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2 minutes to read Posted on Thursday June 15, 2017

Updated on Monday November 6, 2023

portrait of Julia Fallon

Julia Fallon

Community and Partner Engagement Manager , Europeana Foundation

Copyright reform: the IMCO committee accepts changes advocated by Europeana

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Le Plébiscite. - Le vote de l'Armée. - Un bureau électoral à l'École militaire, Cosson Smeeton
National Library of France

Last week marked a very positive milestone for cultural heritage institutions digitizing their collections. As we recently reported, four Committees of the European Parliament are now dealing with their response to Commission's copyright reform, which includes addressing the improvements that the Europeana Network has been advocating for. On 7 June, the first of these committees voted on these suggested changes. This vote in the Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee (IMCO) was eagerly anticipated: it provides a first indication that our efforts, and those undertaken by our partners from library associations and cultural heritage institutions, are starting to pay off.

A broad exception for internal reproductions

The scope of the mandatory preservation exception proposed in Article 5 of the Commission's proposal has been significantly broadened by amendments voted by the members of the IMCO committee: where the original proposal introduced an exception to the reproduction right that would allow cultural heritage institutions to make copies of works in their collections ’for the sole purpose of preservation’, the IMCO opinion proposes that cultural heritage institutions should be allowed

… to make copies of any works or other subject-matter that are permanently in their collections, in any format or medium, to the extent necessary for such reproduction, for the purpose of, individually or collaboratively with others, carrying out their public interest mission in preservation, research, culture, education and teaching.

Allowing all internal reproductions that are in line with the institution’s public interest mission makes the exception much more useful and future-proof. In addition, it now allows digitization not only by individual institutions themselves, but also in the context of partnerships.

A more comprehensive solution for access to out-of-commerce works

Also in line with what we have argued for in the past, the Commission's proposal for access has been significantly improved by the opinion of the IMCO committee. Through a broad compromise supported by all major political groups, the Committee voted for the addition of a fall back exception that will kick in when the licensing mechanism proposed by the Commission does not provide a workable solution. This modification of the Commission's proposal is in line with what we have argued for in the past and will ensure that the directive will provide a solution that can work for all types of collections and in all EU countries.

The IMCO opinion also contains a number of smaller improvements to the language of the licensing mechanism initially proposed by the Commission that are aimed at making these licenses easier to use. Taken together, these changes proposed by IMCO would fix the most important flaws in the Commission's proposal.

Protection for the Public Domain

Finally, the IMCO committee voted for the addition of a provision that requires EU countries to...

recognize that once a work is in the public domain [...], faithful reproductions in full or in part of that work [...] including digitisation, shall equally not be subject to copyright or related rights.

This addition to the directive represents a welcome intervention to end the practice of claiming copyright over digitization of public domain artworks that is currently enabled by the copyright laws of a number of EU member states.

The way forward

Together with the forthcoming opinions of the CULT, ITRE and LIBE committees* of the European Parliament, the opinion now adopted by the IMCO committee will feed its way into the deliberations of the leading JURI committee. They will vote on the final position of the European Parliament after the summer. As such it represents a small but important step in the legislative process.

From the perspective of Europeana and Europe's cultural heritage institutions, it is encouraging to see that the issues we had raised with the Commission's proposal have not only been taken up by members of Parliament, but that we have managed to mobilize support across all political groups for the positions that we had brought forward. It is now up to all of us to build on these initial successes and make sure that the European Parliament as a whole will back a set of copyright rules that allows Europe's cultural heritage institutions to take their place in the digital environment.

Note: On behalf of the Europeana Network Association, the Europeana Foundation represents the view of cultural heritage institutions in the debates around the EU copyright reform. Read the full consensus driven mandate. The mandate was approved with a clear majority of the Europeana Network Association Members Council, with a small number of organizations recording their dissent (which are clearly recorded in the mandate).

* CULT: Culture and Education; LIBE: Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs; ITRE: Industry, Research and Energy