Copyright + Authoritarianism = Strange bedfellows

Wednesday, Jun 17, 2020

As P├ęter Mezei points out on twitter it seems that Hungary is now the 2nd EU member state (after France) that has implemented a part of the DSM directive into national law. Yesterday, the Hungarian parliament passed the law “on transitional arrangements and health preparedness for the cessation of emergencies” which through Articles 323 to 327 modifies the existing exception for educational use to also allow digital uses of works both onsite and through secure electronic environments in line with Article 5 of the DSM directive.

This sudden implementation of Article 5 comes as a bit of a surprise, given that until earlier this month Hungary was still consulting on its national implementation of the DSM directive including the educational exception in Article 5.

As it turns out, Hungary had already made the changes to its educational exception on 15 April by way of an emergency decree signed by Prime Minister Victor Orban as part of a wider set of measures addressing the impact of the Corona pandemic (at the end of March the Hungarian Parliament had, in a widely criticised move granted Victor Orban wide-ranging emergency powers that allowed him to rule without any parliamentary oversight). The new law passed yesterday transforms a large number of these emergency measures (including the modification of the education exception) into permanent law.

What makes this whole situation remarkable (apart from the fact that modifying sustantive copyright law by decree as such is most likely unprecedented in the EU context) is, that on substance, the idea to expand the education exception to facilitate online education under the conditions of widespread lockdowns makes a lot of sense. But it is highly disturbing to realise that the only EU member state who has acted in line with this insight is the one run by an authoritarian government and that the ability to implement this policy is the result of its willingness to completely suspend democratic oversight.