EC urges innovation for online content access

Following the December 5th orientation debate on content in the digital economy which agreed a way forward for modernising copyright in the digital economy, the European Commission has adopted a Communication which sets out parallel tracks of action to be undertaken during this Commission’s term of office to ensure that the EU’s copyright framework stays fit for purpose in the digital environment.

Commission President José Manuel Barroso said that exploiting the full potential of the digital economy was vital to delivering growth in Europe. “It is extremely important for us to work with industry in order to accelerate solutions which tap the potential of digital markets to develop new business models. A modern copyright framework can be win-win for all stakeholders, providing sustainable incentives for creativity, cultural diversity and innovation, and improving choice and access to legal offers for consumers,” he declared.

A structured stakeholder dialogue, jointly led by Commissioners Michel Barnier (Internal Market and Services), Neelie Kroes (Digital Agenda) and Androulla Vassiliou (Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth), will be launched in 2013 to seek to deliver rapid progress in four areas through practical industry-led solutions.

These areas are cross-border access and the portability of services; user-generated content and licensing for small-scale users of protected material; facilitating the deposit and online accessibility of films in the EU; and promoting efficient text and data mining for scientific research purposes.

In parallel, the on-going review of the EU framework for copyright legal will be completed, based on market studies, impact assessment and legal drafting work, with a view to a decision in 2014 on whether to table legislative reform proposals.

Issues to be addressed by the stakeholder dialogue:

  • Cross-border access and the portability of services

Distribution of content is often limited to one or just a few Member States, with rights holders or online platforms electing to impose cross-border sales restrictions. The Commission’s objective is to foster cross-border on-line access and ‘portability’ of content across borders. This work should take stock of current industry initiatives and deliver practical solutions to promote multi-territory access.

  • User-generated content and licensing for small-scale users of protected material

The Commission notes that on average, every minute, people upload 72 hours of video to YouTube, and over 150,000 photos to Facebook. Sometimes this user-generated content ‘re-uses’ existing material (such as re-mixes, mashups and home-made videos with a soundtrack added) and so is often covered by some form of licensing by rights holders, in partnership with certain platforms, but this is not transparent to the end user. In parallel, small-scale users of content struggle to identify how to acquire licences. The Commission’s objective is to foster transparency and ensure that end-users have greater clarity on uses of protected material. This work should identify relevant forms of licensing and how to improve information for end-users.

  • Audiovisual sector and cultural heritage institutions

It is difficult for online service providers to develop catalogues of European films for online availability, particularly those which are ‘out-of-distribution’ (works whose rights holders are unwilling or unable to exploit them). The Commission’s objective is to facilitate the deposit and online accessibility of films in the EU. This work should deliver concrete solutions for both commercial and non-commercial uses.

  • Text and data mining

Text and data mining (TDM), an automated research technique for the purpose of scientific research, requires contractual agreements between users and rights holders to establish technical access to the relevant material. The Commission’s objective is to promote efficient TDM for scientific research purposes. This work should explore solutions such as standard licensing models as well as technology platforms to facilitate TDM access.

The stakeholder dialogue will be invited to present its results before the end of 2013.

In 2010, the Commission adopted the Digital Agenda for Europe which endeavoured to open up access to content as part of its strategy to achieve a vibrant Digital Single Market and identified a number of actions in the field of copyright. The Digital Agenda has just been updated by the Commission.

In 2011, the Commission adopted a strategy entitled A Single Market for Intellectual Property Rights, which proposed a further series of measures to promote an efficient copyright framework for the Digital Single Market. Against this background, the Commission has taken a number of actions, including:

  • new legislation on orphan works;
  • a legislative proposal on collective rights management currently being negotiated by the European Parliament and the Council; and
  • Memoranda of Understanding on out of print books, and access to works by the Visually Impaired.

The Commission has also published a call under the CIP-ICT Policy Support Programme 2012, on ‘European Rights Information Management’.

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