Copyright Consultation: Cure for Political Apathy?

Copyright Consultation: Cure for Political Apathy?

Copyright reform could be the keystone issue in rectifying public apathy and lack of support in the democratic process, says Sephy Hallow.

Edit 17/02/14: The deadline was extended to 5 March 2014

Common sense tells us that when trying to stir an apathetic population into political action and motivate greater participation in democracy, abstract debates, such as a Europe-wide reformation of copyright and intellectual property law, is probably not the best way to go. Certainly, the bulky consultation questionnaire issued by the EU Commission suggests a prerequisite educational standard to have been reached by all participants, which is a roundabout way of saying it’s far too long and complicated for the average Joe. To me, copyright reform is one of the biggest and most important issues to face us in the digital age, but I can already imagine my dad’s scowl if I posed the question, “Is there a need for more clarity as regards the scope of  what needs to be authorised (or not) in digital transmissions?”, let alone if I tried to explain that this is the heading for part 2, subsection B or the EU Commission public consultation. “There is a need for more wine as regards to extending the scope of my patience for this conversation,” he’d say. Or that might just be my way of paraphrasing “shut up and pass the bottle.” Either way, the conversation would end there; he simply hasn’t got time to wade through the language, worded in equally obscure fashion, for 80 questions.

Let me clarify something: my dad is neither stupid, nor politically disinterested. He’s an electrical engineer, and passionate on a variety of subjects. He was also one of the first to find an enthusiasm for digital piracy, using our dial-up connection to make mix CDs for me when I was a teenager. But the truth is that although the EU Commission is trying to source public opinion, its method results in a very narrow cross-section of society being eligible to participate. Politics have the chance to really show the people that they take its views and experiences seriously, but the over-complexity of the questionnaire will likely result in only a handful of public responses — many of which will come, no doubt, from legal representatives of the largest entertainment industries in the world, thus biasing the outcome of the survey.

With our low participation in modern politics, an effective public consultation could be exactly the sign the people need to show that politics is about representing their best interests and listening to their voices. By properly assessing the situation and opening up the debate in this way, the EU have a chance to prove that not only are the people listened to, but they are provided with productive solutions which ease the problems, rather than short-term populist reform that divides nations and resolves nothing. Copyright reform could, in this way, be the first step to bringing a sense of trust back into politics, and proving that democracy still can work. Moreover, this could be the chance the EU desperately needs to prove to eurosceptics that remaining part of the EU will provide the UK with some great trade incentives, including freer distribution of entertainment. Unfortunately, the complexity and length of the survey will make it impossible for many to participate, and prove off-putting for even the most adamant copyright reformists — myself included.

Thankfully, Pirate MEP Amelia Andersdotter has noticed this issue, and come up with a solution. is a

Amelia Andersdottir sitting with laptop


website dedicated to collecting the opinions of the public, by asking them to check a list of the ways in which copyright has affected them — from availability of content to legal liability for sharing links — with an option to add their experiences or clarify their stance on each issue they have found troubling. Users can answer in one of the 24 official European languages, and answers will be submitted to the EU Commission — allowing ordinary people to get involved in the debate, and express their opinion on an issue that really matters.

With the debate opened, we can but wait and see the outcome. The consultation period has been extended to 5 March 2014 ended on 5 February 2014. Now the EU Commission will try to come to a consensus on copyright reform based on public opinion; however, if real, positive change is made, this consultation could be the first step in reaffirming trust in politics, at least in the EU.

To participate via Copywrongs, visit, or alternatively, download the full questionnaire


This was a guest editorial written by Sephy Hallow

About the author:

Sephy Hallow

Sephy Hallow (Twitter: @SephyHallow) is the Deputy Leader of Pirate Party UK, having been elected to the newly created post in December 2013.

She is a freelance writer, with a passion for fixing copyright to work for content creators, rather than against them.

Featured image: CC