The Reda Report: killing the nations’ cultural exceptions?

Article published on July 17, 2015
Article published on July 17, 2015

This article has not been vetted by an editor at Paris HQ

What will remain of the European nations’ cultural exceptions if the Reda Report makes it to law? Countries and their authors are wondering what the future will be like…

In mid-January of this year, Julia Reda (German’s Pirate Party) communicated a first draft of her report on the ‘implementation of the information Society Directive.’ The draft is quite long but it has been summarized here (1).

The report has first been described as one of ‘the most progressive official EU document on copyright since the first cat picture was published on the web’ (2) by Netzpolitik, before it started to raise questioning and criticism from all fronts.

SAA Brussels deemed it extreme and dangerous, statingJulia Reda’s draft report goes very far in its proposals to completely overhaul the Copyright Directive.  It represents the pirate party programme, not an assessment of the implementation of the Directive. There are attempts to please authors by calling for improvements of their contractual position. However, there is no concrete proposal in this area and generally an underlying lack of understanding of how authors’ rights work for audiovisual authors and how territoriality finances works in the audiovisual sector.’ (3)

The European Coalitions for Cultural Diversity also felt the potential threat coming from Reda’s report especially when it comes to the nations’ cultural exceptions. In January, through a press released called Copyright: An Unacceptable Draft Report at the European Parliament, the coalitions expressed their fears, stating ‘this draft is a mere copy-paste of proposals made over the last 10 years by Pirate parties and organizations in favor of an unregulated Internet (…) without major changes this report will remain unacceptable to those who want cultural creation to remain ambitious, strong and diverse in Europe.’ (4)

The report passed the Legal Afairs Committee earlier in March, after a long session and receiving more than 550 amendments, proving once again the lack of understanding of the copyrights needs.

If the report rightfully urges for an increasing ‘internet-friendly copyright law,’ it may have gone too far in relation to parodies, pastiche and caricature for example. The article 5.3 of the InfoSoc Directive currently provides the possibility for EU members to introduce a parody exception, for ‘the purpose of a parody, pastiche and caricature to the exclusive right of reproduction in their national copyright laws.’ In her report, Julia Reda suggests that ‘ the exception for caricature, parody and pastiche should apply regardless of the purpose of the parodic use,’ (5) without including any further explanations. Such a broad exception has raised tremendous concerns. The text remains a blur for many, afraid that the exceptions included in the report may become the norm…

The French authorities (6) expressed their concerns that a parody exception applicable outside any purpose of parody is unlikely to meet the first step of ‘certain special cases.’ An online newspaper, La Quadrature du Net, interprets Julia Reda’s proposal as ‘to admit the parody exception for non-humorous creations.’ The fact that there are several interpretations for the same text poses problems. The lines are still blurry within the Reda Report and it may cause even more confusion if it will be approved.

On the other end, exceptions and specifically cultural exceptions are a force for several member nations. France comes to mind with its well-known cultural exception. But “Reda discards the French and German basis of European copyright and replaces it with the Anglo-American concept. For a continent that spends much of its time bemoaning the influence of the USA, this is both ironic and strange”, says Robert B. Levine (7). A former executive editor of Billboard magazine, author of Free Ride: How Digital Parasites Are Destroying the Culture Business, and How the Culture Business Can Fight Back, Levine is probably one of the most vindictive opponents of Reda’s reform project. He explains: “In France and Germany, copyright is a fundamental right. The right says that a work is indivisible and inalienable from the author (…) You need to engage with the French and German traditions, and pretending those tradition doesn’t exist is basically anti-intellectual. Saying that all people need to do is make money, and exercise their economic right, doesn’t acknowledge those traditions”.

Naturally, French professionals within the publishing sector seem determined to keep that exception, which is threatened by Reda’s report. On June 17th, they met at the French Ministry of Culture to discuss the report and raise their concerns. The question of these exceptions was at the center of the debates. The 20th amendment about ‘the exception for ibooks lending in public libraries’ could ‘kill the market, the authors rights and the public libraries. Authors would never get back any right and the libraries could never develop a commercial market,’ said Vincent Monade, President of the National Centre for book.

In fact, the Reda Report’s exceptions could be slowly killing the member countries’ exceptions, as far as intellectual creativity. If the need for stronger and more adapted copyright laws is present in many countries within the EU, many others may suffer from Reda’s proposal. Her work seems to be misinformed of the situation in each of the concerned countries and simply follows the agenda of Reda’s party, without really addressing the issues of authors’ copyrights.

Reda thinks copyright is a kind of handout, that artists need this extra special ‘thing’ because they’re extra special people, and we need to protect them like extra special flowers, says Levine. If we’re all creators now, shouldn’t everyone have creator’s right? Copyright is a right for everyone: everyone has a right to protect their work. But Many people may never exercise that human right, but there may be a day when they need to. That’s not a justification for removing that human right" he concludes.

(1) http://copy-me.org/2015/01/eu-copyright-reform-about-you/

(2) Was läuft falsch beim EU-Urheberrecht? Julia Reda legt Entwurf für Evaluation des EU-Parlaments vor, Netzpolitik.org, Leonhard Dobusch, January 19th 2015

(3) Legislative time travel: 2001 a Copyright Odyssey, SAA Brussels

(4) Copyright: an unacceptable draft report at the European Parliament, Press Release, January 22nd 2015

(5) Page 6, point 17

(6) Note de commission, Projet de rapport d’evaluation de la directive 2001/29 du 22 mai 2001 sur l’harmonisation de certains aspects du droit d’auteur et des droits voisins dans la societe de l’information, January 19 2015.

(7) California über Alles ? Is MEP Reda flushing Euro copyright tradition down the pan ?, The Register, June 19th 2015