Richard Malka, a famous lawyer and author who has been, inter alia, the lawyer of Charlie Hebdo since 1992, has been commissioned by the French IFRRO member Syndicat National du Livre (SNE) to publish a book on the planned reforms of copyright in France and in the EU. The book is available for free in French and in English, online and in bookshops to which 50,000 copies of the book have been distributed on 10 September. SNE also launched a website in conjunction with the release of the book: http://www.auteursendanger.fr/ (authors in danger).
In his book, that starts with an excerpt from the preamble of Directive 2001/29/EC: “any harmonisation of copyright and related rights must take as a basis a high level of protection”, Richard Malka makes a plea for adequate protection of copyright, so that authors and publishers can continue to create and make a living from the works that they create and publish. According to him, a reform of copyright in order to adapt it to the digital world is not needed given that the technological transition is already underway – in France, “100% of new releases by French publishers are available today as ebooks across multiple platforms” – while access to works online has been made easier thanks to projects such as Research4Life, which gives access to science literature for free or at a low cost to the 100 least-developed countries, or the ReLIRE project for the digitisation of out-of-commerce works.
Richard Malka then looks at the list of exceptions and limitations listed in Directive 2001/29/EC, postulating that any further harmonisation of these exceptions would result in less works being created, less cultural diversity, and would be detrimental to users, rightholders, and society at large: in his words, “author compensation would become the exception”.
In the last part of the book, Malka reflects on what it would mean if only a few big players would own and distribute cultural content as a result of the weakening of copyright: many works would not be made available because they are “too confidential or morally objectionable”, listing examples of works that big platforms have decided to withdraw from their catalogue because of their non-compliance with moral standards or their lack of profit potential.
Richard Malka underlines as a conclusion that the weakening of copyright is not inevitable and he reminds readers that “such choices have nothing to do with technology and everything to do with personal courage and the battle of ideas. French authors and publishers intend to wage that battle. Its implications go beyond any personal interests and concern every citizen, for what is a stake is the very essence of civilization. They should not be the only ones to put up such a fight.”