Twelve countries defend liberal outlook
By Nathalie Vandystadt | Friday 02 March 2012
The debate on the reform of copyright in the EU promises to be more than lively, with, on the one hand, the defenders of the protection of copyright online – such as France; and, on the other hand, the countries that are in favour of a broad reform of national systems. Among these, the twelve countries that signed a letter on growth (sent ahead of the 1-2 March European Council) – led by the British and Italian heads of government, respectively David Cameron and Mario Monti – are defenders of liberal options.
The 27 member states wish to settle on pillars for growth, and in any case – as stressed in their conclusions – they are impatiently awaiting the proposals on copyright by Internal Market Commissioner Michel Barnier. They also reiterated their wish to establish a "digital single market by 2015, in particular by adopting measures to boost confidence in on-line trade and by providing better broadband coverage". The Commission's legislative proposals are expected for spring.
However, in the context of still stormy debates on the reform of the royalties system for private copying, which has received a lot of bad press from the digital industry, as well as on the online circulation of works, the countries that defend more liberal options seem to have struck a note at the Council. In their letter, the 'twelve' complain about Europe's slow-moving in terms of digital economy: cross-border trade remains low and creativity is hindered by a "complex system of copyright systems that differ from country to country". The twelve countries also call on the EU to take actions to simplify the licence systems and to establish an effective framework for copyright.
Among these twelve countries, Finland feels, in particular, that is it "important to align the market of copyright with the rules of European competition". Finland is also calling for "the harmonisation of copyright in the long term". This is an old debate, which traditionally hits the brick wall of cultural diversity – a position upheld namely by France. Helsinki recalls that, according to Commission figures, the digital economy could represent more than 4% of the EU's gross domestic product (GDP) by 2020, ie €500 billion.
Paris has not signed the letter, as the digital economy is one of the controversial dossiers where French views differ from a vision that is felt to be too liberal – as commented by a French diplomat to
Europolitics prior to the Council.
Until now, the various attempts to reform private copying and the online copyright all failed, with the Commission trying – in vain – to find compromises between the industry and the rights holders.
With regard to private copying, the resumption of discussions is imminent. Furthermore, Barnier is intent on proposing an EU legislative framework for copyright and the online circulation of musical and audiovisual works, while promising measures to fight piracy).
The letter from the 'twelve' and the Finnish letterare available at
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