It has been well over a year since the European Commission has presented its proposal for adapting the EU copyright rules to the realities of the digital age. The proposed changes (as flawed as they may be) are part of an agenda to make Europe more competitive and to stimulate economic growth.
The proposal continues to be debated in the European parliament with no real end in sight. In this situation we have taken today’s meeting of the EU Competitiveness Council (which brings together the ministers responsible for trade, economy, industry, research and innovation, and space from the 28 EU member states, as an occasion to write yet another open letter.
Given that at this stage pretty much everything that can be said about the dangers and shortcomings of the Commission’s proposal has been said, our letter which has been signed by an unprecedented coalition of more than 80 civil society and human rights organisations limits itself to pointing out this very fact:
We write to you to share our respectful but serious concerns that discussions in the Council and European Commission on the Copyright Directive are on the verge of causing irreparable damage to our fundamental rights and freedoms, our economy and competitiveness, our education and research, our innovation and competition, our creativity and our culture. We refer you to the numerous letters and analyses sent previously from a broad spectrum of European stakeholders and experts for more details (see attached).
Attached to the letter are 29 different opinions, studies, open letters and reports that have been addressed at the EU legislators since the publication of the reform proposal. These include a recommendation co-signed by over 50 respected academics on measures to safeguard fundamental rights and the open Internet in the framework of the EU copyright reform, which points out that:
Article 13 (…) is disproportionate and irreconcilable with the fundamental rights guarantees in the Charter [of Fundamental Rights of the EU]
An open letter from over 50 NGOs representing human rights and media freedom asking the EU legislators to delete Article 13:
Article 13 appears to provoke such legal uncertainty that online services will have no other option than to monitor, filter and block EU citizens’ communications if they are to have any chance of staying in business. Article 13 contradicts existing rules and the case law of the Court of Justice.
A letter from over 20 startups and online services to Members of the European Parliament in which they raise their serious concerns regarding proposed Article 13:
‘We are alarmed that the policies described in the proposed Article 13 of the Commission’s text could cripple the growth of online innovation for startups that already exist, while also preventing new, innovative startups from entering the marketplace.’
An open letter launched by the Free Software Foundation Europe and OpenForum Europe to secure the free and open source software ecosystem in the EU copyright review, warning that filtering algorithms will ultimately decide what material software developers should be allowed to share:
These filtering algorithms will ultimately decide what material software developers should be allowed to share.
and our own right-copyright.eu petition on better copyright for education which asks legislators to make sure that Europe has a future-proof copyright that enables educators to provide high-quality education.
We need copyright law that enables educators to provide the best education they are capable of and that fits the needs of educators, students and parents in the 21st century.
As today’s open letter points out the concerns expressed in these statements have so far been largely ignored, which has motivated us to point to the existence of these concerns once again.
It is still possible to make sure that the ongoing copyright reform process will result in rules that make Europe more competitive and to stimulate economic growth. For that to happen all policy makers involved (including the ministers meeting in Brussels today) need to show more willingness to face the fact that the future is indeed digital.
To help them understand this, it is important that European Citizens make their discontent with the current proposals heard. Our friends at EDRI have just published a helpful guide for doing so that includes a list of the most relevant policy makers from each member state.