An open letter to the Swedish Presidency of the Council of the European Union

Photo of Stockholm City Hall from the water, with a Swedish flag in the foreground. Photo: Stefan Lins, CC-BY 2.0, https://www.flickr.com/photos/mrlins/264282533

Dear Prime Minister Kristersson,

As a long-standing leader in Europe in promoting research, education and libraries, we have high expectations of Sweden’s Presidency of the Council of the European Union.  

This represents a particular responsibility, but also opportunity to set the European Union on the best possible path for the future. Crucially, the Presdiency’s strong focus on competitiveness,  resilience and upholding rights opens the way towards a fresh approach towards policy-making in areas too long marked by a narrow focus, often driven by the interests of the minority, not the general public.

To this end, and in line with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights’ right to research, we believe that the Presidency can best deliver on its ambitions by taking the following actions:

  • The Presidency Priorities document highlights in particular the importance of a stronger understanding of which actors have intellectual property rights over publications and research findings. Through work in this area, we would recommend explicit consideration of the merits of secondary publication rights as a means of ensuring immediate access to all publicly-funded research, and of how to generalise the retention of rights and subsequent open licensing of research outputs.
  • Sweden, as the Member Stateholding the Presidency, should in particular engage in the workstream launched by the Competitiveness Council Conclusions of November 2021 exploring the impacts of copyright policy on research, and potential evolutions that would support Europe’s research performance. In this light, in addition to the issues set out above, we would recommend mature consideration of the value of an obligatory and more open research exception, and how these can be protected from override by licence terms or digital locks, and how libraries can be enabled to support research and teaching through stronger guarantees of their ability to acquire and lend eBooks.
  • The document includes a very welcome focus on research infrastructures. We believe that any definition of such infrastructures needs to be broad, taking into account services and tools such as open access and open educational resource repositories. Through this, the importance of these infrastructures should be highlighting, avoiding situations as we have seen with the Digital Services Act where they are simply forgotten and become the victims of collateral damage of insufficiently evaluated broader legislation.. 
  • Throughout this work, we firmly believe that closing access and privatising copyright law will have a negative impact on our research and innovation sector instead of bringing dividends to Europe. In particular, we urge that efforts to promote security should not become excuses to restrict legitimate access and use of research outputs.
  • The Priorities underline the desire to engage in the Commission’s plans around the digitalisation of education and the European Education Area. We would argue that it would be timely to evaluate, on the basis of the experience of the pandemic, how fit for purpose copyright laws are to support the realisation of the potential of digital in education. In particular, we would recommend consideration of how more flexible exceptions to copyright than can enable, for example, libraries and other informal/non-formal education providers to support learning.

We look forward to the results of the Presidency’s work, and stand ready to support its work. 

KR21


12 January 2023