In defense of the everyday creator

A woman shouting into a man's ear-trumpet. Wood engraving.
Let's legalise everyday creations
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We’re taking part in Copyright Week, a series of actions and discussions supporting key principles that should guide copyright policy. Every day this week, various groups are taking on different elements of the law, and addressing what’s at stake, and what we need to do to make sure that copyright promotes creativity and innovation. COMMUNIA is happy to participate in this initiative and ready to share his thoughts on the topic of today: “21st Century Creators”.

The principle of supporting 21st century creators is the idea that ‘copyright law should account for the interests of all creators, not just those backed by traditional copyright industries. YouTube creators, remixers, fan artists and independent musicians (among others) are all part of the community of creators that encourage cultural progress and innovation.’

Technological developments in the 21st century have opened many new possibilities for creators to create and distribute their works. With digital technologies and the web, it’s super easy to copy and share creativity. It’s also simple for users to take and share the work of others without their permission. And while some of this copying and sharing could likely be copyright infringement, there are other types of sharing that should be permitted. The problem is that our law are sometimes ill-equipped to make a distinction. For example, everyday harmless creations on the internet are an infringement of copyright, such as creating a funny meme based on a copyrighted work. We believe that these sort of everyday actions—including remixing or transforming existing works into new creativity—should be possible without breaking the lawContinue reading

Evidence-based copyright policymaking should be a no-brainer

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Beware, evidence-free policymaking ahead
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It’s Copyright Week and today’s topic is “Transparency and Representation”. Copyright policy must be set through a participatory, democratic, and transparent process. It should not be decided through backroom deals, secret international agreements, or unilateral attempts to apply national laws extraterritorially. Unfortunately, in many aspects the European Union is not meeting such standards.

The European Union began to consider updating its copyright rules in 2013. In September of last year the European Commission released its proposal for a Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market. Unfortunately, the plan fails to deliver on the promise for a modern copyright law in Europe. It also does not take into account results of consultations that the Commission has conducted.  

It’s obvious to us that any legislative proposal should be developed from reliable, impartial economic and policy research whose foundation is based on evidence and facts. This information should be broadly available for public inspection, and public institutions should solicit and fairly incorporate feedback from a wide range of stakeholders. The process undertaken by the Commission hasn’t lived up to these expectations.

Representation does not work if the consultation process is broken

The Commission released its copyright plan simultaneously with the long-overdue results of the public consultation on the panorama exception, and the press publisher’s right. This is a prime example of lack of commitment to transparency nor representation. As written in an earlier post:

The public consultation on freedom of panorama and ancillary copyright ended on 15 June. We think that the public input should have been analyzed by the Commission and released to the public long before any public release of a Directive in which those topics are discussed. Doing so would have demonstrated reasonable and responsible policy-making on behalf of the Commission. But by releasing the summaries of these consultations at the same time as the Directive—when it was far too late for the public to understand the Commission’s thinking, let alone advocate for other changes—only reinforces the EC’s disingenuousness in having a public consultation in the first place.

But looking beyond process considerations, it’s clear that a large swath of substantive feedback was mostly ignored by the Commission. We and many other respondents urged the Commission 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. The Commission decided not to include it in their proposal.

Link tax and evidence-free policymaking

But perhaps the Commission’s approach to the press publisher’s right (also known as ancillary copyright, linktax, etc.) is a better example of evidence-free policymaking. In opposition to much of the public feedback on this measure, the Commission still introduced the press publisher’s right within their copyright proposal. Their summary report on the public consultation does not communicate that there were nine times as many users, consumers, and citizens who opposed the introduction of the right than press publishers who supported it. The logical conclusion as to why the Commission doesn’t mention this—or provide any sort of numerical breakdown of respondents ‘for’ and ‘against’—is because it would plainly show that there is massive opposition to the introduction of a right for press publishers.

But even if we look beyond public opinion, there’s obvious and direct evidence that a press publisher’s right does not work. Similar rules have already failed to achieve their primary goals in Germany and Spain. A new right will not only fail to increase publisher revenues, but also decrease competition and innovation in the delivery of news, limit access to information, and create widespread negative repercussions for related stakeholders.

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New study explores possible effects of counterproductive press publisher’s right

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At the end of December we published a position paper on the Commission’s proposal to introduce new rights in publications available to press publishers for control over the digital use of their content. The right would apply for 20 years, and would also apply retroactively to content already published. From our perspective, the press publishers’ right will not only fail to increase publisher revenues, but also decrease competition and innovation in the delivery of news, limit access to information, and create widespread negative repercussions for related stakeholders. For this reason we argue that Article 11 (“Protection of press publications concerning digital uses”) should be removed from the proposal.

Today, OpenForum Europe published a paper written by Prof. dr. Mireille M.M. van Eechoud which analyses the press publisher’s right (they call it “PIP”, for short). The study examines the justifications for the proposed press publisher’s right, and assesses how it would fit in the EU copyright framework. (Read full paper here)

The report echoes the skepticism (and dearth of evidence) about whether an additional right would even be able to address the challenges faced by press publishers today:

Neither the Impact Assessment nor the Commission Communication explains in what way the introduction of an additional layer of rights would facilitate the clearing of rights for online uses and reduce transaction costs for all stakeholders concerned. The claims that are made about the causal relationship between the introduction of a publisher’s intellectual property right, increasing revenues and a sustainable press leading to media diversity, are not substantiated with data.

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Ansip is forgetting about important parts of education

Bible Reading
Leaving important educational players behind
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On his blog just before Christmas, Vice President Ansip made a case for a simple copyright law for education to help Europe’s teachers and students. While we can only support a simple copyright law that supports education instead of making it harder for educators to teach, the Commission did not propose such a solution in the directive. The Commission has limited the new exception to official ‘educational establishments’ and has written a preference for licenses over the exception in the text. By doing so they are leaving important parts of education behind.

Leaving important players behind

Ansip writes about the important transition from solely physical education to embracing digital technologies. In the process, the patchwork of exceptions to copyright for educational purposes across Europe blocks much innovation in education:

Unfortunately, there are many differences around Europe in how these exceptions are applied, especially when it comes to using copyright-protected material in digital or online teaching activities.

Digital technologies are transforming the teaching and learning environment. They are being used more and more throughout education: laptops in the classroom to show video clips, interactive whiteboards to display webpages, for example.

But current EU law does not properly address digital’s significant presence and influence in the learning environment. It needs to catch up.

This makes it strange that the Commission’s definition of ‘learning environment’ is so limited to official educational establishments in the proposed directive. Education is understood today as a lifelong process that is conducted by a multitude of institutions, and even learners themselves. This was noted in the Commission Communication ”Making a European Area of Lifelong Learning a Reality” and the subsequent Council Resolution of 27 June 2002 on lifelong learning. Yet, when defining copyright law, the European Commission fails to embrace its own lifelong learning approach by limiting the potential beneficiaries of the proposed exception to ‘educational establishments’. 

In doing so, the proposed exception will leave unharmonised the digital uses for educational purposes made by other individuals and organisations, such as the great value that museums, libraries, archives, professional associations, and civil society organisations give to education. Think for example of education about the dangers of drugs that civil society organisations provide for teenagers, or the great educational programmes of libraries that help Europeans embrace their local culture. This limitation would also exclude employees, apprenticeships and practical learning as vocational education at their company, which is a key part of Europe’s lifelong learning goal.

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EU copyright should protect users’ rights and prevent content filtering

Woman approaching a windmill
Content filtering violates fundamental rights
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Today we are publishing the fifth in a series of position papers dealing with the various parts of the European Commission’s proposal for a Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market (the previous papers dealt with the education exception, text and data mining, the press publisher’s right and freedom of panorama). The paper deals with article 13 of the Commission’s proposal which introduces a filtering obligation on online platforms that allow users to upload content (such as facebook, youtube flickr and many other online services). The proposal fails to establish clear rules for internet users that make it clear how they can share and remix content legally. Instead it introduces a filtering requirement for online platforms that can potentially serve as a censorship machine and will violate users’ fundamental rights and distort the existing legal framework. From our perspective article 13 and the related recitals should be deleted from the proposal (You can download a pdf version of the position paper here).

Position paper: Use of Protected Content by Information Society Service Providers

Article 13 of the European Commission’s proposal for a Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market attempts to address the disparity in revenues generated for rightsholders and platforms from online uses of protected content. The proposed article attempts this by introducing an obligation for “Information society service providers that store and provide to the public access to large amounts of works” to filter user uploads. It would also require these providers to set up licensing agreements with rightsholders.

These proposed measures, however, do not address the issue adequately; instead, they violate fundamental rights of users, contradict the E-Commerce Directive, and go against CJEU case law.

The measures proposed in the Commission’s proposal stem from an unbalanced vision of copyright as an issue between rightsholders and ‘infringers’. The proposal chooses to ignore limitations and exceptions to copyright, fundamental freedoms, and existing users’ practices. In addition, the proposal fails to establish clear rules with regard to how citizens can use protected works in transformative ways—such as remixes and other forms of so-called “user-generated content” (UGC). As a result, a system of this kind would greatly restrict the way Europeans create, share, and communicate online.

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The proposed publishers right is an attack on the public domain

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Save the public domain from the publishers right
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Traditionally, at the beginning of the new year we celebrated what is known as Public Domain Day: on the first of January of any given year the works of authors who have been dead for more than 70 years enter the public domain. As this is a decisive year for copyright reform in the European Union, it seems much more important to highlight the dangers for the public domain that we are facing in the context of the copyright reform process (you can refer to Wikipedia and the Public Domain Review for overviews of works that have entered the public domain this year).

While copyright reform generally has a positive connotation, it is important to realise that a reform does not mean that things will change for the better. As we have pointed out before, the copyright reform package presented by the Commission is extremely one-sided. And both the attempt to introduce a new right for press publishers, and the requirements for online platforms to filter user uploads, have the potential to cause a lot of damage to the public domain and the ability of users to access information and express themselves online.

Shrinking the public domain

When it comes to the public domain the proposal to introduce a new right for press publishers contained in article 11 of the Commission’s proposal is the most dangerous, as it has the potential to shrink the public domain. Our 2010 Public Domain Manifesto defines the public domain as being

… comprised of our shared knowledge, culture and resources that can be used without copyright restrictions by virtue of current law.

This definition implies that the scope of the public domain can change in response to changes of the legal environment. The most obvious would be changes to the duration of copyright protection. Lengthening the term of protection would shrink the public domain while shortening the term would grow the public domain (as we argue for in our policy recommendation #1). Continue reading

Join us in the fight for good copyright for education

Johan de Witt 's nachts op straat aangevallen
Copyright should facilitate education
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COMMUNIA organised the first meeting of our new project ‘Copyright for Education’ at the beginning of December. We invited over a dozen stakeholders and experts from the education field, from organisations such as Wikimedia Deutschland and the Reading and Writing foundation. One of the essential questions of the meeting was how can we collaborate for a better copyright for education. We want the broad education sector to have a voice in the current copyright reform.

The transformation of education

Participants in our meeting discussed how technological developments have opened a lot of new opportunities for educators. It has become easier to share and collaborate with one another, even when you are miles apart – as proven by the European eTwinning project. Many organisations and schools are already working on transforming education in the digital age. They are adapting the mindset of Erasmus, the European exchange program that enables EU students to study abroad, to the way they share, teach and collaborate.

Yet copyright does not adapt quickly enough to keep up. Everyone at our workshop was able to share concrete examples of copyright problems in education from their own experience. For example, for many teachers it is unclear if and how they can share material as simple as a poem. They do not always know if they can link it in an email sent directly to their students or should put the link in the closed network of the school. We cannot simply attribute this to a lack of knowledge on copyright. Copyright should be clear and consistent, so that you do not have to be a copyright expert alongside being a teacher.Continue reading

Cultural Heritage Institutions: Commission’s Copyright Proposal fails to address our needs

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Unlock Europe's cultural heritage now!
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Last week a number of Europeana organisations representing libraries and other cultural heritage organizations released a joint response to the Commission’s copyright proposals. The paper, issued by LIBER, EBLIDA, IFLA, Public Libraries 2020 and Europeana, deals with those elements of the EU copyright framework that are directly relevant to cultural heritage institutions.

This includes four issues addressed in the Commission’s Proposal for a Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market (the exceptions for Text and Data Mining, Education, and Preservation copies, and the measures aimed at improving access to out-of-commerce works), and a number of issues that the Commission’s proposal fails to address, such as on-site access to collections and online document supply.

Exceptions are too narrow

The paper underlines that from the perspective of cultural heritage institutions, EU copyright reform needs to focus on updating and harmonizing copyright exceptions:

We believe that overall welfare is best served by a robust and mandatory set of copyright exceptions which facilitate access to knowledge.

Given this general approach it is not surprising the cultural heritage institutions share many of the same concerns we raised in our analysis of the Commission’s proposal. Continue reading

EU copyright should protect photography in public spaces

Ivens & Co. Fotoartikelen. Amsterdam Spuistraat 216 Nijmegen, Groningen
photography is overlooked in the proposal
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Today we are publishing the fourth in a series of position papers dealing with the various parts of the European Commission’s proposal for a Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market (see our papers on the education exception, text and data mining exception, and press publisher’s right). Today’s paper deals with the Commission’s handling of what is commonly known as “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 (you can download a pdf version of the paper here). From our perspective this issue was not adequately addressed in the Commission’s proposal, and we ask 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.

Position paper: Copyright Reform to Protect the Rights of Photographers and Painters

Public spaces in our cities and countrysides are a functional part of the commons, the places accessible to all members of society. These belong to the public and are not owned privately. The right to take and re-use pictures of our public spaces is critical for the arts, preservation of culture, and education. It is also highly relevant to freedom of expression. It forms the foundation upon which many European photographers, painters, and visual artists create art and earn a living.

The European Commission ran a consultation on this right, known commonly as “Freedom of Panorama”. The results of the consultation confirm that consumers, institutional users, service providers, professional photographers, and architects believe that making this right mandatory across the EU will have a positive impact on their activities.

In its communication published alongside the EU copyright reform proposal, the European Commission “confirms the relevance of this exception” and “strongly recommends that all Member States implement this exception.” Both Vice-President Ansip and Commissioner Oettinger have since publicly confirmed that there is a majority in the Council for such a mandatory right. Continue reading

Commission’s proposal on new rights for press publishers: A terrible solution good for no one

Adreskaart voor boekhandel Scheltema en Holkema
won't help publishers, won't help users
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Today we are publishing the third in a series of position papers dealing with the various parts of the European Commission’s proposal for a Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market (see our other papers on the education exception, text and data mining). Today’s paper deals with the Commission’s proposal to introduce new rights in publications available to press publishers for control over the digital use of their content (you can download a pdf version of the paper here). From our perspective, this new right will not only fail to increase publisher revenues, but also decrease competition and innovation in the delivery of news, limit access to information, and create widespread negative repercussions for related stakeholders. For this reason we argue that Article 11 (“Protection of press publications concerning digital uses”) should be removed from the proposal.

Position paper: New Rights for Press Publishers

Copyright already provides rightsholders with a broad range of protections over their creative works, typically lasting for the life of the author plus 70 years. However, the European Commission has proposed new rights in publications available to press publishers for control over the digital use of their content. This new right has been called many things, including a publisher’s right, ancillary copyright, link tax, Google tax.

The Commission’s proposal to introduce a right for press publishers falls outside the EU mandate to establish a Digital Single Market. The case for EU intervention is weak, as it does not meet the requirements of subsidiarity and proportionality. If adopted, the new right for press publishers will decrease competition and innovation in the delivery of news, limit access to information, and create widespread negative repercussions for related stakeholders. Continue reading