Pitching Policy — #Copyright4Startups

We hosted a policy workshop in Paris together with France Digitale, the voice of more than 700 startups and VCs in France. We were impressed how much entrepreneurs care about the policies shaping our society.

We invited startups to discuss how European copyright will impact their sector. As usual, we were looking for platform businesses, startups working with user-uploaded content and data analytics because the proposed copyright rules affect their businesses to the core. The event in Paris is part of a series of workshops across Europe. Read here about the workshop in Berlin. Around 30 entrepreneurs from different sectors attended the workshop and expressed sorrow that rules, although well intended, might miss out on the very essence of European startups.

The overwhelming impression we got was that Paris is a unique ecosystem and home to some of Europe’s most successful startup stories. And these success stories are clearly having a knock on effect, inspiring new talent to embark on their own venture every day. This happens at the very core of Europe in one of the most beautiful cities of the continent. Who doesn’t want to be entrepreneur in Paris?

Here are a few takeaways and things that were shared during the workshop.

“Europe’s startup entrepreneurs have their heads down, focusing on building the next big thing while rules made far from them might make or break their business,”

A major shift in the proposed rules shifts the responsibility of platforms to negotiate deals with rights holder groups prior to users starting to use the platform. Part of these negotiations, so the draft text, shall be the use of content filtering technologies — which would filter any uploaded content such as text, images or videos before they would appear on the a social network for example. Despite the existence of such filters, smaller platforms might turn out being the losers because depending on the content, users can upload more than one filtering technology might be necessary.

“Content filtering is highly expensive and inefficient, especially when a platform hosts multiple forms of content like images, text and sound.” an expert explained, “Founders pragmatically will allow less content or simply move their company to another jurisdiction because the costs would not be justifiable to investors”.

During the recent debates around the UK leaving the EU, commentators speculated about the impact on startups when the UK would not longer be bound by the European legal framework. Today British copyright legislation is already more considerate of innovative businesses and leaves more room for data analytics to happen.

“The current reform aims at addressing industry concerns towards major platforms but the proposed rules can have a disproportionate and devastating effect on the cost and risks related to running a startup in Europe. “

Lastly, it is important to mention that not all of the reform is increasing the obligations for users, some of it aims at creating legal space for new practises like text and data mining. Scientific text and data mining shall be permitted in the future, but the ensuing results have to remain in the non commercial and academic context.

The reform falls short when great university-born ideas are supposed to be brought to the market because it does not allow for startups and other companies to conduct automated queries on data sets they legally have access to.

Many of Europe’s brightest ideas are born in universities and are often brought to life as startups, delivering benefits to users and society as a whole. Clarifying the exception will create legal certainty for startups, their investors and helps us increase the EU’s competitiveness and knowledge leadership. We see great companies built on text and data mining every day. Allowing these businesses to flourish in Europe rather than elsewhere would send an encouraging sign to our communities.