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That is not what it said, but it is what is meant.

 The European Union is putting copyright and IPR enforcement on the back burner until 2014. It  means that 3-strikes, notice and action, and other enforcement measures currently the subject of proposed  legislation, are not expected  before then. This follows the EU’s fanfare announcement this week about stakeholder dialogues on innovative solutions for the digital economy. The announcement comes in the same week as the European Commission has withdrawn its referral of ACTA to the European Court of Justice (ECJ).

The Commission wants to get stakeholders, including Internet users, together to discuss different aspects of content online. Top of the list is cross-border transmission of content, and rights. This ties in with the Collective Rights Management directive, which targets the collecting societies, and tries to force them to operate more transparently and responsibly.

 Another discussion  will look at audio-visual (film) heritage, and how to release old, out of copyright films that might just contain some music or images that remain  in copyright. Further discussions will consider data mining and copyright issues, and the licencing of small-scale user generated content.

 This last one seems very sensible to me. Taking it out of the wider copyright debate enables a focus on the real issue, that most of this stuff is probably quite harmless and does not deserve the heavy-handed approach that the music industry has applied to date.

 It may well be that these discussions could provide a lever to get the copyright industries thinking about new business models. But we should not get our hopes up too high.

 Their main incentive will be the delay in enforcement measures – well, it might provide an incentive.

 The Commission officially says  it is doing this to develop a “modern copyright framework can be win-win for all stakeholders, providing  sustainable incentives for creativity, cultural diversity and innovation, and improving  choice and access to legal offers for consumers”.

 However, it would be a false assumption to believe that the EU is pushing new business models as a result  of a Damascene conversion.

 I suspect the EU’s motive is far more pragmatic. The European elections are due in 2014. Neither the  Commission nor the  Parliament want ACTA-style anti-copyright protests just before they have to go to the people for re-election. People on the street campaigning against EU policies are just what they don’t want, as they try to promote the positives about Europe and get people sufficiently enthused to go to a polling booth.

 The European Commission has  indicated this week  that new legislation on enforcement is now scheduled for 2014.  That timing  puts it back by at least 12 months.  There are two directives addressing enforcement measures currently in the pipeline, and if I understand correctly, they will both be put on hold.

 If the legislation does not appear until 2014, it will almost certainly be too late for this Parliament to deal with. It will have to wait until after the elections, with a new Parliament and new Commission.

The withdrawal of the ACTA request to the ECJ is probably also a pragmatic move. It was not likely to achieve anything. Even if the ECJ had agreed with the Commission, there was little it could politically do.

For the rights-holders, of course, it means they will not get the measures they want for another few years.

 For those of us who have been working on copyright since 2007-08 when the 3-strikes issue first arose in Europe, it will be a welcome break after a relentless run of enforcement policy measures. No doubt, some of the European Commission and Parliament staff will also be glad of a rest.


To fill in the time, the European Commission has issued a consultation on IPR Enforcement. It is asking for people's individual experiences of enforcing their own IPR. I sent it to a friend who is trying to pursue an IPR case at the moment, and finding the legal fees very high. And then I  looked at the questionaire. It  is 56 pages long! Sufficient to put off all but the  MPA and the IFPI.


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Copyright Enforcement Enigma launch, March 2012

In 2012, I presented my PhD research in the European Parliament.

Don't miss Iptegrity!  RSS/ Bookmark is the website of Dr Monica Horten. She is a policy analyst specialising in Internet governance & European policy, including platform accountability. She is a published author & Visiting Fellow at the London School of Economics & Political Science. She served as an independent expert on the Council of Europe Committee on  Internet Freedom. She has worked on CoE, EU and UNDP funded projects in eastern Europe and the Caucasus. In a voluntary capacity, she has led UK citizen delegations to the European Parliament. She was shortlisted for The Guardian Open Internet Poll 2012.

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