European Commission doesn’t want to say how the directive was conceived

The Birth of Minerva
does the directive come from one man's head?
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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.

Evidence from Spain shows that new rights for publishers become a racketeer tax

chokehold on aggregators
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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.

Great news! Quality journalism doesn’t need the snippet levy

A woman shouting into a man's ear-trumpet. Wood engraving.
no new rights for publishers!
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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.

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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 Copyright Reform – a Guide for the Perplexed

Bible Reading
Copyright so complicated
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The debate whether the copyright reform in a proposed shape would be beneficial for Europe or not is now a key topic for digital rights organizations. But what do measures suggested by the European Commission actually mean? COMMUNIA and EDRi have jointly developed a Copyright reform guideline to the “legalese” of the draft directive. We present key issues and solutions that should be taken into consideration by the Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) who will soon discuss the proposal.

We believe that the current reform is a chance to empower users across Europe to access culture in ways that have been proved not to undermine authors’ revenues. This would boost the creation of new business models that will support authors, creators and journalists, and not only powerful intermediaries such as book publishers and record companies.

The copyright reform should also safeguard freedom of expression and privacy by curbing the surveillance capacity of filtering technologies. The Commission’s proposal fails to take advantage of these opportunities to secure a better future for Europe and European culture.

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Unlocking copyright for users: Make law, not licenses

Unlocking Copyright for users panel in the European Parlliament
Debating copyright in the European Parliament
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In the copyright reform process, according to MEP Therese Comodini Cachia, the European Parliament is not looking for polarized stakeholder opinions. Instead, it is looking for data and evidence. On September 8 in Brussels we delivered on the latter by showing there is still a chance to unlock the copyright for users. As to what MEPs don’t need, polarization may be difficult to avoid as long as legitimate users’ interests are considered to harm traditional copyright revenue streams.

Our event “Copyright reform – unlocking copyright for users?”—which we  organized together with  EDRi and hosted by MEPs Comodini Cachia (EPP) and Carlos Zorrinho (S&D)—gathered a full house in the European Parliament on a sunny afternoon. Representatives of digital rights’ organizations, creative industries, publishers, collecting societies, and artists were eager to talk about the future of copyright in the light of the imminent publication of the Commission’s copyright reform proposals.

Complain, and then move forward

From the perspective of COMMUNIA and EDRi the leaked drafts of the Commission’s  proposal presents a grim picture, where all ambitious attempts to adjust copyright to the challenges of the digital economy were replaced by a focus on propping up existing revenue streams. If the leaked proposals are measured against EDRi’s list of copyfails, almost none of the points identified as necessary to address are covered by the draft legislation. Those that are addressed are only superficial fixes to the existing state of affairs. The leaked proposal is like the new ACTA, as EDRi’s Diego Naranjo put it. Continue reading

Save the date! How can the reform unlock copyright for users?

Christus slaapt aan boord van het schip tijdens de storm
September 8 in Brussels
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We are impatiently awaiting the European Commission’s communication on the copyright reform that should happen on September 21st. We have a list of issues we think it should cover and together with EDRi we want to talk about what doesn’t work and should be changed as well as what does work and should be further reinforced.

On September 8th in Brussels MEPs Therese Comodini Cachia (EPP) and MEP Carlos Zorrinho (PASD) will host an event co-organized by COMMUNIA and EDRi on the possible future scenarios for copyright.

8.09 save the date

Our friends at EDRi will talk about the copyright deficiencies and areas for change based on their fascinating Copyfails series. We will talk about the need to reinforce users’ rights through the harmonization of limitations and exceptions based on our Best Case Scenarios for Copyright. Kennisland, a Communia member, will present the copyrightexceptions.eu, which collects and visualises where limitations to copyright are implemented in EU member states.

Regardless of the text of the EC Communication we will have our eyes set on the reform that should both protect users’ rights and adjust copyright for the 21st century. We are grateful that MEP Comodini and MEP Zorrinho are hosting this event and help spread this message.

We will publish the agenda of the event and registration info in mid-Agust. Meanwhile, please save the date for this important debate. See you on September 8th, 11:00-13:15 in the European Parliament, Brussels.

 

How to #fixcopyright with a great copyright limitation? A recipe for lawmakers

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With the Best Case Scenarios for Copyright series we have proved that copyright has a brighter side for users. For satire and critique, in teaching, research and journalism, even while preserving memories of beautiful spaces – copyright exceptions help artists, audiences, students, and tourists alike benefit from access to culture and education.

What is important, the copyright exceptions do not break creative markets and don’t put creators out of business. On the contrary – which poet wouldn’t want her poems to be translated in class? Which architect wouldn’t want his building to become a landmark everybody recognizes? Such a massive spread of cultural tropes is possible through the exceptions we have presented: freedom of panorama in Portugal, parody in France, education in Estonia and quotation in Finland.

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Download the Best Case Scenarios #fixcopyright poster

So what are the mechanisms and tricks that make exceptions great? Any copyright exception needs to balance legitimate interests of both the users and the rights holders. When that balance is achieved we can have more than 4 best case scenarios for copyright.

We have identified 6 magic ingredients that make copyright exceptions and limitations great. Here is how to mix them to #fixcopyright:

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The right to think is the right to quote – #fixcopyright with wide quotations exception!

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The right to quote is a pivotal element of science, study, critique, and art. By evoking somebody else’s words and creations we are able to enter into an intellectual dialog that is a foundation of our culture. Quotations substantiate scientific discourse and discovery of new knowledge. They are used widely in memes that have become a signature feature of social media.

Within the Best Case Scenarios for Copyright series, we present Finland as the best example for quotations. Below you can find the basic facts and for more evidence check the Best Case Scenario for Copyright – Quotations in Finland legal study. EU, it’s time to #fixcopyright!

Exception/Limitation: Quotations

Country:  Finland

04 - Quotations Share

What is a quotation exception?

  1. A quotation exception to copyright refers to citations or other uses of protected works as a way to support intellectual creation.
  2. The exception is justified by the freedom of intellectual creation.

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Wide education exception is the best case scenario to #fixcopyright in EU

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The education exception benefits teachers, students, and researchers who need access to all types of educational and informational resources that are often protected by copyright. This exception balances the right to education with the rights of authors. Maintaining the balance is never easy, and some issues still await their interpretation in Estonia. Still, Estonia enjoys the widest education exception provisions among all EU member states.

Within the Best Case Scenarios for Copyright series, we present Estonia as one of the best examples for education. Below you can find the basic facts and for more evidence check the Best Case Scenario for Copyright – Education in Estonia legal study. EU, it’s time to #fixcopyright!

Exception/Limitation: Education

Country: Estonia

 

03 - Education Share

What is an education exception?

  1. An education exception to copyright relates to cases where protected works of all types are used for educational purposes or scientific research, both offline and online.
  2. The exception is justified by the public interest of access to education.

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