The European Union's new point person on copyright policy won't take up her post until mid-April, but she's already stirring up controversy. That's because Maria Martin-Prat spent years directing "global legal policy" for IFPI, the global recording industry's London-based trade group, before moving back into government. The appointment raises new questions about the past private-sector work of government officials, especially those crafting policy or issuing legal judgments on the same issues they once lobbied for.
Nate Anderson, 7.4.2011, www.arstechnica.com Martin-Prat isn't a lifelong music industry employee; she worked for the EU, left for IFPI, and then rejoined the EU several years ago. She's currently working for DG MARKT, the Internal Market branch of the European Commission. She runs MARKT's distinctly non-glamorous-sounding unit E.1, "Free movement of services and establishment I, Services Directive," and she makes sure that EU countries don't enact illegal barriers to halt the free movement of service professionals like doctors. (For instance, DG MARKT recently forced Cyprus to change a law requiring real estate agents from other countries to pass a Cypriot exam and to work in collaboration with a Cypriot agent.) She's a Spanish lawyer and fluent in Spanish, French, and English. All good background for a civil service promotion… but she did work for IFPI for several years in the early 2000s, where she dealt directly with policy matters, including copyright. A 2004 IFPI announcement notes a promotion: "Maria Martin-Prat has assumed management of industry-related regulatory issues, including competition compliance, in addition to her longstanding role in directing global legal policy for IFPI. Her new job title is Deputy General Counsel, Director of Legal Policy and Regulatory Affairs." Martin-Prat's new appointment has received some coverage in Europe from English, French, and German publications. (Fun fact: reading these links will teach you that "funfact" is a legitimate German word.) More complete coverage comes from KEI, a nonprofit which works on trade and copyright issues and leaked many of the ACTA drafts during negotiations. KEI's Jamie Love, who has crossed paths with Martin-Prat before, recently tweeted, "When at the IFPI, she was a hardliner."One of the most controversial quotes about the Martin-Prat appointment didn't come from Martin-Prat herself; it's the summary (PDF) of a panel she appeared on back in 2003, during her time at IFPI. According to the official summation of her remarks, "[the recording] industry is fighting on three fronts: enforcement, the formulation of a new business model, and pleading for strong copyright protection. The industry, she claimed, is not trying to expand copyright but to ensure that the existing rights are meaningful." How strong should these protections be? Martin-Prat is said to have "argued that private copying had no reason to exist and should be limited further than it is. She claimed that it was incompatible with the three-step test." This a reference to the famous three-step test first written into the Berne copyright convention 50 years ago. The test says that exceptions to copyright should only be allowed if they are 1) a "special" case, 2) don't interfere with the "normal exploitation of the work," and 3) don't "unreasonably prejudice the legitimate interests of the rights holder." Martin-Prat was apparently objecting to the "private copying" right found in countries like Canada and Belgium and Germany, which slap a levy on things like blank CDs in order to compensate creators for the revenue they didn't earn. (Note that "private copying" is usually not taken to cover things like file-sharing; it's more typically compensation for the "harm" of, say, ripping a CD into your computer; however, the whole issue is a bit murky and varies by country.) In a 2001 conference paper, she complained that "what should be seen as an exception to a right is perceived now by many as a 'user right.' The lack of a re-assessment at European level of the private copying exceptions in light of the digital environment is particularly regrettable as its implications are far greater than those of any other exception." She noted, for instance, that rightsholders might want to release a DVD audio disc that allowed only a single digital copy to be made; a robust right of private copying could impair this kind of offering and thus negatively affect the market.