Copyright & The Continent: Compromise and Contention
An Interview with Victoriano Colodrón, Senior Director, Global Relations, Copyright Clearance Center
For podcast release Thursday, January 10, 2013
KENNEALLY: As European economies struggle for financial footing at the beginning of 2013, ministers in Brussels, London, Paris, and Berlin see hope in the digital future. According to the European Commission, the digital economy in Europe is expected to grow seven times faster than overall EU GDP. And Vince Cable, the British government’s business secretary has proposed changes to copyright law that he estimates will add at least $800 million – 500 million British pounds – to the UK economy over the next 10 years.
Welcome, everyone, to Copyright Clearance Center’s podcast series. My name is Christopher Kenneally, your host for Beyond the Book. Today we turn our attention to Europe for another edition of Copyright and the Continent with Victoriano Colodrón, Senior Director, Global Relations at Copyright Clearance Center.
Victoriano monitors legal developments at the European Commission and in national legislatures across the European Union for CCC, and he joins us from Madrid, Spain. Hola, Victoriano.
COLODRÓN: Hola, Chris, happy to be here.
KENNEALLY: Well, it’s good to have you join us again, and let’s get right down to it. There’s been a lot going on in a fairly short amount of time in the European theater around copyright and intellectual property. And we should start at the top with the European Commission. In December, they set out so-called parallel tracks of action to ensure that the copyright framework for the EU stays fit for purpose in the digital environment. What are the factors driving the Europeans’ concerns in this regard?
COLODRÓN: Well, the background against which the specific objectives of the Commission are defined is the goal of the digital single market. That is, the aim to achieve a well-functioning single market in the European Union, not just for physical goods and services, but also for digital ones. And the Commission recognizes that this digital single market is not a reality in Europe yet, but that what we have instead is different separate markets for each European country. And so the specific objectives for this announced action plan from the Commission are: one, to modernize copyright and make sure it responds to the challenges posed by the digital revolution; second, to facilitate licensing and access by citizens of creative works. And at the same time to ensure a high level of protection of IP – intellectual property, taking into account also European cultural diversity.
KENNEALLY: Right. Well, you know, Victoriano, for our American listeners, the notion of a single digital economy might take a little bit of explanation. The goal of the European Union throughout its history has been creation of a single market. That’s what’s driven the creation of the euro, for example. What are we talking about when we say a single digital market, and what do we have right now, then?
COLODRÓN: Putting your question in relation to copyright, what we have now is that copyright licensing in some areas and in some specific markets could be seen as a barrier for a digital single market in Europe, where users wouldn’t be allowed to have access to content from providers operating from a different European country – different from the one where they are located, and things like that. So for instance, it’s the case also for the music providers. When they want to offer a pan-European service, they might still have to get the rights and the permissions needed from right-holders in the different countries of the European Union, instead of just having recourse to a single place to collect all those rights. And that is one of the things that the Commission wants to see changed. So they want to see a single market for digital goods, and specifically for creative content.
KENNEALLY: Right, and obviously all this is about creating economic opportunity and competition that feeds innovation and so forth. What are some areas that the EU is looking to address specifically? You mentioned cross-border interaction for rights-holders. Some other areas are also in play here.
COLODRÓN: Exactly. The one you mentioned is one of the key issues, of course, to be addressed – cross-border access and portability of content, and this has to do, of course, with the current territorial limitations of access that I described. But there are other areas like, for instance, user-generated content, and this has to do with the licensing of content to be reused by users on social networks, for instance. And among other things, for instance, text and data mining is another key issue where the Commission will explore solutions such as standard licensing models as well as technology platforms to facilitate text and data mining.
All these topics, together with a few others will be part of one of the track actions that you mentioned that the Commission is going to put in place. And this track consists of what the Commission calls a structured stakeholder dialogue, which will take place in 2013, and that is expected to come to specific, practical solutions to specific copyright-related issues. And the ones I mentioned are only a few ones.
The second course of action from the Commission will involve a complete review of the European Union copyright legislative framework, with a view to a decision in 2014 on whether to table legislative reform proposals. And a key issue in this track will be the potential harmonization of the limitations and exceptions to copyright across the European Union. I think this will be a topic that will certainly trigger lively debates across Europe.
KENNEALLY: Well, indeed, lively debate is putting it mildly. And certainly, it’s a very ambitious undertaking, one that’s going to take some time – it’s possible to say for how long – but in the meantime, people are still struggling with the challenges of this digital environment. And in France and Germany, in particular, newspaper publishers have long opposed the free reuse of content snippets from their titles by Google and other search engines. And they seem to be having some success now in convincing lawmakers to require licensing for snippets. What do the newspaper publishers want exactly, and how likely are they to see success in the near future?
COLODRÓN: Well, basically, what press publishers want is to be remunerated when someone uses the content in business models that heavily rely on this use, as seems to be case of what certain search engines and news aggregators do with newspapers’ content.
So what happened in Germany is that last summer, the German government approved draft legislation to create a new right for press publishers to be remunerated for the reproduction of headlines and the introductory sentences of articles by news aggregators and search engines. These have now to go through parliament and there are lots of discussions and hearings and all the legal process in Germany. And I have seen mixed comments about the likelihood of this legislation being passed.
But also in France, following the steps of Germany, press publishers requested the government to adopt legislation imposing settlements in the long dispute with Google, which would force Google and other search engines to share some of their advertising revenue. And then Google warned that if such legislation were approved, it would exclude French publishers from searches, and the governments then encouraged the parties to start a negotiation process which is still in process. The original deadline for this negotiation was the end of December, but it was extended now until the end of January.
What’s very interesting is that the government – the French government – has announced that if these conversations between the press publishers and Google fail, it will propose legislation to regulate some sort of remuneration for press publishers.
KENNEALLY: Fascinating, and for an American watching from across the Atlantic, a scenario that I don’t think we could imagine taking place here. And Google’s reacted very strongly to all of this. As you say, they threatened to withdraw from their search results French newspaper publishers, and that unsettled some of the French newspaper publishers. But they’ve also referred to these kinds of proposals as a dark day for the Internet.
Give us an idea of how the European audience – publishers, authors, even just the average European – looks at Google. What do they think of when they hear the word Google?
COLODRÓN: Well, I think it would be very bold for me to just answer the question with a single statement. I think there are mixed feelings about Google. Most people recognize the value of many Google services. But at the same time, in the copyright arena, in the community of right-holders, Google is seen as a company that has done things in the past and which does things that are based on other people’s contents, meaning that some of Google’s business models may rely – as I was saying before, may rely a bit too heavily on other people’s contents, and these other people are not seeing any revenue from that business.
So yeah, of course, Google opposed the projects in France and in Germany. It claimed that these projects could create massive damage to the German economy, in the case of the German case, and they also claimed that this kind of legislation could harm freedom of information.
Of course, it’s very interesting here, Chris, that Google, of course, is very aware that anything that is done in one European country between Google and the press publishers can create a precedent that publishers in other countries might seek to emulate.
KENNEALLY: Well, that’s an interesting point, Victoriano. And we are talking with Victoriano Colodrón, Senior Director of Global Relations at Copyright Clearance Center. And indeed Google did come to a kind of meeting of the minds with Belgian newspaper publishers this year. Tell us what’s happened there.
COLODRÓN: That is correct. Only last December, Google settled for apparently $6.5 million with Belgian newspapers, and in this way, they terminated their six-year long copyright dispute that included in the past a court case and Google excluding Belgian papers from Google News. So this recent settlement, Google claims that the settlement does not involve them paying to Belgian right-holders, to Belgian press publishers, for them to be able to link to Belgian content, meaning that this settlement does not involve a copyright fee of any kind.
But some commentators doubt this is the case. Apparently, what happened is that as part of the deal, Google will not only pay accumulated legal fees but will also spend a few million dollars in advertising on the Belgian newspapers. Of course, the background of all these things that are happening around press content in Europe and Google, the background I would say is the sustainability of professional news business and quality journalism.
KENNEALLY: Well, indeed. And even if Google would say that it didn’t involve copyright fees, well, that’s what they would say. But if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it certainly may be some kind of a bird, at least. So thank you for that.
And finally, let’s turn to Great Britain, which is part of the EU, of course, but always lies off to the distance. And just before Christmas, the UK government announced changes to British law that it said would create greater freedom to use copyright works while protecting the interests of authors and rights owners.
What drove the UK government to that point, and what exactly will change?
COLODRÓN: Well, this is one of the results of the copyright review that the British government started more than one year ago, which included an independent report commissioned to Professor Ian Hargreaves back in 2011. I mention his name because this might ring a bell to our audience. So the drive for this effort was declaredly economic. The UK government believed that modernizing copyright would have, or will have, a significantly beneficial effect on growth. So now the British government has announced a number of changes to the copyright framework in the UK that will allegedly make it easier for users to have access while still protecting the interests of authors and right-owners. And bottom line, this will involve extending the scope of existing exceptions and limitations to copyright. That means extending the cases where users will be able to use works without prior permission from the right-holders.
Let me mention only a few of these areas where the British government intends to make some changes. One of the areas will be education, so use of copyrighted works in education. Another area will be research and private study. Also a new exception in the UK for private copying will be considered and introduced. And I would also mention the noncommercial text and data mining, among others.
KENNEALLY: Right, and certainly opening up greater exceptions within copyright doesn’t make everybody happy, but nevertheless in the UK, we are seeing rights-holders of various media coming together to help create what is called the copyright hub. Tell us about what the copyright hub is trying to achieve, and who’s involved?
COLODRÓN: The copyright hub will aim at basically streamlining copyright licensing, meaning to make it easier to access and use content, bottom line. At least this is the British government’s vision, but it is also the vision of the industry groups – the creative industry groups that are involved in its creation. As it has been defined, the copyright hub will be a place where, in the first instance, anyone will be able to go and find out more about copyright and copyright licensing, so that’s its first objective – copyright education. It will be also the place where right-holders and creators will be able to go to register the rights to copyright works and also to register the permissions they have granted and the licenses they have issued. And finally it will be a place where rights-users – and this is, of course, very interesting – where rights-users and potential rights-users will be able to go to obtain licenses to use copyright materials legally. So it is a very ambitious effort that it is a fully industry-led and fully industry-funded initiative. But very interestingly, only a few weeks ago, the British government announced that it will support the copyright hub by acting as a guarantor.
KENNEALLY: And so again, the example of the UK is one where governments and private parties are coming together at least to drive this forward. In some of the European scenarios you spoke about, there’s still a great deal of opposition. So we are seeing movement in some places and we certainly expect to see a continuing copyright challenge for many countries around Europe, and we appreciate your giving us this summary of the latest news from Europe. Victoriano Colodrón is Senior Director, Global Relations at Copyright Clearance Center, and we turn to him on occasion for a look at Copyright and the Continent. Thank you so much for joining us, Victoriano.
COLODRÓN: Thank you for having me, Chris.
KENNEALLY: Well, it’s a pleasure, and we look forward to having you return. Beyond the Book is produced by Copyright Clearance Center, a global rights broker for the world’s most sought-after materials including millions of books and e-books, journals, newspapers, magazines, and blogs as well as now images, movies and television shows. You can follow Beyond the Book on Twitter, like us on Facebook, and subscribe to the free podcast series on iTunes or at our Website, copyright.com. Just click on Beyond the Book.
Our engineer is Jeremy Brieske of Burst Marketing. My name is Christopher Kenneally. For all of us at Copyright Clearance Center, thanks for listening to Beyond the Book.