A rare opportunity to change the path of copyright in Europe has emerged, but there's not much time to take advantage of it. The European Commission (EC) has opened up for public comment copyright policy across the European Union for the first time in 15 years. This means that, for once, students, artists, librarians, businesses, Internet users, and everyone in between will have an equal chance to influence future proposals for copyright legislation in Europe.
The Commission's 80-question “Public Consultation on the Review of the EU Copyright Rules,” attempts to cover all areas of users' and creators' experiences. The survey was not widely publicized, and the Commission only gave 60 days (including the winter holidays!) for your comments. The final deadline is Feb. 5th (UPDATE: the deadline has been extended to Mar. 5).
Spending a few hours trying to comprehend the footnotes of a thirty-page bureaucratic questionnaire isn't everybody's idea of a fun New Year. Fortunately, to make informing the EU easier, a workshop at this year's Chaos Communication Congress created this simple, three minute guided walk-though for the rest of us. Copywrongs.eu allows you to choose one of the many categories of problems you have encountered with copyright in Europe, and sends you to another page to fill in your own unique comments, which will be re-formatted to fit the original forms. We encourage you to return to the main page and check off different kinds of concerns you have and fill those out too.
This isn't just an ordinary Internet survey. We know that these consultations are used as source material in internal policy arguments for and against copyright reform. The more comments the Commission receive about the problems with over-restrictive copyright rules, the harder it will be for them to ignore it as an issue.
While this process is a welcome improvement from having no opportunity for public input, La Quadrature du Net notes that the process is still far from perfect. In addition to the extremely short response period, many of the 80 questions are framed in a way that still seem to lead the reader toward proposals that could seriously harm the underlying function of the Internet. For example it asks, “Should the provision of a hyperlink leading to a work or other subject matter protected under copyright […] be subject to the authorisation of the rightholder?” The answer should be a resounding “no.” Such a provision could cause a huge chilling effect for Internet users by threatening website owners, bloggers, and anyone who shares links, with copyright infringement. This could make everyone fearful of where they click and what they share online. The inclusion of such questions reveal an underlying assumption that users' rights are an acceptable trade-off for the purposes of “protecting” copyright.
It's time to tell EU lawmakers such trade-offs come with huge costs. Help us spread the word about this tool and submit your own comments.
Note that you can fill it out even if you do not live in Europe. Just as United States laws can influence legislators in the rest of the world, so can European legislation have an impact on all Internet users: Both through our interactions with users and companies in the region and in how they can set new policy precedents.
For too long, copyright policy has been designed towards a single-minded interest toward protecting an imaginary, distinct class of “creators.” Such toxic policies have spread contagiously between nations and international policy venues. We need to fight to make good, well-balanced innovation policy just as catching, too—policies that consider the broad ecosystem of technology, creativity, and knowledge and content sharing, and recognizes all users as creators and all creators as users. With your help, Europe can seize the opportunity to do it right, and lead the way by listening to everyone affected by digital copyright.
The easiest way to submit your comments is at www.copywrongs.eu.
The long form version to answer all the questions can be found here.
The European Commission's main consultation site is here.
Copyright Consultation — Model Responses: Why This Consultation Matters, from Amelia Andersdotter, MEP.