Licences for Europe: an insider's report from the final plenary meeting

As was announced yesterday on the IPKat and reported today by The 1709 Blog, this afternoon the final plenary meeting of the Licences for Europe initiative took place.

As this Kat could not attend in person, she asked a Katfriend in disguise to observe with his feline eyes what happened during the meeting and report back. 

Writing under the pseudonym of Black Tomcat, he summed up this high-profile - and certainly much awaited - event calling it a "failure ... feeding into future review". 

Here's what 'Black Tomcat' writes: 

"With today’s plenary meeting on ‘Licences for Europe’ the stakeholder dialogue initiated almost a year ago came to an end. While it was not clear throughout the whole process what the outcome should eventually be, we now know that ten ‘pledges’ is the outcome that, because of controversy, could not be termed ‘agreement’, ‘understanding’ or even ‘result’.

Even before the official start of the plenary meeting the Commission boasted in its press release that "industry pledges solutions to make more content available in the Digital Single Market" [but - honestly - who could possibly declare (at least publicly) to want less content available?]. The vast majority of these pledges are nothing more but a nice sounding wish-list of things like "easier licensing for music", "further development of cross-border portability of subscription services" or "more active reader involvement in the online press". And what is important to highlight: it is quite right that ‘industry’ is making these pledges because they are exclusively made by rightsholder groups or by what one could term the wider copyright industry. In that sense, the stakeholder dialogue that was, at a minimum, set up for an exchange of views among all participants representing diverse communities and interests has clearly not delivered.
The 10 'pledges'

There are reasons for this, pointed out at a very early stage by various participants who subsequently decided to leave the dialogue [see the case of text and data mining working group here]. If one wants to have a really serious debate about copyright reform, it is surely not helpful to set up a dialogue that artificially limits the debate to licensing solutions only. Licenses surely have their place in the copyright world but they are not isolated from important debates on limitations and exceptions or from legal questions on copyright applicability in the first place [this is a point that also this Kat raised recently, yet in the different context of whether linking falls within the scope of copyright protection altogether: see here]. These are points that the Commission knows full well and in that sense the licensing for Europe exercise represents a missed opportunity to debate our copyright regime from a macro perspective in acknowledgement of the fact that in a networked world legal regimes will increasingly stand in competition to each other. One gets the impression that, while Europe is stuck in debates on micro-licensing, other parts of the world have implemented or are contemplating to implement regimes that foster innovation, research and economic growth.

Hopefully not the (bigger) picture
the Commission has in mind
to reform EU copyright
Fortunately, there are people who see the bigger picture. Commission Vice-President Kroes made clear that she does not think the achievements of the stakeholder dialogue are enough. Licenses for Europe was a wrong process to tackle these pressing issues and Europe needs to make copyright an enabler of innovation and creativity. For that end she recommends a legislative solution - ie a review of the InfoSoc Directive [but wasn't this precisely the original plan, as spelled out in the 2011 IPR blueprint, on which see here?]. And indeed we will have yet another public consultation on copyright to be opened at the end of this month. Commissioner Barnier announced that a final decision on a review process will be taken in spring next year. That will be at the very end of this term’s Commission leaving all the heavy lifting for the next Commission - should it decide to continue the review process [while a review of copyright is much needed, it is not said that it will be a top priority since the very beginning of the new Commission's term]. Needless to say, today’s results - or rather pledges - will feed into any future review process …” 

Thanks so much 'Black Tomcat' for this report which is quite ... telling. So, what does the future of EU copyright hold (besides nice common sense-grounded pledges everybody agrees upon)? Basically that - while waiting for a long time for any real reform of EU copyright at the legislative level - we will keep enjoying the company of the ever active Court of Justice of the European Union and its (ever growing) number of intriguing copyright judgments.
Licences for Europe: an insider's report from the final plenary meeting Licences for Europe: an insider's report from the final plenary meeting Reviewed by Eleonora Rosati on Wednesday, November 13, 2013 Rating: 5


  1. Pledge Number 10 is highly problematic.

  2. It used to be that the strategy of the Commission was to announced MoUs where it wanted to defer / avoid further debate. We have reached a new low: not even MoUs, but instead single sided statements elevated to the level of 'pledges'.
    By the way, who will ever monitor those I wonder?

  3. A bowl of juicy chicken chunks for the Black Tomcat for having the patience to write this up without chewing off its tail in frustration. Proposals, initiatives, press releases, working us


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