As we look into our crystal ball for a glimpse of what we all hope will be a much-improved year for everyone, some predictions in the world of copyright seem safer than others:

  • Copyright will, no doubt, continue to feature prominently in legislatures and courtrooms around the world in 2021. Some key changes, many of them years in the making, are guaranteed within the next twelve months. For example, China’s new copyright law will come into force in June. In India, the Registrar of Copyrights recently invited stakeholders to submit comments on amending the country’s copyright act of 1957. Local and international rightsholders, especially those with interests in the academic and educational markets, will be hoping for greater protection for their works following damaging court judgements such as the one handed down by the High Court in the Delhi University case in 2016.
  • What will happen to South Africa’s controversial copyright bill? The country’s president sent it back to the National Assembly last June after voicing concerns about its constitutionality and since that time parliamentarians have been considering next steps. We can be confident that 2021 will see renewed and impassioned debate between all sides. In Japan, unless plans change, we should see mid-year the introduction of the remunerated copyright exception for schools that was part of the legislation passed by the Diet in 2018. The pandemic and its impact on Japanese schools and universities led to the exception being introduced a year early and on an unremunerated basis. We should also expect to learn more from the Japanese government about the proposed library exception that has been under consideration since the middle part of last year.
  • Australia will also continue to be a place worth watching. A decision might be handed down from the Copyright Tribunal in the long-running universities case. We should expect to hear more from the government about its copyright reform proposals. The battles between the big tech platforms and government about properly compensating news publishers will continue to be waged.
  • And on the subject of long-running battles, what will we learn from the Supreme Court of Canada as it hears arguments in the litigation between Access Copyright and York University? This case has been more than ten years in the making and its outcome will be watched closely not just in Canada but around the world.
  • New national legislation is progressing in the member states of the EU. Notably, Germany, France, the Netherlands, and Lithuania) have each made varying degrees of progress towards meeting their responsibilities for implementing the Digital Single Market (DSM) legislation before a deadline of June 7, 2021.
  • Meanwhile, developments in the long-standing tussle between Google and news publishers may finally be moving toward some resolution. Google France has provided an update on the progress in negotiations on the press publishers right (PPR) in its blog (see here, in French), which seems to show its public recognition willingness to pay for it. It confirms that discussions are progressing with the General Information Press Alliance and that they are working on a framework agreement being signed before the end of the year.

Google France said (in translation) that it has also “signed several individual agreements that reflect the principles of universality, transparency and respect for the law that we rely on in our discussions with the Alliance.” The first signatories of these agreements include “a number of publishers of the daily press and magazines including Le Monde, Courrier International, L’Obs, Le Figaro, Libération, and L’Express.” It is currently in discussions with “many other players in the national and regional daily press, as well as the magazine press.”

  • Finally, in the United States, the Senate IP Subcommittee (under Senators Leahy and Tillis) intends to take up several proposed revisions to the 20+ year old Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), a proposition that will prove a substantial undertaking indeed.

Overall, it seems safe to forecast that there will be a lot to talk about this year when it comes to copyright and related developments, and that in this respect at least, 2021 will look a lot like previous years. We’ll be watching carefully.

Author: Michael Healy

Michael Healy is the Executive Director, Rightsholder and International Relations, at CCC. Michael has worked in the publishing and information industry for more than 35 years and has spent most of that time in senior editorial, sales, and distribution roles. He has been closely involved in the development of standards for the international publishing industry and is especially associated with standards for metadata, product information, and persistent identifiers. Michael has led many international standards groups, was Chairman of the International ISBN Agency, a Director of the International DOI Foundation, and led the international ISO committee that developed ISBN-13. He is currently Chairman of the Board of The International Standard Name Identifier (ISNI) and a board member of EDITEUR, the international publishing standards body.
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