On 16 July 2014, LIBER sent its new Adviser on EU matters and Horizon 2020 to Brussels. In making the trip, I represented both LIBER and LERU (League of European Research Universities).
A busy day saw visits to three Directorates General – DG Connect, DG Research and DG Enterprise & Industry. A principal topic of conversation throughout the day was the shape of the proposed White Paper from Michel Barnier and DG Internal Market on Copyright reform. LIBER with LERU have been the leaders amongst research organisations in lobbying for an Exception in the European copyright framework for Text and Data Mining (TDM).
On 17 July, it was reported that the European Commission would not be issuing a Copyright White paper. Neelie Kroes, the European Commissioner for the digital agenda, who is bent on breaking down barriers to an EU-wide digital market, has marshalled opposition inside the Commission to Michel Barnier’s paper, which she considers to be insufficiently ambitious. In public, she has warned that existing copyright laws are ‘irrelevant’ in the modern world and has deplored the Commission’s ‘endless’ reflections on the issue. Reforming copyright is ‘a major, essential part’ of the EU’s commitment to creating a single digital market, she has said. She has found strong support from Màire Geoghegan-Quinn, the European Commissioner for research, innovation and science, who wants copyright rules to be less of a burden on researchers and companies, particularly over their use of publicly-available data.
Within the next few days, the Commission is expected to publish a report on the 11,000 submissions received in response to its consultation on possible copyright reforms. As many as 50 Commission officials were involved in assessing them. Michel Barnier’s draft of the White paper is being sent back to officials for further inter-departmental consultations, in an attempt to build greater consensus. Adoption of the White paper has therefore been delayed until September. That pushes the publication date even closer to the end of the current Commission. The hearings for new Commissioners are expected to take place in September. Jean-Claude Juncker, the Commission’s new President, has stressed that ‘national silos’ of copyright legislation ought to be broken down.
The pause in the publication of the White Paper is good news for LIBER and LERU because it is an indication that our views on the need for an EU-wide Exception are being heeded by decision makers in the Commission. It seems likely that the issue of the White Paper will now be the responsibility of the new Commission. LIBER and LERU will be continuing their joint lobbying activities with the Commission, MEPs in the new European Parliament and the Council of Ministers. All three EU parties would have to agree before any new copyright laws or exceptions could be brought into force.
For LIBER, this work will be co-ordinated by the LIBER Copyright Working Group, a Working Group of the Advocacy & Communications Steering Committee. The coming months will be a crucial time for LIBER and LERU to work with EU parties to secure an outcome which balances the rights of rightsholders with the needs of European researchers and users of content.