Future of copyright: La Quadrature calls on the Commission to reassert the public’s rights

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La Quadrature du Net has submitted its response to the European Commission’s consultation regarding “Online Creative Content”. La Quadrature calls on the Commission to reconsider the EU’s coercive and repressive copyright policies, while encouraging it to match words to deeds by fostering the rights of the public in the digital creative ecosystem.

Download “Creative Content in the Digital Age: Reasserting the Rights of the Public” in PDF.

Executive Summary

Cultural rights. The 1948 Universal declaration of human rights, article 27 :
(1) Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits.
(2) Everyone has the right to the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production of which he is the author.

The Internet and other information and communications technology bring about a fundamental change in the political economy of communications and, through the development of new modes of production and distribution of cultural works, represent an opportunity for a more inclusive and democratic cultural sphere. Given these structural changes, the overall objective of cultural policy in the digital age should go back to the founding principles of copyright: increasing access to creative content such as music, books, and movies while rewarding artists and ensuring investment in a wide variety of works.

The result of more than three decades of expansion of informational property rights, today’s copyright regime is by far too rigid and is in practice profoundly at odds with the digital environment. If our societies are to fully benefit from the Internet, lawmakers need to move away from brutal enforcement of outdated and restrictive “intellectual property” regimes and demonstrate pragmatism. In particular, one fundamental fact needs to be acknowledged by policy-makers and cultural businesses alike: digital technologies allow for the perfect replication of cultural goods at virtually no cost. Regulations that run counter to this reality – for example by trying to alter the architecture of the Internet in order to deter copyright infringements, or by imposing technical measures that artificially recreate the scarcity that existed in the “old” cultural economy – defy common sense and hold back socio-economic progress while being often unrealistic from a technical point of view.

Accordingly, the European Digital agenda should reject such endeavors and seek to reorganize the Internet-based creative economy around the emancipatory practices enabled by new technologies, such as the sharing and re-use of creative works. These practices promise a participatory culture where people can not only access, share and comment the works of others, but also use new tools to express their own. If the European Union adapts copyright law in accordance with new technologies, a vibrant and innovative commercial cultural economy can develop along with other financing schemes to support this new creative ecosystem and provide appropriate monetary rewards for creators. Some cultural industries will undoubtedly complain about this evolution, in which they will loose the control they exerted on distribution channels and see their rents eroded. However, society as a whole will benefit from a new-found balance between the rights of the public and the interests of authors and producers. Otherwise, copyright will face a disastrous legitimacy crisis.

  • The fist part of this document discusses some fundamental elements of EU copyright policy that are not addressed by the Commission’s consultation paper. We take the view that to achieve the goal of a “modern, pro-competitive, and consumer-friendly” digital single market for creative content, the coercive and repressive components of European copyright policy need to be revised.
  • In the second part, we turn to some of the possible actions outlined in the Commission’s document. We make the case for a unified EU legal framework for the Internet-based creative economy that would foster the rights of the public in the digital environment, while pointing out to regulations and funding mechanisms that would sustain the renewed creative economy.

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