Conference Report: An Italian Debate on the Right to Research & Copyright Law

On 19 December 2023, Deborah De Angelis, KR21’s Italian national coordinator, and the Program on Information Justice and Intellectual Property (PIJIP) of the American University Washington College of Law hosted a local conference on the right to research and copyright law in the Vallicelliana Library, in Rome, Italy. This effort was supported by KR21 and the Copyright Law and Access to Knowledge Policies Group (CLAKP) of the Institute of Legal Informatics and Judicial Systems (IGSG), which is part of the National Research Council. The conference recording can be found here.

The discussions at this event focussed on rethinking possible strategies for a national secondary publishing right (SPR). Rather than proposing new legislation, the consensus leaned towards amending Article 42 of the Italian Copyright Law (Legge sul diritto d’autore, LdA). This provision currently allows authors to republish their works under certain conditions. Article 42 should be amended to prevent contractual override for scientific publishing. This change is crucial to protect researchers’ rights to republish their scientific work without contractual limitations. The working group on the Italian National Plan for Open Science (Piano Nazionale per la Scienza Aperta, PNSA), set up by the Ministry of University and Research, could play a significant role in this effort. In this context, the discussion further highlighted an opportunity for enhanced national coordination among all Italian associations and entities supporting Open Science.

Seven European countries have already introduced SPRs: Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, and Spain – see KR21’s report to learn more. The importance of SPRs has further been acknowledged in the May 2023 Council Conclusions on scholarly publishing.

For SPR to achieve its full potential – especially given the high volume of cross-border research that takes place, and the implications of an uncoordinated approach – a unified solution at the European level is necessary. Consequently, one of the conference’s outcomes was to propose a European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI). This mechanism allows citizen participation and can prompt the European Commission to undertake legislative or non-legislative actions. An ECI could significantly enhance awareness and support for an EU-level SPR. However, it requires gathering the backing of at least 1 million individuals, with minimum numbers in at least seven EU countries, within 12 months. Therefore, such an effort requires a thorough feasibility assessment.

Overall, this conference was well-received by both participants and speakers, with some already suggesting the organisation of another event involving judges from the Italian Supreme Court (Corte Suprema di Cassazione).

08 March 2024