Parliament Adopts Reda Report Calling on Commission to Harmonize and Balance Copyright

Written by Stan Adams

In a plenary session, the European Parliament voted yesterday to adopt a report on “the harmonization of certain aspects of copyright and related rights in the information society.” In a previous post, we applauded the report’s recognition of the importance of balanced copyright while lamenting over some the elements of the draft report that failed to make their way into the text adopted by Parliament’s legal affairs committee (JURI). Even with deletions and alterations, the report highlights the need for minimum baseline of copyright limitations and exceptions across the Union. The text of the report remains largely unchanged since its adoption by JURI, but a few late amendments made important improvements to the report.

Perhaps the most important of those amendments, Parliament removed a recommendation to revoke the public’s “freedom of panorama” in those countries that currently have it. That amendment preserves basic support for the ability of anyone to take photographs and video in which permanent, publicly visible structures appear (think famous buildings and statutes). Currently, some countries restrict the freedom of panorama and, without the amendment, the report would have pushed to extend that restriction to other Member States. It may seem odd for copyright law to restrict a person’s ability to take photographs in which prominent, identifiable public structures appear, but tackling such oddities is one objective of the report.

Among the amendments that did not make their way into the adopted text is one that would have recognized certain “ancillary rights” that newspapers and other online content providers have to control whether and how articles show up in search results. CDT has previously explored the flaws with such proposals, particularly how they diminish access to information and the role of new media voices. A few days before the Parliament vote, CDT joined a letter to the members of Parliament urging them to vote to exclude amendments that would have recognized ancillary rights. Both the preservation of the freedom of panorama and the rejection of ancillary copyrights recognize the legitimacy of users’ rights and interests in the debate over copyright protection and limitations.

Both the preservation of the freedom of panorama and the rejection of ancillary copyrights recognize the legitimacy of users’ rights and interests in the debate over copyright protection and limitations.

The Reda report certainly does not resolve all disputes as to the proper balance between the interests of rightsholders, intermediaries, and users in copyright policy, but it does point to the importance of getting that balance right. As the Commission seeks to advance a Digital Single Market regulation that removes the “national silos” that inhibit a harmonized (or at least interoperable) European copyright system, limitations and exception must be part of that discussion. The Parliament’s vote recognizes this fact. As the Commission now takes up the charge of moving copyright policy forward in Europe, we hope it similarly will keep in mind the importance of balance and a truly “modernized” copyright system that works for all citizens in the Union.

As the Commission seeks to advance a Digital Single Market regulation that removes the “national silos” that inhibit a harmonized (or at least interoperable) European copyright system, limitations and exception must be part of that discussion.

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