Why licensing is not always the solution

Last week we took part in a breakfast meeting at the European Parliament under the theme “Why licensing is not always the solution”. The meeting was hosted by MEP Jytte Guteland and co-organised by Communia together with Copyright for Creativity, IFLA, EBLIDA, and LIBER. Our goal was to demonstrate the need for reforms that go beyond licensing-based solutions, and focus in particular on supporting and expanding exceptions and limitations to copyright.

Alek Tarkowski, speaking on behalf of Communia, talked about the importance of exceptions and limitations as one of the building blocks of the Public Domain. As such, they are fundamental for creating breathing spaces within the copyright system, in which public interest goals can be achieved without copyright-related limitations.

The insufficiency of licensing-based solutions was a clear outcome of the “Licenses for Europe” structured debate in 2013. Yet in recent weeks licensing-based solutions have started to resurface in the public debate on copyright. The European Publishers Council pushes for self-regulatory solutions (that is licenses) in its submission to the Digital Single Market consultation. CISAC, in its letter to MEP Reda, goes even further and describes exceptions and limitations as damaging to artists and their families.

It is in this context that we are asking for the European legislator to review the scope of the exceptions and limitations that are currently in force – and which were defined in the InfoSoc Directive almost 15 years ago. We need strong, harmonised, re-imagined exceptions and limitations as a fundamental building block of a copyright system fit for the digital age.

While not the focus of our position paper, free licensing is sometimes seen as a specific case of self-regulation. The success of Creative Commons licensing has been raised in the past as an argument in favor of a focus on licensing-based solutions. We are against such arguments and see free licensing as another founding element of the Public Domain. It is worth reminding in this context the Creative Commons statement in support of copyright reform.

Our position is fully described in our new position paper, “The importance of exceptions and limitations for a balanced copyright policy. ​Licensing alone will not secure user rights”. You can find it, alongside previous statements, in our “Policy Papers” section.

UPDATE: IFLA and Copyright for Creativity have also published posts about the meeting.

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