Members of the European Parliament call for safeguarding the Public Domain

Vrouw op een jaarmarkt door een dief van haar geldbuidel beroofd
stop the misappropriation of public domain works
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One of the issues that has been glaringly absent from the Commission’s proposal for Copyright in the Digital Single Market Directive is better protection of the Public Domain from Cultural Heritage Institutions who are trying to appropriate Public Domain works that they have digitized.

Most of Europe’s Museums, Libraries and Archives digitize Public Domain works in their collection in order to make them available without any restrictions (in line with our Public Domain Manifesto and Europeana’s Public Domain Charter). However, a minority of institutions uses loopholes in copyright legislation to claim exclusive rights over digital reproductions of works for which copyright protection has expired.

The legal basis for such claims is often found in copyright rules that also afford some form of protection to non-original photographs. These are photographic reproductions that qualify for copyright protection because they do not constitute the “own intellectual creation” of the author. Such loopholes exist in 7 EU member states and the proposed DSM directive would have been an opportunity to close them. Continue reading

Copyright and Education in Europe: 15 everyday cases in 15 countries

Copyright and Education in Europe: 15 everyday cases in 15 countriesLicentie

Today we publish the findings of a new study carried out by Teresa Nobre that intends to demonstrate the impact exerted by narrow educational exceptions in everyday practices. She accomplishes this purpose by analysing 15 educational scenarios involving the use of protected materials under the copyright laws of 15 European countries: the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain and the United Kingdom.

Almost no case law was analysed, and uses permitted under licenses, namely extended collective licenses, are not indicated here. Thus, the study does not give a detailed picture of all the countries under analysis.

Materials available for educational uses

This study confirms what we have known for a long time: that not all copyrighted works are treated equally in the context of education. Some educational exceptions exclude the use of certain types of works (textbooks and academic books in France and Germany, dramatic works and cinematographic works in Denmark and Finland and musical scores in France and Spain). Other laws contain restrictions in relation to the extent or degree to which a work can be used for educational purposes, thus creating obstacles to the use of entire works, namely short works (e.g. individual articles, short videos and short poems) and images (e.g. artworks, photographs and other visual works).

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Encouraging! Culture Committee votes against content filtering

Woman approaching a windmill
Stop the filtering nonsense!
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The concept of content filtering has been making quite a career. Not only did it land in the copyright directive proposal, but also it has been introduced into the draft of the Audiovisual Media Service Directive (AVMSD) that is currently making its way through the European Parliament. In the context of the AVMSD, filtering of uploads by video-sharing platforms would serve to prevent legal audiovisual content that could harm children. As important as protecting children may be, the CULT Committee has just voted against that idea. This was the right thing to do.

A seemingly quick solution to filter whatever the decision makers don’t want users to see is a very dangerous tool in any context. It is an arbitrary approach to the flow if information online and as such it can be used as a censorship machine. This  “automatized conscience” will operate on a very abstract definitions of content that could impair children’s “physical, mental or moral development” or incitement to terrorism, violence and hatred. Humans often argue about what constitutes such incitement with many cases finding their finale in court. How could we trust algorithms with such a dispute?

Fortunately, 17 members of the CULT Committee understood that. Nine of them either do not see the danger or have an unwavering faith in the potency of technology to solve complex societal problems. Hopefully, the AVMSD debate helped CULT Committee see both the danger and the pointlessness of content filtering and they will take a similar decision for a better copyright. After all, in the context of copyright, putting the interest of rightholders before the interest of the public is an even worse reason to employ algorithms as censors.

Creative Commons Summit: Opening the Next Chapter for Action on Copyright Reform

scott-webb-small
Organising for a balanced copyright
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Later this week in Toronto we’ll be joining hundreds of Creative Commons community members, supporters, and activists at the CC Global Summit. The summit program will feature keynotes and a variety of sessions organized around five tracks, including Policy & Advocacy, the Useable Commons, Community & Movement, Spheres of Open, and the Future of the Commons.

We’ll be joining many of the sessions, especially in the Policy & Advocacy track. As Lisette explained last week, the Policy & Advocacy track will focus on sharing information about our work in support of copyright reform and commons advocacy, and increasing the effectiveness of our community in the current and future hotbeds of law and policy change. These are exactly the areas in which COMMUNIA has been working since the summer of 2014, when we rebooted as an advocacy team to respond to the then-upcoming reform of the EU copyright rules. We know that other governments around the world are engaged in (or planning) updates to rules that govern the creation and sharing of creativity and knowledge. Some of these changes acknowledge the importance of user rights in the digital and online world, but many of the proposals only call for an increase in protection and enforcement of copyright that benefits powerful rights holders and content publishers.

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Launched: rightcopyright.eu campaign for better education

Portret van Deborah Delano lezend, James Abbott McNeill Whistler, 1858
Raising our voice for education
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Today, COMMUNIA launches the rightcopyright.eu campaign, asking for support for a better copyright for education. Let’s raise our voices and spread the word about this petition so we can influence our legislators in creating better copyright laws for education.

Why we need your help

The European Commission has presented a new European copyright law (Draft Directive) to the European Parliament which very much impacts education. Unfortunately, the current proposal is very disappointing and does not facilitate education. Educators have embraced the modern possibilities, and so should copyright. Therefore, COMMUNIA has developed a campaign website rightcopyright.eu to collect petitions of educators throughout Europe to let the European Parliamentarians know we need a better copyright for education. The European parliament will vote on the proposal later this year, and can change, accept or reject it. We will present the outcomes of the petition in the European Parliament, clearly showing them the voice of the European citizens eager for a good-quality education, and a copyright that matches.

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Spain’s El Pais newspaper comes out strongly against ancillary copyright madness

Newspapers B&W
A way forward shall be based on cooperation
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One might think that the debate on the ancillary copyright for press publishers is over – both  JURI Rapporteur  MEP Therese Comodini Cachia and IMCO Rapporteur Catherine Stihler rejected the Commission’s proposal to  provide publishers with a competitive advantage by using copyright legislation. Unfortunately, even with such progressive voices, the misconceptions about the ancillary copyright were still visible even during last weeks  Legal Affairs Committee hearing , where MEPs seemed not to understand that aggregators help news outlets gain a larger audience. And the debate in media on this issue was never more heated and polarized.

Strong voice of El Pais

El País, the largest and internationally most renowned Spanish daily newspaper, has published an op-ed strongly criticizing the idea of introducing the ancillary copyright for press publishers:

But anybody who thinks that those rights can be turned into a fortress from which to impose obligatory and inalienable fees is mistaken. This is a model that has been shown to fail in Germany, in 2013, and in Spain in 2014. Then, efforts to impose an obligatory fee on Google for the use of links to news stories provoked a major fall in web traffic for the Axel Springer group and the closure of Google News in Spain.

What is crucial, El Pais understands the value of digital technologies for press publishers, while many others, especially big German publishers, threat internet as a threat for their business model.

Thanks to the new digital technologies, we are able to reach millions of people we would never have been able to using the old, traditional print methods, while at the same time offering our readers more and better stories in real time and in more attractive formats.

The business of selling only print newspapers is over and will not be back. What publishers should do is to  is adjust their business models to benefit from opportunities created by internet, and not asking for more (copy)rights without providing any evidence that more right actually help them (instead of just hurting others).  El Pais voice, coming from a country with first-hand experience of the ancillary copyright, is invaluable in this ongoing debate. Continue reading

JURI rapporteur take on education is not in tune with everyday practices

Allegorie op het onderwijs
Education deserves more attention
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For several months now, we have been arguing that ‘the devil is in the detail’ when it comes to the Commission’s education proposal. MEP Therese Comodini Cachia draft amendments to the proposed exception for digital and cross-border teaching activities, while introducing some improvements, do not meet the educational community expectations to see a better copyright reform. And, worst still, they represent a serious step back in relation to the existing EU acquis in the area of educational exceptions.

The licensing fight continues

We appreciate MEP Comodini efforts to mitigate the negative impact of article 4(2), which allows Member States to give precedence to licenses over the proposed exception. However, we believe she misses the opportunity of getting rid of the Commission’s infamous proposal, while still protecting the extended collective licensing (ECL) schemes that exist in the Nordic countries.

Under the Commission’s proposal, any licensing offer could rule out the application of the education exception, thus negating much of the substance and effectiveness of the exception. MEP Comodini seems to recognize that many educational institutions would be ill-placed to negotiate license terms or would be forced to accept the terms dictated by the licensor, and thus introduced some substantial changes to article 4(2). Under Ms. Comodini’s proposal, the unilateral and discretionary offer of the rightholder to conclude a licensing agreement is not sufficient to deny the educational establishment concerned the right to benefit from the educational exception. An existing contractual relation is needed to override the exception.Continue reading

The Legal Affairs Committee meeting on copyright was a clash of civilisations

Batle of Hanau
Will the old thinking win?
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Now that most of the committees have published their draft opinions on the Commission’s Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market, it’s time to hear their members presenting their initial views. JURI hosted a meeting on 22 March where MEPs voiced a range of opinions on various aspects of the copyright reform proposal. The divide between the MEPs seems to run deeper than mere disagreements on definitions; instead, they underscore a fundamental schism in the MEPs’ understanding of the world we live in.

The industry-backers

Some MEPs reacted to the copyright reform proposal using a 20th century ordering of the world, where mass-scale creative industries emerged and eventually were consolidated. For MEPS such as Jean-Marie Cavada (ALDE, France) or Angelika Niebler (EPP, Germany) the world has not changed all that much in terms of where important stuff happens. Cavada and Niebler think publishers and other rightsholders produce all the real value, while the internet and new sharing technologies is like a portable TV that  that main purpose of is to constantly rip them off.

Seeing the world like that, it’s no wonder that they mostly approve of the European Commission’s original proposal, and oppose reforms that champion users’ rights, which for the most part they see as legitimizing tech-enabled theft. There is no coincidence that many of those creative industry backers are from France and Germany, countries that built their considerable entertainment industries well before the digital era.

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Legal Affairs Committee’s leading MEP tries to diffuse the content filter bomb

Victor Frankenstein becoming disgusted at his creation. Illustration from the frontispiece of the 1831 edition
Making the monster a little bit prettier
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Again we are witnessing an attempt to make the Frankenstein’s monster, article 13, a bit prettier as the Legal Affairs Committee’s (JURI) report has been officially published. Instead of killing it altogether with its recitals, MEP Therese Comodini Cachia tries to save the numbering of the proposal and at the same time to diffuse the bomb the European Commission set against users’ rights.

Filtering is kind of gone

The reading of the proposed article 13 text leaves no doubt that the intent is to remove the upload filter. The reference to “preventing the availability” of content uploaded by users who have no ownership over it is gone from article 13 paragraph 1. The emphasis is on effective and proportionate measures that the information society service providers need to take to ensure that the agreements they conclude with rightsholders are functioning well.

At first sight the amendments proposed for article 13 seem good. What kind of measures should be carried out is left open. It can be really anything that parties decide would work for them, be it some compensation or a share in the revenues the content users upload generates when there are ads on display. Unfortunately, looking into the recitals, it gets more complicated. Ms Comodini proposes no rewrite to recital 39 that would change the fact that the content recognition remains a go-to technology in terms of assessing the rights to uploaded content.

What are the consequences of that? It means that effectively the ISSPs and rightsholders are not encouraged to look beyond tech solutions to address any perceived disparities of income. Rather, the directive legally validates the existing market practice of employing tech such as Content ID to sort out ownership of the content. With her concept Ms Comodini may have closed the gate to filtering uploads but she left the path leading to it basically intact.

Another consequence is that if article 13 had ever meant to make Youtube weaker, by constant relying on tech solutions in settling human disputes, it equips the tech giant with an enormous competitive advantage. After all they already have Content ID.

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Legal Affairs Committee Stops Short of Protecting User Rights

Schaatsenrijden in een dorp
we need some forward-looking changes
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MEP Therese Comodini Cachia, the Rapporteur on the Copyright in the Digital Single Market Directive in the European Parliament’s Committee on Legal Affairs (JURI), is currently  perhaps the most influential person on copyright policymaking in Brussels. Last week her draft report was officially published. Communia has already praised Ms. Comodini for calling the publishers’ bluff on ancillary copyright and for proposing to really unlock Europe’s research potential by removing the harmful and unworkable restrictions to text and data mining that the European Commission proposed.

Given Ms. Comodini’s deep understanding of the interplay between law, society, and technology, and the shrewd manner in which she solved several legal Gordian Knots in her draft, it comes as a disappointment that we fail to see some forward-looking changes that would really make the European copyright framework fit for the Digital Single Market.

Freedom of Panorama

Some two years ago the European Parliament had its first heated discussion on the question of Freedom of Panorama. A lot has happened since then, including introduction of a new copyright exception in support of Freedom of Panorama in both France (limited) and Belgium (full). Continue reading