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Copyright law must be relaxed, says new group

'Exceptions are key to legitimate reuses'

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Librarians, digital activists, ISPs, music managers and other associations and trade bodies have called for the relaxing of copyright law in the EU to allow more people to access and re-use copyrighted material.

The bodies have joined together to launch a series of demands in a declaration they have called Copyright For Creativity.

The declaration calls for a harmonising of copyright exceptions across the EU, a relaxing of copyright law to allow more re-use of material, greater exceptions to the law for research and archiving and improved accessibility to copyrighted material via new technologies for those with disabilities.

“The establishment of harmonised, consumer-friendly copyright limitations and exceptions is needed with a view to create more certainty for consumers and remove unrealistic constraints on the use of creative content by consumers," said a statement from European consumers' organisation BEUC.

"Despite the increasing importance of copyright for the everyday life of consumers, the notion of users’ rights is absent from the current copyright framework," it said. "A limited number of permitted uses are only allowed as exceptions and limitations to right owners’ exclusive rights. EU action is needed to ensure that users’ rights are fully recognised and integrated within the copyright legal framework.”

Other signatories to the declaration include digital rights bodies the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Open Rights Group, library bodies the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) and Special Libraries Association (SLA) the International Music Managers' Forum and ISP trade body EuroISPA.

The group's demands focus on ensuring that copyright law does not hinder individuals' access to copyrighted materials and their ability to make new material out of that content.

Copyright laws contain exceptions for activities that copyright owners cannot stop. The declaration says that in order to be useful these exceptions must be expanded and must be made to match up across all the EU countries' legal systems.

"While exclusive rights have been adapted and harmonised to meet the challenges of the knowledge economy, copyright’s exceptions are radically out of line with the needs of the modern information society," it said. "The lack of harmonisation of exceptions hinders the circulation of knowledge based goods and services across Europe. The lack of flexibility within the current European exceptions regime also prevents us from adapting to a constantly changing technological environment."

The document calls for exceptions to be made uniform across Europe to make cross border trading and ensure all EU citizens are treated equally.

It said that the actions it proposes would help to continue the development of the fundamentally altered relationship between people and cultural material that the internet has made possible.

"The Internet has facilitated an unprecedented shift for citizens, from being passive consumers of 'broadcast' culture to active creators and participants," it said. "Individual users are increasingly involved in content and knowledge creation. The European copyright framework needs to reflect this new interactivity which encourages creativity, cultural diversity and self-expression."

The group believes that clarifying and expanding exceptions to copyright is vital for social, as well as economic, reasons.

"Exceptions are key to enabling legitimate reuses and innovation, and the activity of a number of socially and economically important stakeholders depends on them," it said in a statement. "While the public debate and political agenda around copyright focuses heavily on measures to protect ownership of creative works, the Copyright for Creativity declaration sets out a positive agenda by identifying a set of objectives that need to be achieved if copyright is to fully drive digital competitiveness, creativity and innovation."

Copyright © 2010, OUT-LAW.com

OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.

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