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Copyright reformers criticise EC’s copyright advisor appointment

By | Published on Friday 8 April 2011

European Commission

There’s been a little bit of chatter on tech sites this week about the European Union’s new copyright policy chief, who is due to join the European Commission in mid-April.

The chatter has focused on the fact that new recruit Maria Martin-Prat spent some time working for the International Federation Of The Phonographic Industry which, some reckon, means she’ll be automatically biased towards the record companies and other big content owners when advising on the development of European copyright policy.

Although more recently Martin-Prat has worked for another part of the European Commission, she did represent the interests of the record industry for a few years in the early part of the last decade and was, according to some critics, a hardliner who wanted tougher copyright protection, even going as far as to call for the abolition of the private copy right that exists in some European countries.

Of course none of that means she can’t be open-minded in her new role, but some MEPs have questioned the appointment of someone who once worked for the record industry’s global lobbying body to a role formulating copyright policy.

Liberal Dutch MEP Marietje Schaake and Swedish Pirate Party MEP Christian Engström have written a letter to the EC asking: “Does the Commission not see any problems in recruiting top civil servants from special interest organisations, especially when being put in charge of dossiers directly related to their former employers? If not, why not? Does the Commission feel that such an appointment would help to build confidence with the European Parliament and the general public that the Commission can be trusted to handle copyright-related issues in a fair and balanced manner?”

Meanwhile Engstrom – a major advocate of radical copyright reform, of course, – blogged this week: “Welcome to the European Union, where the big business lobby organisations are calling most of the shots at the Commission, and where citizens are just seen as a nuisance to be ignored. I guess the only real news is that they don’t even bother to try to hide it any more”.