Securing user rights in education – reflections from our policy debate.

De eerste schooldag
Both copyright reform and voluntary licensing secure user rights in education

How to secure user rights in education? This was the question we asked during a policy debate organised by Communia and hosted by MEP Michał Boni in the European Parliament on the 17th of November. Panelists, politicians and stakeholders participating in this debate discussed two approaches: the creation and use of Open Educational Resources (OER), and a progressive copyright reform for education.

While these issues are usually presented separately, as Communia we see them as two aspects of a single effort to ensure user rights in education. This two-path approach has been acknowledged at least since 2013, when the Creative Commons community argued that the movement behind open licensing policies needs to be involved in the copyright reform debate as well. Today in Europe, we are facing both developments related to OER policies (related to the Opening Up Education initiative, launched in 2013), and a copyright reform process in which education has been highlighted by the EC to be one of key areas for modernisation of copyright.Continue reading

European People’s Party on copyright reform: or, how to use licenses in 100 creative ways

representation of Last Judgement, with the archangel Michael weighing the souls (or dividing the blessed and the damned)
The EPP group seems to be in favor of preserving the status quo

Copyright reform is one of the most vividly-discussed topics in European Union in last few weeks. After the leak of the European Commission’s communication, the political parties did not wait long to take a stand in the debate. Socialists and Democrats opted to listen instead of presenting their own ideas, and organized a conference on limitations and exceptions, and geoblocking. The event was held in the Parliament on 19th November.  

On the other hand, the European People’s Party (EPP Group), the largest party in the European Parliament, issued a rather uninspiring position paper on copyright. Many wondered whether the document would present a more progressive stance on copyright reform than what we’ve seen so far from the Commission. And the answer is simply: No.

On an ideological level, the document starts with a really promising message and tone. The EPP Group claims that the most important issue is “a balanced approach on copyright” to accommodate needs of creators and consumers alike. We cannot agree more. But after stating this introduction, the EPP focuses only on creators’ rights, and presents their ultimate goal as ensuring the growth of the creative sector, leaving the issue of public domain out. It’s even more alarming that according to the EPP the only way to preserve cultural diversity in Europe is “ensuring a high level of copyright protection”.

In one sentence,  the EPP Group advocates for “a copyright system that promotes investments, the efficient functioning of value chains between authors, creators, performers, producers, publishers, journalists, intermediaries, service providers, consumers and users”. Apart from the obvious fact that culture cannot be reduced to value chains (or value trees for that matter), it is impossible to understand what they mean when they mention the needs of consumers and users, since these stakeholders have not been well represented in considering a balanced copyright reform.

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Why is a museum suing Wikipedia for sharing?

Portrait of Richard Wagner
digitisation of public domain works doesn't create new rights

Above is the Portrait of Richard Wagner by Cäsar Willich, one of the contested images.

Yesterday the Wikimedia Foundation and Wikimedia Deutschland announced that they’re fighting a copyright infringement lawsuit brought by the Reiss Engelhorn Museum. The German museum is suing Wikimedia for publishing digital reproductions of public domain artworks from its collection on Wikipedia. The physical works of art housed in the museum are clearly in the public domain, but German copyright law might apply to photographic reproductions of those works. According to Wikimedia,

The Reiss Engelhorn Museum asserts that copyright applies to these particular images because the museum hired the photographer who took some of them and it took him time, skill, and effort to take the photos. The Reiss Engelhorn Museum further asserts that because of their copyrights, the images of the artwork cannot be shared with the world through Wikimedia Commons.

Wikimedia aligned its goals with those of many cultural heritage institutions, and restated their community’s ongoing commitment to increasing the accessibility and reuse of creative content in the commons. The foundation and Wikimedia Deutschland disagreed with the views of the museum, saying that “Copyright law should not be misused to attempt to control the dissemination of works of art that have long been in the public domain…[t]he intent of copyright is to reward creativity and originality, not to create new rights limiting the online sharing of images of public domain works.” Continue reading

Open Letter on the Commission’s flawed Online Platform Consultation

A woman shouting into a man's ear-trumpet. Wood engraving.
Consulting without listening?

Last week we have pointed out our concerns about a number of copyright related questions buried deep inside the EU commission’s ongoing consultation on the ‘Regulatory environment for platforms, online intermediaries, data and cloud computing and the collaborative economy‘. Our main points were that the consultation does not adequately address the effects of regulatory measures aimed at platforms on EU citizens and that the consultation is designed in such a way that it discourages end users from participating.

Today we have relayed these concerns in letters to First Vice President of the European Commission Frans Timmermans (who is in charge of the better regulation agenda) and Members of the European Parliament. These letters are supported by 29 organisations representing civil society, news publishers, consumers and the digital industry share their concerns regarding the European Commission’s approach in consulting on copyright matters. The letter makes it clear that we are not the only ones who consider the online platforms consultation to be flawed:

The Commission’s “Online Platforms consultation” includes some questions on copyright, which had not previously been the subject of consultation. However, critical questions dealing with the creation of new, controversial copyrights for publishers are only open to right holders to answer, denying European citizens and relevant stakeholders the right to be heard. Further, the Commission is set to adopt a Communication on Copyright on 9th December, which covers these issues, before the end of the consultation and a proper analysis of the contributions received. Continue reading

COMMUNIA untangles copyright and education on Medium

Teacher's Desk - Linn School
Keep copyright out of the classroom

COMMUNIA has opened a new line of communication: copyright untangled where we discuss copyright and education. The aim of the series is to provide context on the state of play on copyright and education in the EU, while keeping it understandable for people who are not very familiar with copyright law, the legislative process or the workings of European politics. Our goal is to explain why copyright needs to become “untangled”, if we want it to be fit for modern education. Besides pieces on copyright reform we also discuss innovations in education in relation to copyright, issues such as open education or digital and media literacy, and will conduct interviews with teachers who share their experiences.

We will post a new piece on Copyright Untangled every two weeks, written by either the COMMUNIA members who also write on this website, and also guest authors who provide a new perspective on their area’s of expertise: education, innovation and copyright. To give an example, Adam Karpiński has written about principles we need to keep in mind when we think of a new education exception for Europe. Natalia Mileszyk has written on the open education movement and a future post will discuss the commercial or noncommercial nature of education today.

You can follow the copyright and education series via

Activists meet to discuss copyright reform in Europe

School of Rock(ing) EU Copyright
School of Rock(ing) EU Copyright

European copyright law reform enters its decisive phase. Changes will be proposed by the Commission in the coming months, and will determine the shape of European law for many years. Activists involved in copyright reform from across Europe met last week in Warsaw to discuss this subject. During the meeting we worked to expand the participants’ knowledge on the legislative process in the European Union, but also map the major challenges and plan further action of non-governmental organizations in Europe.

Activists from 12 countries in Europe, who work on the reform of copyright law, came to Warsaw for the School of Rock(ing) EU Copyright, organized by Communia Association, European Digital Rights Initiative (EDRI) and Centrum Cyfrowe. The participants discussed the main areas of upcoming reform: text and data mining, geoblocking, fair use in education, freedom of panorama, online access to cultural heritage, the liability of intermediaries, court injunctions in copyright and approach “follow the money”. Continue reading

EU consultation on online platforms – your voice counts!

Vrouw met spreektrompet
Don't mess with the right to link!

As part of its effort to build a digital single market and to modernise the European Copyright rules the European Commision is currently running an online consultation on the ‘Regulatory environment for platforms, online intermediaries, data and cloud computing and the collaborative economy‘. As the name suggests this consultation bundles an enormous amount of issues into a single consultation. This monster consultation consisting of at least 115 questions depending on which type of user you are, hides a number of questions that can have huge impact on the shape of the future EU copyright framework and determine how we share and collaborate online.

These questions relate to the regulatory framework for online platforms, a term that is defined so broadly by the consultation that covers wide swaths of the Internet:

“Online platform” refers to an undertaking operating in two (or multi)-sided markets, which uses the Internet to enable interactions between two or more distinct but interdependent groups of users so as to generate value for at least one of the groups.

In other words, the Commission asks questions about platforms and services like SoundCloud, Wikipedia, YouTube, Flickr, Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter and many others, that have become central in how European citizens communicate with each other and express themselves. Changing the regulatory framework that applies to these platforms will have far reaching consequences for all of us. In this light it is very disturbing that these questions are hidden in a consultation that appears to be designed to discourage responses from citizens. Continue reading

Open Access and the Power of Editorial Boards: Why Elsevier Plays Hardball with Deviant Linguists

Open Access: the revolt of the editors?

The recent infight between the world’s largest academic publishing company, Elsevier, and (soon: former) editors of one their journals over attempts to make the journal open access – that is, freely available online – demonstrates the potential power of editorial boards in shaping the digital future of academic publishing.

The academic publishing system runs on reputation. Researchers gain reputation by publishing in reputable journals, which are more read and cited than other journals. The better the reputation of a journal, the more prestigious is it to review and serve as a member of the editorial board. Of course, the related reputation dynamic is self-stabilizing and highly path dependent because prestigious journals get more submissions, have higher rejection rates, more prestigious authors and reviewers, all of which contributes to being cited more often, which in turn is the key reputation metric in most disciplines (see a paper by Jakob Kapeller and myself on this issue for the field of economics).

The path dependence of journal reputation in contempary academic publishing is one of the reasons – if not the main reason – why new open access journals face a steep uphill battle against incumbent journals. The few open access journals that managed to acquire substantial prestige such as some of Public Library of Science (PLoS) journals did so mostly because of the very high prestige of founding editors, including nobel laureates. It is also the reason why simply calling for researchers to switch to open access outlets won’t work. Since careers and funding depend on the proven ability to publish in established “top journals”, researchers in general and early-career researchers in particular have strong incentives to avoid newly founded open access outlets. Continue reading

Leaked copyright communication: A more modern copyright framework for Europe?

Routekaart voor de beroemde plekken in Ise
Copyright quo vadis?

On Tuesday the European Commission published a roadmap outlining the next steps in their effort to modernize the EU copyright rules. The (not entirely unexpected) main takeaway from this roadmap is that the Commission is retreating from its earlier announcement that it will present a comprehensive legislative proposal for copyright modernisation before the end of 2015.

Instead the Commission will address the modernisation of copyright via a series of interventions, starting in December with a “Communication on copyright which will provide a comprehensive overview of the main issues to be tackled in order to ensure the proper functioning of the copyright marketplace, in particular in the online environment and in a cross-border context”. This communication will come together with two legislative proposals, the first dealing with the (long overdue) implementation of the Marrakesh Treaty, and the other about cross-border portability of content. In a second phase – currently promised for ‘Spring 2016’ – the Commission plans to present additional measures, including legislative updates of the InfoSoc directive.

Announcements about announcements

The rest of the roadmap consists of a fairly unstructured discussion of what might possibly be contained in the December consultation, and an extensive description of the available evidence, including the highly contentious outcomes of the 2013/2014 copyright consultation and the ongoing consultations on online platforms and the SatCab directive. But at its core the roadmap does not constitute much more than an announcement of the December communication, which in turn will be an announcement of legislative and non-legislative interventions.

Fortunately, we can ignore the rather vague roadmap and jump straight to a leaked draft of the actual communication published on Thursday by the IPkat. The draft appears to be fairly recent and is scheduled to be adopted by the Commission on the 9th of December. It is also a much more coherent document that provides us with a relatively clear overview of the Commission’s ideas of how ‘a modern, more European copyright framework’ should look. Continue reading

Creative Commons Summit: next steps in copyright reform

Julia Reda at the Creative Commons Global Summit 2015
Dear CC be more than a fig leaf!

The Creative Commons Summit, a bi-annual meeting of members of the CC network and friends of the Commons, took place in mid-October in Seoul, South Korea. One of the event’s tracks was devoted to copyright reform advocacy. The track was organised by member organisations of Communia, including Creative Commons.

In 2013, during the previous CC Summit, Creative Commons adopted a position on copyright reform. CC re-emphasized that even though the licenses are an essential mechanism to share creativity within the existing bounds of the law, it is now more important than ever to engage in a review and modernisation of copyright law itself. This commitment was confirmed during this year event.

Communia was especially honored to have MEP Julia Reda, the author of the European copyright evaluation report, give a keynote at the Summit. Reda stressed that while CC has been successful in showing how the copyright debate can be reframed, the values embraced by CC are not present enough in policy debates. Even worse, the existence and successes of Creative Commons licensing can be used as proof that the current system of copyright works, and that no fundamental change  is needed. “Be more than a fig leaf”, Reda told CC activists.

The danger, according to Reda, is that CC will become “an island of free culture in a broader sea of automated takedowns and enforcement”. If we are to avoid that, we need to move the policy debate. Activists have been good at blocking the worst reform proposals, including SOPA, PIPA, or ACTA. We have been much worse at formulating a positive reform agenda. Continue reading