I came across a really interesting article recently. Until reading this, I was under the, perhaps naïve, impression that the internet, certainly in the western world, allows almost free and untrammelled distribution of virtually everything legal (and much that isn’t, of which more below).
Wrong apparently. While the EU is, correctly and of necessity, very keen on encouraging the use of the various languages spoken inside its borders, it transpires that ‘geoblocking’ of digital material, as a result of copyright laws, “hinders the exchange of knowledge and culture across borders”.
To give you just one indication of the complexity of this stuff, the original EU article on copyright evaluation, upon which the article I read is based, explains, “while almost all countries have a copyright exception for quotation, the interpretation of what qualifies as a quotation is different between member states. This causes problems as text, audio and visual material is increasingly used interchangeably because of media convergence”. This is only for ‘quotation’, and there is far more involved here that simply quoting someone’s article (as in fact I’ve done here). When you get to creativity, public sector information, intellectual property and the like it becomes even more complicated.
Then when we move into the field of language, and especially minority languages, there is a further problem. Despite the fact that the EU has free movement of people at its core, companies such as Amazon and Google “routinely block access to (minority language) material” outside the countries where the minority languages are spoken.
This, it is claimed, increases internet piracy (the above-mentioned illegality), with those interested in, say, Catalan and living in London ‘accessing’ the information illegally because there is no other way they can easily find it. If the single market exists, then it must exist in the digital space as well as in the trade of good and services. And that should include the facility for a Catalan or Basque, or any other speaker of a minority language, not being excluded from seeing material in their own language because they are on the wrong side of an EU border…
David Orr, Director, GLOBAL CONNECTS