Making Intellectual Property Rights work at work
The Executive Committee of Eurocadres adopted a position paper on intellectual property rights (IPR) during its meeting 17 November 2016.
Intellectual property rights (IPR) are a prerequisite for innovation and growth. Highly-skilled professionals actively contribute to research, development and innovation during their work life. Many of our members are researchers, teachers, journalists, authors, engineers or IT workers who are involved in creative work and are, consequently, possible right holders.
Bargaining between creators, intermediaries and employers in the social dialogue is core business: labour contracts, wage levels and developing codes of conduct are all part of the process. Holders, users, consumers and even the public-sector benefit from coherent and common enforcement rules on the internal market. Specific IPR agreements between employers and employees will deliver a better legal protection than generic labour laws or general clauses in a contract. These could be discussed with employee representatives or in works councils.
Digitalisation and social platforms have changed the way we work, how innovations are created as well as how information is searched for and distributed. It is therefore necessary to keep the legislation up-to-date and to clarify the ownership of IPR. Contractual relationships do not always give partners an equal standing. The right to organise and bargain collectively should also be granted to self-employed. When using ICT tools situations could arise, where the person who creates a product or service (the seller) has been left without compensation after the task has been fulfilled. The buyer has decided that the standard of the performed service has not been satisfying, but keeps the result. In other words, the seller has performed the task but the buyer refuses to pay, claiming that the result was poor and that the agreement therefore has not been fulfilled.
Another integral part of intellectual property regulations is the ‘open access’ approach. Open access is vital for the public interest in certain sectors. There is, however, a troublesome equation between the researcher, the institute and the publisher. Often the institutes end up paying twice for the same publication as they must pay for the access or subscription to the publication. Also, quite often when researchers and authors publish in publications to gain academic credit and foster their careers, they only receive recognition and no compensation or right to their own published material. The publishers collect the financial benefits others’ products.
In the process of regulating IPR, a fair balance between fundamental rights should be fulfilled: i.e. privacy, freedom of speech and freedom of establishment. For instance, journalists, academics and teachers face increasing demands to sign contracts that could deprive their rights. Teachers are sometimes encouraged to sign contracts where they pass on their Intellectual Property to their employers without any restrictions and without any compensation, i.e. all the works they have created and will create during the employment such as teaching material or text books. IPR should offer authors and producers incentives in the form of recognition of their created work as well as economic compensation. Agreements on the transfer of copyright should always be held separate in work contracts, at least to a minimum level. It should not be considered as a requirement to transfer all IP on the employer without proper compensation.
- Clarifying and setting fair IPR could be done in the social dialogue on European, national, sectoral or company level.
- With respect to the basic principle of subsidiarity, Eurocadres supports the strengthening of the European frameworks of IPR. The current patchwork of different national regulations as well as gaps in IPR provisions makes the ownership of the copyright rather unclear. The European Commission proposal on copyright in the Digital Single Market addresses that there exists legal uncertainty.
- We need clear IPR rules for employees and self-employed. We ask for legislation that regulates the transfer of rights to the employer or intermediary to prevent that creative professionals are forced to sign imbalanced contracts. People who perform tasks should be compensated for it.
- The delicate role of researchers and PhD candidates should be taken into consideration when transferring rights to allow them proper attribution. Often, they are performing tasks and research, where they have no rights to their work.
- The ‘open access’ approach should be in place to maximise knowledge-sharing and to benefit the research institutes and the public interest.