Last week the Culture and Education Committee of the European Parliament (CULT) released its draft opinion on the European Commission’s proposal for a Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market. Rapporteur Joulaud highlights that the Commission’s proposal ignores many of the crucial concerns voiced by internet users, and offers some amendments to improve this situation. However, many of these changes do little to promote user rights and freedoms. Instead, he suggests a confusing change to the proposed ‘press publishers right’ by introducing a non-commercial clause, a push for an even stronger reliance on licensing instead of a broad education exception, renewed support for filtering of user uploaded content, and further restrictions on TDM activities.
From our perspective, the issue of Freedom of Panorama—the legal right to take and share photos, video, and images of architecture, sculptures and other works which are permanently located in a public place—was not adequately addressed in the Commission’s proposal. In fact, it wasn’t included at all. We’ve urged the European Parliament to introduce a broad, EU-wide Freedom of Panorama right that applies to both commercial and noncommercial uses of all works permanently located in public spaces.
Marc Joulaud, the rapporteur for the Culture and Education Committee of the European Parliament, points out in his draft opinion issued last week that the Commission’s copyright proposal ignores many of the most pressing concerns of internet users. At the same time, he fails to deliver adequate solutions to these problems. In this post we discuss his proposed amendments concerning the exception for user-generated content (UGC), and Article 13. The inclusion of a UGC exception is a step in the right direction. But the proposed amendments to Article 13, the section which introduces a filtering obligation for online platforms that allow users to upload content, make the already-harmful article even worse for users.
Adding a vague definition of ‘digital content platforms’
Joulaud recognizes that the scope of services potentially affected by Article 13 is quite unclear.
It is the Rapporteur’s opinion that the proposal does not define with enough precision the scope of services falling under the requirements of Article 13 of this Directive, creating legal uncertainty and a potential broader effect.
However, the solutions he proposes do not strengthen the legal certainty for those entities who might be covered under the article; they make it worse. Joulaud proposes a new definition of entities obliged to use upload filters called ‘digital content platforms’. This definition is aimed to center around the principle purpose of services instead of the activity of storing. The draft opinion is unclear regarding which information society service providers would count as ‘digital content platforms’, and it’s also uncertain whether these platforms would still receive the protection of the liability limitations of the eCommerce Directive. Just like the Commission’s proposal—which remains vague on how it will affect the safe harbor protection—Joulaud’s suggested amendment doesn’t provide any more clarity to the situation.
Upload filters don’t—and can’t—respect user rights
The most important flaw of the draft opinion is that even though Joulaud seems aware of the importance of user rights, he still tries to reconcile ‘effective’ content recognition technologies with user rights, including exceptions and limitations and freedom of expression. This is an impossible task. Continue reading
Wouldn’t we all want to know how the copyright reform proposal gained its current shape? Was it at a roundtable of sages? Did someone knock Commissioner Günther Oettinger’s head and the proposal sprung out? We have filed an access to documents request (FOIA) to find out what the EC legal services’ opinion was in this process.
Chances are we will not have full clarity on the evidence that substantiated the proposed directive on copyright in the digital single market. After European Digital Rights filed a request to access the correspondence between Commissioners, cabinets and services on the proposal for a copyright Directive in October 2016, the recent response was that there is 1 (ONE!) email that meets the criteria. It would seem that the Commission have a strong oral tradition and excellent collective memory if this is really the only recorded evidence to attest to the quality of the process.
To make things worse, the email cannot be revealed because “the disclosure of the document would seriously undermine the institution’s decision-making process, unless there is an overriding public interest in disclosure”. We believe that the public interest in knowing how absurdities such as new rights for publishers or the upload filter found its way to the proposal is indeed overriding the secrecy of the only email that has ever been exchanged on the topic. Obviously EDRi has filed a confirmatory application to review the handling of the request that is yet to be considered by the EC.
To learn more about the legality of the most problematic parts of the proposal, Centrum Cyfrowe, COMMUNIA member, filed a FOIA to access the European Commission’s legal service opinion(s) on the drafts of the proposal on February 13, 2017. With the two processes, the Commission has a chance to make the right choice and spill the beans on their intel and sources. If the European Commission decides otherwise, we will be left wondering if the proposal is a result of some intense industry lobbying, or perhaps of unpreparedness of DG Connect to properly address challenges of the 21st century.
Refusal will give a bad name to the EC legal services that could have let out a really bad piece of lawmaking that contradicts existing regulation as well as the EU case law. Moreover, the Commission will prove again that it is one of the least transparent European institutions while keeping its finger on the trigger of change that will shape our digital lives for many years to come.
Last week the Culture and Education Committee of the European Parliament (CULT) released its draft opinion on the European Commission’s proposal for a Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market. Rapporteur Joulaud rightly shows that the Commission’s proposal ignores many of the crucial concerns voiced by internet users, and offers some amendments to rectify the situation. At the same time, the opinion suggests an ill-advised change to the proposed ‘press publishers right’ by introducing a non-commercial clause. In addition, CULT pushes for an even stronger reliance on licensing, instead of supporting a broad copyright exception for education.
But perhaps the area of the draft CULT opinion that is most detrimental to users and the Digital Single Market is in the suggested amendments to the text and data mining (TDM) exception. The Commission’s original proposal was nothing to write home about. Instead of championing a progressive policy to boost scientific discovery and innovation in the EU by introducing a TDM exception that would apply to anyone for any purpose, the Commission decided to limit the scope of the exception to only not-for profit research organisations, and only for purposes of scientific research.
The draft CULT opinion goes even further in restricting the ability to engage in TDM in the European Union. Continue reading
Last week we started discussing the the draft opinion of the Culture and Education Committee of the European Parliament, presented by rapporteur Marc Joulaud. While he rightly points out how unbalanced the proposal is as it ignores many of the most pressing concerns of internet users, he does not help the discussions surrounding the ‘press publishers right’ by introducing a murky non-commercial clause. Today we discuss his amendments for education. In short: it does not spell good news for educational stakeholders. In a move that on the surface aims to provide greater clarity, Joulaud pushes for even stronger reliance on licensing for educational uses. Furthermore, he proposes to make remuneration for digital teaching uses mandatory. We opposed both these changes from the very beginning of the discussion on the scope of the copyright reform.
It is worth noting that the issue of exceptions (in particular for education) has not received as much attention as the link tax (art 11) or the content filter (art 13) in the whole debate on the proposed directive. Yet it is crucial from the viewpoint of a Committee that deals with education, and Joulaud rightly sees it as one of four key issues.
Joulaud, in the justification to the opinion, and in an opinion piece published by the Parliament Magazine, declares support for a balanced approach:
If the protection of intellectual property is a fundamental right, it should not be a disproportionate obstacle to the use of works for public interest.
[…] for instance by threatening existing and perfectly viable ecosystems, like commercial licenses for data mining or educational licensing schemes.
This is reasonable as a general statement, but we’ll see that it leads Joulaud to propose amendments that are hardly balanced.
The Rapporteur Marc Joulaud of the Committee on Culture and Education (CULT) recognises the problem with proposed article 11 regarding protection of press publications concerning digital uses – it can threaten hyperlinking and various ways users use content online. In Communia’s opinion the Commission’s proposal to introduce a right for press publishers is poorly aligned to the objective of modernising the EU copyright framework and adapting it to the challenges of a fast-evolving digital environment. In the light of the above we believe that the only solution is to remove the whole idea from the directive. This is not the approach shared by CULT – instead 3 problematic changes were proposed:
- the limitation of the ancillary copyright is only for commercial purposes,
- the confusing and vague attempt to carve out snippets, and
- the term of protection is to be 3 years, which is still too long for news.
Muddy area’s still unclear
Instead of solving the problem, the Rapporteur Marc Joulaud made everything even more tangled by adding to the proposed scheme the requirement that press publication must be used ‘for commercial purposes’. As we raised before in freedom of panorama discussion, implementing a distinction between commercial and non-commercial use, namely two very vague terms, is never a good idea. It will muddy any legal certainty for citizens engaged in sharing press publications.
Earlier today Marc Joulaud, the CULT rapporteur for the proposed Copyright in the Digital Single Market directive, published his draft opinion on the proposed directive. Joulands draft opinion is the first of many similar documents dealing with the Commission’s proposal that will emerge from the European Parliament in the next weeks and while it will likely undergo significant changes it is a really promising start of the parliamentary process.
The draft opinion contains 85 amendments to the text of the Commission’s proposal that deal with all aspects of the directive. Over the next few days we will provide more detailed analysis of his proposals for a number of the issues that COMMUNIA has been focussing on such as the proposed exceptions for TDM and education, the new right for press publishers and the content filtering obligation for user uploaded content.
Users’ rights need to be a part of the debate
While we certainly do not agree with all of his positions, Joulaud’s draft opinion deserves to be praised. In line with our own analysis of the Commission’s proposal, Joulaud observes that the proposed directive is out of balance as it ignores many of the most pressing concerns of internet users:
It is the Rapporteur’s view that the proposal does not acknowledge the position consumers, as service users, now occupy in the digital environment. No longer playing a mere passive role, they have become active contributors and are now both a source and recipient of content in the digital ecosystem. […] digital practices of users do not benefit from legal certainty under the current copyright rules, in particular the exceptions and limitations, and therefore require a specific approach, a fourth pillar within this Directive.
Coincidence has written a postscript to our yesterday’s post Good news! Quality journalism doesn’t need the snippet levy. A recent tariff on how much linking will be charged for revealed by the Spanish Reproduction Rights Centre (CEDRO) shows that publishers’ appetites are great and likely to ruin online access to content we need and like.
CEDRO decided that per each active user per day it wants to charge a daily rate of € 0,05044854. We can endlessly discuss if this arbitrary rate is a lot or not much per user-day. But this is where the economy of scale of 5 cents is pivotal – Menéame, a Spanish aggregator has an average of 139 thousand unique users accessing their site per day. So 5 cents scales up to a quite substantial 7+ thousand euro per day and that to an astronomic 2,56 million euro per year.
The problem is that this is 20 times as much as Menéame’s annual turnover (125 thousand euro). In short, a piece of legislation aimed at Google chokeholds smaller enterprises while reinforcing the giant’s dominant position.
What is perhaps worse, we have landed in this mess based on false assumptions: whatever affects the traffic to news content (could it be the decreasing quality of the news and proliferation of meaningless clickbait? Hmmm…) it is not the aggregators. As research shows they in fact assist users in optimizing their attention economy and in result sustain the traffic.
Based on these false assumptions the publishers want to racket sums that have nothing to do with the economic situation or the scale of operations of the aggregators in a strive to compensate an imaginary loss by ripping off those who in fact help news readership. By doing so the rightsholders resemble thugs that raid a bar and extort payments only because the bar is in their neighborhood.
Say no to the racketeer tax in EU!
Now, thanks to the European Commission’s copyright directive proposal we are facing the danger of that mess spilling all over Europe. If you feel you’d like to do something about this, write an email to Members of the European Parliament from your country to kick off article 11 from the copyright directive proposal. There is still time to stop this nonsense.
Yesterday COMMUNIA sent a joint letter to MEPs working on the copyright reform dossier. It is supported by 34 organisations and 17 individuals, all advocates of quality education. In the letter we note our concerns on the phrasing of a new education exception to copyright, as included in the proposal for a directive on copyright in the Digital Single Market.
You can find the full letter, including signatories here.
We believe that educators should be provided with the autonomy necessary for them to give the best possible learning opportunities for students, and that students and other learners should have the freedom required for effective independent learning. The choice of resources that an educator uses should only be dependent on the need they see in their students. The current proposal from the European Commission does not meet these requirements. There however changes possible to the proposed directive that will create a copyright that supports education.
We have shared three concrete recommendations:
As we vocally oppose the proposed new rights for press publishers, we’re often asked what could be done instead to ensure the quality of journalism in the digital era. The good news is there are examples of how good journalism could be assisted. The even better news is that these solutions do not require such level of protectionism as the European Commission seem to think they do.
Scaling up a horrible idea
To recap the issue: the new rights for publishers, called also the ancillary copyright or the snippet levy, would require online services to pay for linking to articles that are up to twenty years old. Almost every news link with an explanatory extract (a snippet) placed in a search engine would be subject to a fee. This measure included in the proposed directive on copyright in the digital single market, despite a spectacular failure of similar mechanisms in Spain in Germany, is heavily backed by powerful media outlets. Their argument: aggregators such as Google news make money on ads placed by the content they aggregate, while the newspapers suffer from the disruption technology brought.
In January 2017 we know better than ever that we need quality journalism as one of driving forces behind democratic debate and choices people make casting election ballots. And we all know it costs. But the assumption that the snippet levy will work if enough countries are bullied into adopting it through a European directive is the textbook example of insanity – it is employing the method that had already failed and expecting a different result. Instead, we should be looking into other European countries where non-regulatory measures improving business models are adopted, and search for an inspiration from places where that level of public interventionism does not happen and publishers have to adapt to the digital age in other ways.