enterprises.

Needless to say, these bills are easier to foot in wealthier EU economies. Meanwhile, access to professional and vocational training should be an equalizer for EU countries, and not another reason for deepening the divide between wealthier and poorer EU member states. Widening this exception is perhaps an indirect—but nevertheless vital—interest of the EU economy.

Every industry is a creative industry

In Europe we’ve become used to dividing industries across the digital divide. Some are perceived as traditional systems based in the physical world, while the newest cast is digital economy industries. That division no longer holds true; literally any industry now has the digital face that it needs to operate in the European and global market. Also, industries become, as EUIPO would put it, IPR-intense, which means that intellectual property becomes an increasingly important asset, from patents to designs to marketing.

All that means that ITRE should not ignore the sad shape the copyright reform proposal has taken in the aspects of access to information, the ability to use effective online communication and interact with customers through various platforms.

It would be advisable for ITRE Committee members to look deeper in articles 11 and 13. Both the snippet levy and the upload filter are bad for the flow of information online, not to mention for fundamental rights. If anything, they go against the basic rule of economy: if you increase barriers of entry to the market the first ones to drop off are smaller companies – and they are the soil of Europe’s economy. And both the new tax and the obligation to install filter mechanisms are burdens increasing these barriers. The paradox is that the law targeted at the giants such as Google will wipe out its potential competition and make it stronger.

Is no news good news?

It would be wrong to think that the lack of opinion on these issues in ITRE’s draft means something good. In fact, it only likely reinforces the conservative and outdated approach the European Commission brought under the debate with its directive proposal. By what the opinion does not mention assumes that ITRE approves of all those controversial ideas such as the snippet levy and the upload filter, and stalls the progress midway with access to quality education. It is great that the draft opinion highlights TDM, but at the same time it promotes a narrow perspective on the issue in times when copyright underpins all activities online.

We believe that the ITRE committee can adopt a broader view and introduce far-reaching amendments that encompass the complexity of copyright in European economy. For a start, some inspiration from the IMCO draft could come in handy. Let’s hope members of the committee will use the opportunity to improve their opinion!

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