European Digital Single Market: Balancing Copyright Still Not on the Cards

On 20 April 2015, published two working documents on the digital single market. These leaked documents are revealing about the Commission's upcoming strategy regarding all digital matters. Revising the IPRED directive, DRM as well as interoperability are among the issues tackled. April regrets that once again, the proposals are highly insufficient to reform copyright, unlike the Reda report currently discussed in the European Parliament.

Beyond the European single market, the document is especially interesting as it presents the main goals of the European Commission on all digital matters. Questions about VAT and e-commerce issues are addressed, but a reform of the IPRED directive is also mentionned (pages 30 – 34), with fight against cybercrime slant, but with no mention of the protection of citizens' rights1.

Similarly, there are several mentions about the evolution of copyright. The Commission wishes to fight against geoblocking (page 39 and following), which prevents Internet users to access a given resource according to their geographical location. The document also discusses copyright exceptions and mentions the possibility of unifying the exceptions to clarify the market. However, the Commission doesn't seem to show any desire to allow these exceptions to evolve, allowing for a new balance in copyright. The Commission seems to only want to concentrate on making it possible to develop data mining for education and research.

Regarding standardisation and interoperability, one can regret a vague and incomplete definition of interoperabilty, to say the least: "interoperability means ensuring interconnection between digital components like devices, networks or data repositories, in a mutually understood language" (page 54). It may be useful to remind ourselves that interoperablity is not mere compatibility. It is not simply about making it possible for two systems to communicate, but also to read and modify information and content in a reliable way, guaranteeing any current of future systems may also connect. April therefore regrets a unsatisfactory definition which aims to present as interoperable systems which are not.

Lastly, we should mention the possibility to make the "the possibility of making the [European Interoperability Framework], transposed in national frameworks, of mandatory application could be envisaged" (page 54), while no clear guarantees regarding open standards are given. The second version of the European interoperablity Framework adopted in 2009, had already been disputed following the removal of a clear definition of open standards2.

Yet, the single market falls under Commissioner Ansip's responsibility, who had shown his support for Free Software during his hearing before the European Parliament. The Commission's final draft should be published on 6 May 2015. April won't hesitate to express its concerns regarding this working draft to the Commission and intends to suggest improvements so that these proposals may help to finally bring new balance to copyright.