Copyright law does not have to criminalise users

The Abduction of the Sabine Women
Better copyright in two steps
Licentie

Sharing cultural works online is a familiar part of life for hundreds of millions of people. Many of them share to satisfy a sincere desire to empower and inform their communities, to self-affirm and self-create in the virtual world. But under the law much of this sharing infringes copyrights and neighbouring rights, which means that rightholders are entitled to seek compensation. So how can we adjust the law to the realities lived by millions online and still be fair to authors?

Looking for more balance

A proper solution for these problems needs to introduce a space of legal safety for natural persons who use copyrighted works for noncommercial purposes as well as provide for a fair and transparent scheme for remunerating rightsholders. It could build upon users’ willingness to pay for on-line sharing, as shown by some studies.

However, putting those ideals into practice and translating them into the word of law is not easy. It is because any regulation of exclusive rights of authors should comply with strict requirements formulated in the international and EU copyright regime. The starting point is that generally a copyright holder’s consent is necessary for any use of a work. Traditionally, there have also been some uses of copyrighted works not requiring consent. In the EU such uses are usually called “exceptions and limitations”.

Noncommercial sharing exception

Can noncommercial sharing be covered by an exception? Well, current exceptions and limitations are listed in the INFOSOC Directive. This is a closed list, so although the idea is appealing, the Member States are not free to add new exceptions on their own. Hence a need for the activity at the EU level.

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