Did Spain just declare war on the commons?

Two weeks ago the lower chamber of the Spanish parliament approved a number of changes to Spain’s Intellectual Property Law that directly threaten the ability of Spanish internet users to contribute to the commons. The law introduces a number of modifications to copyright law that expand the scope of exclusive rights over areas that were previously outside of the exclusive rights of copyright holders at the expense of users rights and the public domain.

The main reason for this law seems to be the desire of Spanish newspaper publishers to get a legally guaranteed income stream from news aggregation sites. What is happening in Spain is a modification of the (largely failed) attempt by German news publishers to make news aggregators (such as Google News) pay for using small parts of news articles that they link to.

Compared to the German attempt, the Spanish approach is more elaborate, and more dangerous. While the German legislators simply created an ancillary right for press publishers and left it up to the publishers whether and how to enforce, waive or license the right, the Spanish law (English translation of the relevant bits here) approaches it from the user side of the equation:

Here, the law creates a right for ‘electronic content aggregation providers’ to use ‘non-significant fragments of aggregated content which are disclosed in periodic publications or on websites which are regularly updated’ without the permission of the rights holder. However such uses require payment of a ‘fair remuneration’ to the rights holder (via a collecting society). This is a right that content providers already have and can choose to license or waive assuming the non-significant fragments are copyrightable and absent an applicable exception or limitation.  What this new legislation does is eliminate the ability of providers to choose how to exercise this right, and impose a mandatory royalty on reusers even for content that has been made available under a public license such as Creative Commons or that is otherwise available under an exception to copyright or in the public domain. Continue reading

EU copyright consultation: Rights Holders are from Mars, Users are from Venus

Last week the European Commission published its ‘Report on the responses to the Public Consultation on the Review of the EU Copyright Rules‘. This report summarizes the more than 11.000 responses that the Commission had received in reaction to the copyright consultation held between December 2013 and March of this year. While it is clear that a 100-page document cannot do justice to all of the responses (our own response measured in at 24 pages), the report is informative in a number of ways.

Maybe the most striking (although unsurprising) insight that can be gained from reading the report is that stakeholders are completely divided in their perception of how well EU copyright law meets the requirements of the digital environment: Citizens and institutional users think this is not the case while authors and other rightholders are convinced it does. Over at governance across borders Leonhard Dobusch has done an excellent job at illustrating this fact:

Continue reading

EU commission to member states: Use Open Definition compliant licenses for your Public Sector Information

Last week the European Commision published Guidelines on recommended standard licences, datasets and charging for the re-use of documents. These Guidelines are intended to help member states with the implementation of the amended Public Sector Information directive that was adopted last year. With these guidelines the Commission hopes to provide ‘reference material for all institutions in all EU countries, in order to align their practices and make them more transparent and predictable for potential re-users’.

The guidelines put a lot of emphasis on the legal aspects of PSI. As part of this the Commission highlights the fact that not all documents need to be licensed, especially those that are in the Public Domain:

A simple notice (e.g. the Creative Commons public domain mark) clearly indicating legal status is specifically recommended for documents in the public domain (e.g. where IPR protection has expired or in jurisdictions where official documents are exempt from copyright protection by law).

In addition to this important clarification the Commission also provides clear recommendations for the use of open licenses:

Several licences that comply with the principles of ‘openness’ described by the Open Knowledge Foundation to promote unrestricted re-use of online content, are available on the web. They have been translated into many languages, centrally updated and already used extensively worldwide. Open standard licences, for example the most recent Creative Commons (CC) licences (version 4.0), could allow the re-use of PSI without the need to develop and update custom-made licences at national or sub-national level. Of these, the CC0 public domain dedication is of particular interest. As a legal tool that allows waiving copyright and database rights on PSI, it ensures full flexibility for re-users and reduces the complications associated with handling numerous licences, with possibly conflicting provisions. If the CC0 public domain dedication cannot be used, public sector bodies are encouraged to use open standard licences appropriate to a member state’s own national intellectual property and contract law and that comply with the recommended licensing provisions set out below.

Continue reading

Leaked draft of Commission copyright white paper based on flawed assumptions

Earlier this week the IPKat leaked what appears to be an internal draft of the European Commission’s white paper on copyright policy reform (“A copyright policy for Creativity and Innovation in the European Union”). Once finalized this white paper is supposed to sum up the current Commission’s position on making European copyright policy fit for the digital environment. As such the white paper will build on work that has been undertaken during the last couple of years, which included the Licenses for Europe stakeholder dialogue, a number of studies commissioned by the commission and a public consultation on a review of the European copyright rules that generated more than 11 thousand responses.

The white paper has been keenly awaited by anyone engaged in discussions about the future of copyright in the EU. Unfortunately, the document – at least in the form of the leaked internal draft – is a massive disappointment for anyone hoping for a serious review of copyright in the EU. This white paper clearly shows that at the end of one and half years of discussion those in the Commission who do not see a need for reform have managed to maintain their position. The white paper makes almost no mention of a need for legislative reform at the European level and instead presents a disjoined array of measures mainly consisting of recommendations for more harmonization between the member states and some extra guidance from the Commission to the member states.

After having been told by their own studies that a new balance between the rights of creators and the rights of users is both necessary and possible, and after having received literally thousands of responses to the consultation arguing in favor of more user rights, the commission has come full circle back to its initial position: At the core of the white paper lies the notion that copyright is not broken and that most problems created by the current copyright rules can be fixed through the reliance on licensing, minor, negligible changes to existing law, and reiteration of enforcement mechanisms. Coincidentally, this is perfectly in line with the position advocated by traditional publishers and other rights holder representatives throughout the entire process.

Continue reading

Communia responds to EU consultation on new copyright rules

Communia has responded to Public Consultation on the review of the EU copyright rules that closes today. While we wait for the Commission to publish all the responses on its own website (given that we are hearing about more 10.000 responses so far this will likely be quite a challenge) we have uploaded our response here (pdf).

In our response we call for a radical overhaul of the European Copyright rules. In line with our 2011 policy recommendations we argue for a shortening of the copyright term, the introduction of a registration system, more harmonization of the limitations and exceptions (with the final goal of a single European copyright code), and a strengthening of user rights via a robust set of limitations and exceptions that ensure access to our shared knowledge and culture online. In addition to broadened or new exceptions for cultural heritage institutions, educators, researchers, people with disabilities and private individuals we also call for the introduction of more flexibility by adding an open norm to the list of existing exceptions.

We are very pleased to see that there has been a massive response from citizens and civil society organisations to this consultation. While the content of these responses is only known to the Commission at this point, the amount of responses clearly proves that the Commission’s strategy to limit the discussion about copyright policy to an intra-industry discussion about licenses is no longer sustainable. Europe needs a new set of copyright rules that embrace the opportunities created by the digital age, and this discussion needs to include citizens and civil society as important stakeholders. As far as Communia is concerned this discussion needs to focus on maximising the social and economic benefits of the internet instead of facilitating specific internet based business models.

No the internet is not a ‘value tree’. If you must compare it to nature, a forest would be much more adequate

You may have heard that the EU is currently reviewing copyright in order to ensure that it ‘stays fit for purpose in this new digital context’. While the public consultation on this topic is still running, EU officials have started to give some insights on how they see the digital environment that needs to be served by new copyright rules. In recent weeks officials at the European Commission’s Internal Market and Services Directorate General (which is in charge of copyright policy) have been passing around this diagram of what they call the ‘Internet Ecosystem value tree’:

Internet Ecosystem value tree

The ‘Internet Ecosystem value tree’ according to the European Commission.

Apparently this Internet Ecosystem value tree is rather important in how the Commission sees the relationship between copyright and the digital environment. This is expressed in the concerns raised about the ecosystem’s ability to sustain the value tree. Commission officials are pointing out ‘that the roots need to be fed for the tree to keep blossoming’ and that this needs to happen via a ‘transmission belt of Euros’ (which seems to refer to the € Licenses arrow in the diagram above).

A transmission belt of Euros

Now anyone is entitled to their own opinion and views of the world, but it is alarming to see that the very people who are in charge of formulating the rules that will shape our use of the digital environment for years to come are basing their ideas on a rather simplistic model of the internet, that looks at the internet as if it was yet another push medium in the the line of newspapers, radio, CDs or television.

Continue reading

The Australian Law Reform Commission recommends fair use, Europe next?

With the EU consultation on a review of the European Copyright rules still ongoing (the new extended deadline is the 5th of March) it is nice to see that some other countries are apparently making progress with their national copyright reform agendas. One of the most interesting bits of news is coming out of Australia.

Australien-Law-Reform-Commission

The Australian Law Reform Commission has just published its report on Copyright and the Digital Economy. At the centerpiece of this report we find the recommendation to replace the existing system of purpose-based exceptions with a flexible fair use style exception. The proposal, on which the 1709 Blog has a very useful summary, combines a fair use clause with a number of illustrative purposes that aims at providing legal certainty for specific types of uses:

Under the proposed framework, determining whether a use is ‘fair’ requires the balancing of the same four factors as those that underpin the US fair use doctrine, ie:

  • the purpose and character of the use;
  • the nature of the copyright material;
  • the amount and substantiality of the part used; and
  • the effect of the use upon the potential market for, or value of, the copyright material.

A more extensive (non-exhaustive) list of illustrative purposes than appears in the US statute is also recommended for inclusion. It covers:

  • research or study;
  • criticism or review;
  • parody or satire;
  • reporting news;
  • professional advice;
  • quotation;
  • non-commercial private use;
  • incidental or technical use;
  • library or archive use;
  • education; and
  • access for people with disability.

In the context of the ongoing EU consultation it is especially interesting to see a set of recommendations that try to combine the advantages of a fair use approach (flexibility and adaptability to new technological developments) with the advantages of an approach that relies on exceptions for certain clearly defined types of use (legal certainty for users that fall into these categories).

A number of the already published responses to the EU copyright consultation are suggesting a similar approach for Europe. These include the response by Copyright4Creativity (to which Communia has contributed) but also the responses by Europeana and by a number of Dutch cultural heritage institutions.

While we are waiting for the next steps of the European copyright reform process, the report by the the Australian Law Reform Commission, which draws on the outcomes of a similar public consultation, shows that a fair use approach certainly has its merits.

Make your voice heard to fix copyright in the EU!

As we have mentioned here before, the European Commission has launched a consultation on the future of European copyright policy. The responses provided to the questionnaire must be submitted by 5 February 2014 and will be used as a justification for future policy proposals from the Commission. If citizens and professionals don’t make their voice heard the outcomes of the consultation will likely be used to further limit citizens’ rights to create, share and access culture and to further weaken the public domain.

Fix copyright – take part in the consultation

In order to prevent this from happening, COMMUNIA has joined forces with a range of other NGOs and professional associations to produce a tool that helps citizens and professionals to respond to the consultation in a way that promotes access to culture and a strengthening of the the public domain. The results of this collaboration can be found at youcan.fixcopyright.eu.

The tool lets you filter the 80 questions from the consultation document based on a number of different personas (we have compiled selections for online users, parents, teachers/academics/researchers, freelancers/entrepreneurs/businesspersons, librarians/cultural heritage professionals, bloggers/remixers, disabled users and rights holders). There is of course an option to answer all questions. The website also provides background information and advice on how to respond to the questions.

If you care about a copyright system that promotes innovation and access to culture in the digital environment and if you care about the public domain, you should respond to the consultation today! You may also want to ask friends and colleagues to do the same.

Continue reading

Commission announces public consultation on the review of EU copyright rules

Last week Thursday the European Commission launched its much anticipated public consultation on the review of the EU copyright rules. This consultation is the first visible sign of the second track of the Commission’s attempt to modernise the EU rules (the first track consisted of the rather unsuccessful Licenses for Europe stakeholder dialogue). In the words of the Commission the focus of the consultation is on:

… ensuring that the EU copyright regulatory framework stays fit for purpose in the digital environment to support creation and innovation, tap the full potential of the Single Market, foster growth and investment in our economy and promote cultural diversity.

With regards to the contents of the consultation, a first reading reveals a mixed bag of questions, with a surprising amount of them actually touching on issues that are closely related to our own policy recommendations. The consultation comes in the form of a 37 page document with a grand total of 80 questions that cover everything from the functioning of the single market for copyrighted works, linking and browsing, copyright term duration, registration of copyrighted works and exceptions and limitations for cultural heritage institutions, education, research, persons with disabilities and “user generated content”. In addition, there are questions about private copying and levies, the fair remuneration of authors and performers, respect for rights, and even the possibility of a single EU copyright title. Finally there is an open question for everything else that stakeholders might want to tell the Commission.

The deadline for providing answers to all of these questions is the 5th of February, which if one takes into account the upcoming holiday period is rather short. Continue reading

Creative Commons comes out in support of copyright reform

Today Creative Commons (CC), the US non-profit that publishes the Creative Commons licenses (and Communia Member) has published a statement in support of copyright reform. This step comes after a year long discussion on how Creative Commons, which has traditionally defined itself as a neutral steward of the CC Licenses, should relate to ongoing discussions about reforming copyright in various countries around the world.

The statement issued by CC makes it clear that the success of the CC licenses should not be used as an argument that current copyright legislation is flexible enough since it enables voluntary licensing schemes like Creative Commons:

Creative Commons (CC) has enabled a new approach to copyright licensing over the last ten years. CC licenses facilitate novel social, educational, technological, and business practices, and support productive relationships around networked knowledge and culture.

We are dedicated stewards of our licenses and tools, and we educate users, institutions, and policymakers about the positive benefits of adopting CC licenses. Our licenses will always provide voluntary options for creators who wish to share their material on more open terms than current copyright systems allow. But the CC vision—universal access to research and education and full participation in culture—will not be realized through licensing alone.

Around the world, numerous national governments are reviewing or revising their copyright law. Some proposed revisions would broaden the scope of uses of copyrighted works permitted without the rightsholder’s permission. In response, it has been suggested that the very success of CC licenses means that copyright reform is unnecessary—that the licenses solve any problems for users that might otherwise exist. This is certainly not the case. CC licenses are a patch, not a fix, for the problems of the copyright system. They apply only to works whose creators make a conscious decision to affirmatively license the right for the public to exercise exclusive rights that the law automatically grants to them. The success of open licensing demonstrates the benefits that sharing and remixing can bring to individuals and society as a whole. However, CC operates within the frame of copyright law, and as a practical matter, only a small fraction of copyrighted works will ever be covered by our licenses.

Our experience has reinforced our belief that to ensure the maximum benefits to both culture and the economy in this digital age, the scope and shape of copyright law need to be reviewed. However well-crafted a public licensing model may be, it can never fully achieve what a change in the law would do, which means that law reform remains a pressing topic. The public would benefit from more extensive rights to use the full body of human culture and knowledge for the public benefit. CC licenses are not a substitute for users’ rights, and CC supports ongoing efforts to reform copyright law to strengthen users’ rights and expand the public domain.

More background information on the statement can be found in this blogpost on the Creative Commons website.