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European citizens’ initiative: Free sharing of protected works while compensating creators

07 August 2020
By Marco Ciurcina, lawyer in Italy and one of the organisers of the European citizens’ initiative ‘Freedom to Share’ 
This article was originally published on the European Citizens’ Initiative Forum 

File-sharing came into existence in 1999, with the advent of Napster. Over the years, technology has made distributed (or peer-to-peer) file sharing ever more efficient (e.g., Gnutella, Freenet, BitTorrent).

From the outset, the main rightsholder companies have opposed the use of sharing technologies for works and other material subject to copyright, related rights, and sui generis database rights, and current legislation is broadly in line with their wishes.

However, one question remains: is it fair for copyright, related rights, and sui generis database rights to prevent the sharing of works and other material?

That is the aspect that the newly-registered European citizens’ initiative “Freedom to Share” challenges. Its organisers are calling for “legalising file sharing for personal purposes by changing copyright and related rights and setting up a mechanism to remunerate fairly the authors and other rights holders”. Find out more details from their blog post below, which was originally published on the European Citizens’ Initiative Forum:

We are citizens from eight different EU countries and we requested the registration of the European citizens’ initiative (ECI) “Freedom to Share” claiming the right to share files including creative works. We believe that sharing is a fundamental right and deserves the same dignity as the right of the authors. We are working and soon we will start collecting signatures: if we collect one million signatures, the European Commission will have to take a position on our initiative. Get ready to support the initiative “Freedom to Share” and put people’s right to share back at the heart of European politics!

Sharing is nice, it makes us feel good and improves our lives; it is a deeply human, natural act. It is the same also for file sharing. This is why, starting from the 90s, when the new file sharing technologies (Napster, Gnutella, Freenet, BitTorrent, etc.) made it very easy for people to share files, many enthusiastically greeted this innovation. Finally, you were allowed to find on-line your preferred song, download it and listen to it. Or find a movie and watch it; or find a book and read it. All without having to ask permission to anybody! And, even more exciting, if you loved a song, a movie or a book, you could make it available to others sharing your passion.

Not everyone was happy for this innovation, however.

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