European Parliament Committee Copyright, Trade Secret Votes 16/06/2015 by Dugie Standeford for Intellectual Property Watch 2 Comments Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)In voting that took over an hour due to the more than 550 amendments proposed, the European Parliament Legal Affairs (JURI) Committee Tuesday adopted an own-initiative report by German MEP Julia Reda of the Greens/European Free Alliance intended to make sweeping changes to EU copyright law. The report is expected to feed into the European Commission’s (EC’s) copyright reform proposal expected later this year. JURI also backed draft rules on legal redress for theft and misuse of business trade secrets, but said they must in turn respect freedom of information and expression and safeguard whistle-blowers. Copyright Compromise, But at a Cost Reda’s political party called the copyright report “ambitious,” but digital rights activists, consumers and Europe’s high-tech sector disagreed. Despite the positive (23-2) vote, even Reda voiced disappointment that some of the more far-reaching provisions failed. After decades of more restrictions in favour of rights holders, Reda’s report “is the strongest demand yet to reconsider the rights of the public – of users, cultural heritage institutions and scientists and of authors who build on existing material,” the Greens/European Free Alliance said in a statement. Compromise came at a cost, Reda said. Committee members voted to require express permission from rights owners for commercial use of recordings in public spaces, which could threaten the work of documentary film-makers and the legality of commercial photo-sharing platforms, she said. What’s more, there was no majority for several proposals urged by respondents to an EC public consultation on copyright last year, Reda said. One would have made all exceptions mandatory across Europe; the other would have introduced an “open norm” to allow flexibility in the interpretation of exceptions and limitations in some special cases so long as they didn’t conflict with normal exploitation of an author’s work or unreasonably prejudice rights-owners’ legitimate interests. The report now contains strong anti-geoblocking statements, Reda’s spokesman told Intellectual Property Watch. It stresses that industry geoblocking practices shouldn’t prevent cultural minorities living in EU countries from accessing existing content or services in their language that are either free or paid for, and urges the EC to come up with solutions for better cross-border accessibility of services and copyrighted material for consumers. But lawmakers also called for expanded internet service provider and Web platform liability for users’ copyright breaches. “There were some pleasant surprises from our point of view, too,” said Reda’s spokesman. One approved amendment called for stronger exceptions for institutions of public interest such as libraries and museums, while another urged the EC to “consider with care the possibility of making certain exceptions mandatory” – with compensation provided to creators – where the purpose is to protect fundamental rights such as combating discrimination, he said. JURI members also green-lighted an amendment that stressed the importance of making the copyright regime clearer and more transparent for users, particularly with regard to user-generated content and copyright levies. Given the large majority the amended report received, “we expect no substantial additions in plenary,” said the spokesman. “Neutered Report” The JURI vote was a “missed opportunity” to send a clear signal to the EC to make copyright law fit for the digital age, said DigitalEurope Director General John Higgins. Reda’s proposal started out ambitious but “many of her colleagues have been swayed by the rights holders community, who don’t want reform,” he said. The result is a “neutered report” that will just gather dust on a shelf, DigitalEurope said. Private copying levies imposed on devices used for private copying should be ended because of the patchwork of laws across the EU and because levies are an inefficient and non-transparent way to compensate artists, it said. European Digital Rights’ take on the vote was just as scathing. It “shows that there is considerable resistance” to creating a clear, modern copyright framework, said Executive Director Joe McNamee. The report failed to fix key problems, including harmonising all exceptions and limitations, he said. The Free Software Foundation Europe, meanwhile, called the report “largely positive”. The committee generally backed the idea that copyright exceptions should apply online and offline, and was in favour of letting authors dedicate their works directly to the public domain, it said. However, the text is still “lacking in some important respects,” such as by failing to contain an explicit statement that hyperlinks don’t require a copyright licence, FSFE added. “Echoes of Need for Heavier Enforcement” JURI “ended up deviating substantially” from Reda’s draft report, “which had gone a long way to address the EU copyright laws most in need of meaningful modernisation,” said a spokesman for the European Consumer Organisation (BEUC). Progressive points include calls to bar the practice of blocking consumers’ access across borders to online services they’ve subscribed to, and seeking to boost the contractual position of authors and creators so they receive better remuneration, the spokesman said. On the downside, “we are dismayed to hear echoes of the need for heavier enforcement,” the BEUC spokesman said. Copyright enforcement won’t kill off piracy and infringements, but a wide and affordable choice of quality legal offers will, he said. Additionally, the report wants to widen the liabilities of online platforms, a move that “could impinge upon fundamental rights such as privacy and freedom of expression if platforms were to be obliged to monitor hosted content.” [Update: the Computer and Communications Industry Association (CCIA) issued a statement of praise for the removal of an “ancillary copyright” amendment from the legislation that would have made “online services like search engines and news aggregators pay for the display of hyperlinks and short snippets (pieces of text).” The group said the Austria also defeated such an amendment at the national level.] Trade Secrets Vote Also Tuesday, JURI approved a report by French MEP Constance Le Grip, of the European People’s Party, on the protection of trade secrets against theft and misuse. Companies need safeguards against economic and industrial espionage in order to innovate, but journalists carrying out investigations must be shielded against revealing their sources and the public has a right to be informed, the committee said. Under the draft rules as adopted by the committee, victims of trade secret theft will not have a right to redress if the trade secret was acquired, used or disclosed for several reasons: (1) To make legitimate use of the right to freedom or expression and information, including media freedom; (2) To reveal misconduct, wrongdoing, fraud or illegal activity, provided that the respondent acted in the public interest; (3) To protect “a general public interest or any other legitimate interest” recognised under EU or national law, or by judicial practice. MEPs inserted a clause providing that the rules won’t affect the disclosure of business-related information by EU institutions or national public authorities. JURI authorised the launch of informal talks with the Council, the committee said. Despite some minor improvements to the EC’s text, the trade secrets directive “is still bad news for access to information,” said Health Action International Policy Advisor Tessel Mellema. Researchers, reporters and whistle-blowers won’t be properly protected when using information to protect the public from dangerous corporate products or practices, she said. Pharmaceutical companies may use the law to justify withholding the release of clinical trial and other medicine safety and efficacy data, she said. Health Action International cautioned that harmonising the protection of “commercially confidential” information across the EU under the proposed measure would work against the current global shift towards open research model and would slow drug research and development. The EC “wrongly believes” that better trade secret protection is “the magic bullet to keep Europe in the innovation game,” said Mellema. But fully open projects such as the Human Genome Project show the benefits of open research and innovation, she said. Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window) Related Dugie Standeford may be reached at email@example.com."European Parliament Committee Copyright, Trade Secret Votes" by Intellectual Property Watch is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.