The European Commission recently published its long-awaited proposal for copyright reform.
Libraries and cultural heritage institutions have long empowered people to learn, innovate and be inspired, without jeopardising the remuneration of creators. Digital technologies have opened up new possibilities to achieve this, to the benefit of Europe as a whole.
We had high hopes when President Juncker first talked about copyright reform. We broadly supported the Commission’s Communication on the modernisation of EU Copyright rules and set out our own ambitions for reform.
We had therefore hoped for more from today’s announcements. While they correctly identify some of the key challenges we face, the proposals are incomplete, and often undermined by measures which would reduce the effectiveness of libraries and cultural heritage institutions. As such, they risk doing a disservice to our users, and to Europe as a whole.
We welcome the proposal to make the right to perform text and data mining (TDM) on legally accessed materials mandatory across Europe. We strongly support steps to prevent the abusive application of technological protection measures or contract terms to take this right away. This sets an important precedent which should be applied to all exceptions and limitations to copyright.
However, allowing TDM only in certain circumstances will only prolong the uncertainty faced by researchers and ignores the fundamental principle that facts and data should not be copyrighted.
Similarly, proposals on access to out of commerce works, as well as digital preservation and education address important issues, but the measures on the table fail to enable libraries and cultural heritage institutions to serve their users.
There are also conspicuous gaps, such as on e-lending, remote access to library resources through closed networks, and cross-border collaboration. Without a more ambitious approach, we risk seeing the legal channel our institutions offer become less and less attractive in comparison with infringing alternatives.
Fortunately, the European Parliament and Council still have time, as well as solid reasons, to improve things. Libraries and cultural heritage institutions will look to them to deliver the reforms that Europe needs.