The Database Directive is suddenly “up for grabs”, European news media publishers split over internal differences and France might soon live to see a Freedom of Panorama exception.

This and past reports:


Digital Single Market Report: After the Commission announced that it will announce (repetition intended) a digital reform package [1] mid-2016, the European Parliament adopted a report on its own strategy this month. [2] The highlights are a wish for open access for publicly funded research (102.), a general preference for open government data by default (105.), a recommendation to abolish the so-called “Database Directive” (108.) and a call to promote CC Licenses in education and public procurement (119.).[3]


Database Directive: This “gem” of European legislation grants additional protection to databases, similar to but on top of copyright. The main pain points are that exceptions aren’t harmonised, the threshold needed for protection is not clearly defined and it potentially allows an eternal protection period. After a EP majority asked for the file to be reviewed and the European Commission itself has produced a very critical evaluation [4], we’re now looking into viable policy options that would benefit Free Knowledge projects.  


Consultations on liability: The deadline for a DG Connect consultation on platforms liability and pretty much everything else was beginning of January. The important message to get out was that collaborative online projects would have a really hard time existing if they were held directly liable for all the content added by users.[5] The EU policy group entered an almost full set of answers. This was complemented by a letter from WMF legal. [6] Meanwhile, DG Competition started its own consultation on IPR enforcement, mirroring many of the questions already asked in the first one. [7] The deadline is 14 April and a similar participation strategy is foreseen.


New Commissioner on the block: Launching overlapping consultations is not only an effective way to demonstrate lack of coordination, but also tells us that a new DG is working on the dossier. The Digital Single Market initiative so far has been handled by Vice-President Ansip and Commissioner Oettinger, who seem to have reached an impasse. Adding DG Competition’s Commissioner Věra Jourová to the team [8] creates a new group dynamic. It might indeed be President Juncker’s best chance to break the stalemate without interfering himself. Meetings with her cabinet are now much harder to get, but this should be priority anyway.  


Geoblocking seems to be, next to a copyright, the second main focus of the Commission’s reform plans. [9] They however are not talking about removing geoblocks altogether. Instead, the idea is to allow you to consume services that you are subscribed to across the EU. With other words, you will be able to use Netflix everywhere, but YouTube videos and online TV streams remain untouched. In theory, if the Satellite and Cable Directive, which allows broadcasting across the Union even if rights are cleared only nationally, was to be extended to online streaming, that would solve a large part of the problem. This can be done either by the EU legislator or by the courts. The Commission does “threaten” with such a move in case the industry continues to block the initiative.


News Media Split: ENPA, the European Newspaper Association [10] is one of the more conservative actors in Brussels when it comes to progressive copyright reform. Instead they have always been more keen on extending IP rights by introducing ancillary copyright. End of 2015 a considerable amount of their members decided to split and form a new association called News Media Europe. [11] At their launch event I was left with the impression that they want to be more future-oriented and less of a “blocking actor”.[12] Perhaps they will even refrain from asking for ancillary copyright? [13]


French panorama: Wikimédia France has run a very effective campaign pushing for a Freedom of Panorama exception. The French proposal for a Digial Act (Loi pour une République numérique) is now in their National Assembly, the lower house of their legislative body. [14] The Culture Committee endorsed a full exception, something the Legal Affairs committee did not like very much. Finally, a compromise was struck to pass a non-commercial exception only. [15] Even so, this is huge for France! Next step in the legislative process is the Senate. Even a NC FoP would be of great news for us in Brussels, as it would force the French government to recalibrate its position. They have until now just repeated the credo “no new exceptions”.