Today, December 9 2015, the European Commission (EUC) announced their action plan for copyright reform within the Digital Single Market strategy. Responses are coming from many sides, including the League of European Research Universities (LERU) and Copyright for Creativity. I outline my primary thoughts on the action plan below.
I need copyright reforms to legally carry on my research and therefore I am glad to see the European Commission commit to this publicly. The results of their commitment are going to show themselves in the next six months. During these six months the legislative proposals will be developed to enact the intentions of the EUC. I think we have to be on the look-out such that the copyright reforms will be proper.
First, the legislative proposals considered in the next six months have to come from all stakeholders. The EUC text now states that they will be considering legislative proposals in the next six months, taking into account the impact on the publishing market. This takes a lopsided perspective on the problem: the impact of not making copyright reforms on the research enterprise should also be considered.
It is also important for these impact assessments to be evidence based. The importance of evidence-based impact assessment is crucial because arguments are being put forth that have no proper foundation. For example, the argument Elsevier put forth for not allowing me to mine their articles was server load, which I have proven they should be able to handle easily considering it was less load than a YouTube video and has been backed by a strong technical analysis by Cameron Neylon on the PLOS blog.
Second, we need to look out for renewed legal uncertainty by restricting who gets to mine content. The EUC text states that reforms are to provide legal certainty, but limits content mining reform to “public interest research organisations”. This would disqualify citizen scientists, freelance researchers, etc. from using content mining methods and actually increases legal uncertainty by restricting TDM to the vague nomer of “public interest research organisation”. Additionally, the EUC text limits TDM activities to non-commercial research purposes, which creates uncertainty about re-use rights of the research output, which also increases legal uncertainty. The EUC proposal aims to reduce legal uncertainty but also poses the risk of increasing it if reforms are not proper.
Third, but not least, the EUC has mentioned earlier that they might reconsider the “database directive”, which causes problems for TDM of non-copyrighted materials (not included in a database). They have not mentioned whether this is still on the table or not, which is something to look out for.
All in all, the proposed copyright reform plan by the European Commission is a good first step down a long path. We have to be vigilant and ensure that copyright reform will not go astray.