‘Copyright Wars: Frozen Conflict?’ – ‘Progress is possible’

On 2nd & 3rd September 2015, the 10th Annual European Policy for Intellectual Property Conference (EPIP) took place at Glasgow University, Scotland. This was the first time that the Conference has been held in the UK.

CREATe, the RCUK Centre for Copyright and New Business Models in the Creative Economy, will host the 10th annual conference of the EPIP Association (European Policy for Intellectual Property) in Glasgow, September 2-3, 2015. Scholars and practitioners interested in the economic, legal, political and managerial aspects of intellectual property rights are encouraged to attend the conference with or without scientific paper presentation.

After opening remarks, day one commenced with a Keynote talk by Professor Ian Hargreaves CBE followed by a Response from MEP Julia Reda, Greens/EFA, Pirate Party.


Transcripts for both talks can be found here.


Photo credit Lukas Powroziewicz

Whilst Hargreaves did not make any specific mention of content mining in his talk, Reda did. Quoting in verbatim from Reda’s report about her talk:-

If we consider evidence-based policy making a desirable goal, then we need to take a stand for research and education.

“Currently, copyright is undermining our ability to conduct research”
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The current copyright regime is undermining our ability to produce evidence. It is time that academics in large numbers – and not just in the field of IP studies – speak up about this issue. Decreasing the very substantial burdens and transaction costs for research and education is one of the declared goals of the Commission’s copyright reform proposal, and the European Parliament has echoed that sentiment in my report.

My copyright report, adopted by an overwhelming majority in the European Parliament, lists goals like:

  • a new exception for content mining
  • the harmonisation of exceptions for research and education
  • simplifying cross-border and online projects
  • new exceptions for libraries and archives
  • legal protection of the public domain
  • protection of exceptions and limitations from contractual override
  • fully harmonising copyright terms at the lowest levels that currently exist in the EU
  • a comprehensive set of users’ rights

These reforms are within reach. But the proposals are heavily attacked by scientific publishers. In a situation where scientific publishers are among the most profitable businesses in the world, and universities are not just spending significant proportions of their budgets on licences, but also on navigating and negotiating terms of an overly complex copyright system, resources are unnecessarily diverted from creating sound evidence.

It is up to us to ensure that these reforms that can greatly improve the copyright framework for research and education do not lose momentum because their advocates are not audible in Brussels.

The controversy about a text and data mining exception is essentially about the expansion of copyright law to the privatisation of facts, a trend that is a danger to public research in general.

“Academics need to lobby for copyright reform on their own behalf.”
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Academics need to lobby on their own behalf. There is great justification for the neutrality applied to the academic work itself, but it is also necessary to convey to politicians when you need copyright reform in order to be able to continue to do your jobs and to make the best use of taxpayer money.

I hear Ian Hargreaves’ point about the necessity for small, incremental change, and I do believe that as tedious as that task may sound, it is what will eventually lead to success. I did have to face some criticism from within my own party that my review of the InfoSoc directive focused too much on the achievable, on the low-hanging fruit. There was some disappointment that it did not include a call to, and I quote, “burn the Berne convention”. But while accepting that politics is the art of the possible, we should not miss the opportunity to communicate the urgency of copyright reform in the most public and in the clearest terms.

If I, as a Pirate, take that position, nobody will be particularly surprised.
If the academic world, based on scrutiny of the evidence, in a concerted effort, communicates to policy-makers that fundamental reform is needed, I’m sure that the message will be heard.

The Hague Declaration is an example of academics taking an active role in the copyright to enable access to facts, data and ideas for knowledge discovery in the Digital Age.

Some key points via Twitter.



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Scotland's (main, but not only) #OpenScience #OpenAccess #OpenData #OpenSource #OpenKnowledge & #PatientAdvocate Loves blogging http://figshare.com/blog Glasgow, Scotland.

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