Copyright for the Real World

At the 2012 Intellectual Property and Innovation Summit in Brussels on Monday, Neelie Kroes, the European Commissioner for the Digital Agenda declared that the existing copyright protection model is outdated and stifles innovation across the European Union, saying that “it makes it harder for individuals to create content and it’s not the best way to boost creativity and innovation.” The E.U.’s Copyright Directive, adopted in 2001, is based on recommendations dating back to 1998, which therefore far precede some huge recent milestones and internet innovations. Kroes stated that in 1998 “creation and distribution were in the hands of the few. Now they are in the hands of everyone: democratising innovation, empowering people to generate and exchange ideas, supporting and stimulating huge creativity.” She concluded that copyright legislation had to therefore be updated to meet the needs of the “real world”.

However, Kroes noted that it is not just the music and creative industries that have seen significant changes occur as a result of technology advancing. The research sector was pinpointed as an example where a change in copyright legislation would markedly help. “Today, new scientific discoveries don’t just come from new experiments, new drugs, new clinical trials: in fact, now, we can get new results by manipulating existing data. Data and text-mining techniques now lie behind a huge field of research, like human genome projects, potentially life-saving. They could hold the key to the next medical breakthrough, if only we freed them from their current legal tangle. Research activities are not clearly exempted from the copyright rule”.

Undoubtedly current copyright legislation is not perfect though it does provide a framework which can be used to kick start discussions on how to proceed in order to protect the livelihoods of content creators, owners and entrepreneurs. By helping to better protect the work of our creative industries so they can make money from their talent and creativity it will be possible to avoid disincentivising talent, which will surely happen if the current trend continues. The issues surrounding copyright need to be addressed but in a manner that prepares it for the swiftly evolving real world.


The ICOMP Secretariat