In a speech by Neelie Kroes in Avignon the Commissioner for Information Society policy suggests that copyright is badly adapted to the digital environment, that convergence of media will bring much new creativity to the world and that audiences and artists are increasingly annoyed with intermediaries. She says (my emphasis)
Will th[e] 12 million-strong [Europeana] collection of books, pictures, maps, music pieces and videos stall because copyright gets in the way? I hope not. But when it comes to 20th century materials, even to digitise and publish orphan works and out-of-distribution works, we have a large problem indeed. Europeana could be condemned to be a niche player rather than a world leader if it cannot be granted licenses and share the full catalogue of written and audio-visual material held in our cultural institutions. And it will be frustrated in that ambition if it cannot team up with commercial partners on terms that are consistent with public policy and with the interests of right-holders. And all sorts of other possible initiatives, public and private, will also be frustrated.
There is no particular novelty in wanting further European harmonisation of copyright law and enforcement. The Commission has been discussing the problem of orphan works and out-of-print works for many years. Kennisland’s Paul Keller is right in that Kroes appears extra revolutionary now, but I still see little concrete progress from the Reding-era reports on, say, the Europeana project. In July 2008, Reding warned that ”If we do not reform our European copyright rules on orphan works and libraries swiftly, digitization and the development of attractive content offers will not take place in Europe[.]” The 2008 Model Agreements don’t seem to be going anywhere though, and I know that many libraries are digitising their vast archives of newspapers (look at this newspaper from Luxemburg 1860 headed by a list of train departures for historic news reporting context) without a proper legal basis. One representative of a national library tells me they have 20 years worth of digitised articles from French and German 20th century newspapers and subsequently are at a constant risk of massively multiplayer lawsuits.
Now, Kroes talks about ”respect for rightsholders” and ”remuneration for artists” at the same time. But if she seriously means that intermediaries have been given too large a role in the shaping of copyright, and still means to encourage remuneration of artists by means of government intervention, she must be aiming for an extended collective license with an added exception in the copyright law, alike the Swedish library renumeration or public lending right (expection in URL 42 a§ and 42d§ I think but would actually be grateful if someone explained this further to me). Not entirely dissimilar to the flatrate discussions we held at FCForum 2010 one and a half weeks ago, the Kroes vision entails a) policy intervention to secure funding for creativity and b) a renumeration that bypasses the rights owners and goes straight to the sources of culture – artists and what have you. What surprises me is that neither FCForum nor Neelie Kroes appear to want to shake the idea that a non-rights-based solution must be related to the rights it’s not based on. This makes absolutely no sense.
In a comment to the second last post, Mikael von Knorring promoted the Leftist Party proposal for a digitalt bibliotek, and extension of the current Swedish solution for public libraries to an online environment. Since the solution is basically advocated by a political party intent on plan economy, presumably it makes no difference to the Leftist party the problems with hindering market development and business model innovation I addressed above. However, one feature of the Swedish library system that, in my opinion, would bring higher credibility to, say, the Brazilian levy proposal, is that no author gets compensated more than up to the amount that constitutes an average annual wage. If a levy system is meant to help people work full time with their creative efforts, renumerating the artists or authors directly, and up to an amount of money that is considered financially comfortable with respect to the majority of the population, makes more sense than setting up a system that chunks money into rights owning organisations such as the existing media conglomerates.
Note that one of the links on Europeana cited above says: asking member states to pay more [to Europeana] beyond the startup costs is problematic and undependable, further confirming my suspicion that the public institutions that disingenuously sacrifice, say, the telecom market neutrality and civil liberties and rights in fact don’t want to pay for copies of culture either. See also Internautas reports on levy reimbursements. When will the discussion shift to non-rights based solutions? Why hasn’t it already? I am frustrated.