The European Commission is inviting all comers–from both inside and outside of the EU Single Market–to engage in a public consultation as part of the Commission’s review of European Union copyright rules. According to the public invitation,
All stakeholders are welcome to contribute to this consultation. Contributions are particularly sought from consumers, users, authors, performers, publishers, producers, broadcasters, intermediaries, distributors and other service providers, Collective Management Organisations, public authorities and Member States.
The instrument provided for submitting input is a 12-page questionnaire that asks 80 questions in a variety of open and closed formats. Organizational respondents (whether commercial or noncommercial) are asked to identify and register themselves as such, but respondents have the option of submitting their input anonymously as well–though they are asked several questions about what “type of respondent” they are.
The questions posed in the survey are interesting. They ask about problems the respondent may have experienced as a result of the existing copyright regime (“Have you faced problems when seeking to provide online services across borders in the EU?” “How often are you asked to grant multi-territorial licenses?”) and solicit direct suggestions as to “how to tackle” those problems. It also includes explanations of relevant legal concepts and terms of art (such as “making available” and “download to own”) and provides background discussion of the particular complications introduced by library access, archival and preservation considerations, mass digitization, the (exceptionally fraught) concept of “e-lending,” and text/data mining.
Respondents are allowed to answer any or all questions; there is no expectation that everyone will answer all of them.
I shudder to think about the logistical challenges involved with administering, analyzing, and taking into account the responses to a survey like this. But it represents an intriguing and, in many ways, encouraging development on the part of a very large legislative body: an attempt to gather input from stakeholders across all affected public spheres before making changes to laws that will have an enormous impact on scholarship, trade, and private life. It will be very interesting to see what comes out at the other end of this process, and to see how the public reacts both to the process itself and to its results.