Monday, 20 June 2011

Policy Forum: IPR in the age of the Internet

Last Thursday, 16 June 2011, the Institute for European Studies organized a Policy Forum on “IPR in the Age of the Internet”.  Trisha Meyer (Doctoral Researcher at the Institute for European Studies, Vrije Universiteit Brussel) has kindly prepared a little note on the Forum for the 1709 Blog, and here it is:
"IPR in the age of the Internet

Intellectual property rights (IPR) play a crucial role in our knowledge-based economy and have received a high level of protection and attention in the European Union. Around 30 individuals participated in this event, which brought together two speakers -- an EU policy officer and an academic -- to discuss the European Commission's recently launched IPR strategy.

This strategy, published on 24 May 2011, seeks to address key opportunities and challenges for IPR in the Digital Single Market: it also sets out an ambitious collection of activities that are underway, or planned, to deal with copyright, IPR enforcement, and interaction with parties outside of the EU. The Commission's IPR strategy needs to be placed clearly in the context of several key EU broad policy areas: the Europe 2020 strategy and the Digital Agenda being the principal two.

In this Policy Forum, first Ms Elaine Miller, policy officer in DG Internal Market & Services, shared the European Commission's view on the future of copyright in the EU. She started her speech by pointing to the difficult position from which the European Commission starts: the general public perception of copyright is negative, copyright is still territorial and the Internet is ubiquitous. The aim of the IPR strategy is to set out a coherent approach to intellectual property rights at a European level, harnessing and reforming the legislation already in place. Ms Miller then expanded on some key actions which the European Commission will take over the next years in the area of copyright: a legislative proposal on orphan works; a proposal for a legal framework to increase transparency and governance in collective rights management and to facilitate multi-territory/pan-European licensing of music; a green paper on online distribution of audiovisual content; the appointment of a mediator to explore ways to harmonize the administration of private copying levies; and the possible review of the 2001 copyright in the information society directive, with the option of moving towards further harmonization of copyright through the creation of an EU copyright code.

Next, Prof Tuomas Mylly from the University of Turku, an expert in IPR and competition law, provided comments on the IPR strategy from an academic perspective. He argued that a long-term perspective needs to be applied to any new strategy: IPR today regulate core communication processes and interactions between individuals on the Internet. Prof Mylly emphasized that constitutional values, such as the right to communication, are at stake in the IPR strategy and critiqued the lack of harmonization of exceptions and limitations to copyright at the level of the EU. Further, he questioned the defense of strong IPR by the European Commission, based on rigorous application of competition law. He advocated a utilitarian approach to IPR, similar to the UK tradition, which considers IPR as a temporary monopoly and necessary evil. He explained what a more economic, as opposed to the Commission's proprietarian approach to IPR could look like. He also discussed some concrete actions mentioned in the IPR strategy and was particularly positive about the Commission’s openness towards the development of a unitary European copyright title.

Both the presentation and the commentary, and the fruitful debate that took place after the speeches, raised many more topics for investigation, including a discussion on the interests involved in policymaking, and the final ambitions of EU-level copyright legislation. All parties agreed, however, that only open debate and deliberation will lead to a balanced IPR strategy fit for the age of the Internet.

This Policy Forum took place at the same time as the European Commission's first Digital Agenda Assembly. It was thus an extremely opportune moment to discuss these issues, as reform of copyright is a key action (planned actions 1 through 6) in the Digital Agenda. Indeed copyright needs to be adapted to the digital era in a way that gives authors a fair remuneration for their works and also allows users to make full use of the Internet for creation, distribution and consumption. The interventions from various participants during the Policy Forum showed that this is a controversial and complex debate. Given the constraints already in place at the various levels of governance both inside and outside of the EU, there is a long way to go in order to achieve a fair and just framework for intellectual property rights at the EU level".
Thanks, Trisha, for your efforts!

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