Today the European Commission presented an ambitious package of reform proposals known as the Digital Single Market (DSM) Strategy for Europe. Among other topics like ‘Affordable high quality parcel delivery’ and ‘Building the data economy’ the DSM strategy represents the first concrete announcement of upcoming changes to the European Union’s outdated 2001 Copyright Framework.
As part of the strategy the Commission wants to ensure “better access for consumers and businesses to online goods and services across Europe” which “requires the rapid removal of key differences between the online and offline worlds to break down barriers to cross-border online activity”. While at this point the Commission is far from proposing a general overhaul of the copyright system the DSM strategy contains promising language. It also shows that those in the Commission who are looking for meaningful changes to the European copyright rules (led by Vice President Ansip) have managed to keep the upper hand on their more conservative colleagues (led by Commissioner Oettinger) who so far have mainly been interested in expanding copyright and stepping up enforcement.
In terms of concrete copyright reform the Commission is announcing that it will make “legislative proposals before the end of 2015 to reduce the differences between national copyright regimes and allow for wider online access to works by users across the EU, including through further harmonisation measures”. The Commission’s proposal highlights the following areas that the Commission wants to address “ (i) portability of legally acquired content, (ii) ensuring cross-border access to legally purchased online services while respecting the value of rights in the audiovisual sector, (iii) greater legal certainty for the cross-border use of content for specific purposes (e.g. research, education, text and data mining, etc.) through harmonised exceptions,(iv) clarifying the rules on the activities of intermediaries in relation to copyright-protected content and, in 2016, (v) modernising enforcement of intellectual property rights, focusing on commercial-scale infringements”. Continue reading
In January MEP Julia Reda presented a draft report on the implementation of Directive 2001/29/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 22 May 2001 on the harmonisation of certain aspects of copyright and related rights in the information society (a.k.a the Copyright Directive). This draft report has proven to be hugely controversial and as a result 556 amendments (1,2) have been tabled in the Legal Affairs committee (JURI) alone. A helpful overview of the full parliamentary process can be found over at edri.org.
While the JURI committee is trying to arrive at compromise amendments ahead of the vote on 6 May we thought that it would be useful to highlight the best and worst amendments that have been tabled in reaction to the report. The main criteria for identifying the best/worst amendments are our 2011 policy recommendations and our recent position paper on the on the review of the EU copyright laws. As the vast majority of the amendments are attempting to reverse the positions expressed in Reda’s draft report, the 15 amendments highlighted below can only offer a glimpse of what is at stake. So while we are recommending to vote against the 10 worst amendments listed below, this is by no means a complete voting list as there are many others which are just as bad (and some that are slightly better).
The ten worst amendments…
#1 We don’t care for the Public Domain
||Constance Le Grip, József Szájer (2x), Angel Dzhambazki, Sajjad Karim, Axel Voss, Therese Comodini Cachia, Eva Paunova, Pavel Svoboda, Marc Joulaud, Giovanni Toti, Luis de Grandes Pascual, Rosa Estaràs Ferragut, Sabine Verheyen
|6. Calls on the Commission to safeguard public domain works, which are by definition not subject to copyright protection and should therefore be able to be used and re-used without technical or contractual barriers; also calls on the Commission to recognise the freedom of rightholders to voluntarily relinquish their rights and dedicate their works to the public domain;
Easily the worst amendment (or rather set of amendments, since there are multiple identical versions of this one) is AM 252 that proposes to delete Paragraph 6 of the draft report.This paragraph calls on the Commission to safeguard the Public Domain and to recognise the freedom of rights holders to voluntarily relinquish their rights and dedicate works to the Public Domain. At least the first part of the original paragraph should be something that every participant in the discussion about the future of the EU copyright rules can agree with, unless there are really people who want to ensure that all culture and information is privately owned. Continue reading
Today Copyright 4 Creativity (C4C), a coalition of 35 organisations from the NGO, library and technology sectors (including a number of COMMUNIA members) is launching a copyright manifesto. The copyright manifesto is intended as a contribution to the ongoing review of the European Union’s copyright rules. With the manifesto, Copyright 4 Creativity wants to stress the importance of a copyright system that can ‘effectively promote innovation, access and creativity’.
The manifesto starts by outlining what is wrong with the current EU copyright framework and how this is negatively affecting users, businesses, innovators and – as a result – the competitiveness of Europe’s economy. In doing so, the manifesto touches on many concerns shared by COMMUNIA, including the fact that the current term of copyright protection is much too long and undermines access to knowledge and culture.
Based on the analysis of the status quo the manifesto calls for a substantial reform of the copyright rules in the EU and argues that such a reform needs to address 4 main issues. According to C4C the EU needs to: Continue reading
As part of the public consultation on a review of the EU copyright rules the EU commission included two questions related to a single EU copyright title. These questions refer to the fact that in the current situation all member states of the EU have their own copyright laws. These laws need to meet the requirements established by an increasing number of EU directives (such as the InfoSoc directive, the Copyright term directive, and the orphan work directive). This has resulted in a certain level of harmonization, but this does not take away the fact that in the EU the a copyrighted work is protected by 28 different copyright laws that apply to 28 different jurisdictions.
Compared to this situation a single European title would mean having one single EU copyright law that confers EU-wide rights to rights holders and establishes EU-wide exceptions and limitations. In our answer to the public consultation we urged the EU commission to start working on a single European copyright title:
Question 78: Should the EU pursue the establishment of a single EU Copyright Title, as a means of establishing a consistent framework for rights and exceptions to copyright across the EU, as well as a single framework for enforcement?
The establishment of a single EU Copyright Title would be a positive step forward for both rightholders and users of copyrighted content. It would help to harmonize the currently disjointed limitations and exceptions and copyright duration schemes across the EU.
Question 79: Should this be the next step in the development of copyright in the EU? Does the current level of difference among the Member State legislation mean that this is a longer term project?
Pursuing the establishment of a single EU Copyright Title should be the next step. Work on this should begin immediately.
One of the other organisations that also advocated taking steps towards a single EU copyright title is the European Copyright Society (ECS). In its response the ECS (which is made up of leading European copyright scholars and academics) argued for for the introduction of Union-wide copyright title and for the simultaneous abolishment of national copyright titles.
Just before the holidays the European Copyright Society reaffirmed this position by sending a letter to Commissioner Oettinger in which it once again advocates for a unification of EU copyright law. In their letter the members of the society briefly affirm the need to modernize the existing EU copyright rules (dryly noting that they “trust that [the European Copyright] Society’s opinions will be taken into account”) before they urge the Commissioner to go a step further: Continue reading
For those of us looking forward to copyright rules that enable European cultural heritage institutions to provide online access to their collections, two important things happened last week: on Wednesday 29th October, the Orphan Works directive (OW directive) came into force and on Saturday 1st November, the new European Commission headed by Jean-Claude Juncker assumed office.
The first event marks the failure of the existing system, while the second one is reason to give us hope for a more meaningful modernisation of the European copyright system.
The fact that the current system does not take into account the needs of cultural heritage institutions is painfully illustrated by the Orphan Works directive. After years of legislative wrangling, Europe came up with a ‘solution’ for the problem of orphan works that requires cultural heritage institutions wanting to make orphan works available to undertake complicated searches for rights holders, before they are allowed to publish them. In most cases, the resources required for such searches are completely out of balance with the cultural and economic value of the work. This means that the Orphan Works directive may be a useful tool for making small numbers of high profile works available, but not as an enabler of mass digitisation projects.
The fact that the OW directive ended up as a crippled tool that fails to address the problem it was designed to answer (enabling mass digitisation of collections), is the result of a number factors: strong pressure from rights holders and their representatives to preserve the underlying principles of copyright even in a situation where they do more good than harm; the lack of coordinated advocacy efforts from cultural heritage institutions at the European Level; and a weak European Commission that was split on copyright.
With regards to the last point there is reason to hope that the situation is changing. The Juncker Commission that came into office on the first of November has made the modernisation of copyright one of its top priorities. In his mission letters to the Commissioners in charge of a connected Digital Single Market, Juncker made it clear that he expects his team to come up with ‘ambitious legislative steps’ towards ‘modernising copyright rules in the light of the ongoing digital revolution’ within the next six months.
In other words, the time to start fighting for copyright rules that enable cultural heritage institutions to properly function online is now! Continue reading
In 2013 the European Union enacted Directive 2013/37/EU amending Directive 2003/98/EC on the re-use of public sector information (PSI). The 2013 directive is an important pillar of the European Union’s open data strategy. It establishes the general principle that public sector bodies’ available information shall be reusable in accordance with a number of conditions, such as open formats, terms and conditions. Member States are asked to transpose the new rules into domestic law by 18 July 2015, i.e. about nine months from now. One of the major new features of the PSI directive is the inclusion in its scope of libraries (including university libraries), museums and archives. However, if Member States are not careful, the implementation of the changes required by the new directive could do more harm than good to cultural heritage institutions.
The directive attempts for the first time to define a general framework for sharing cultural heritage information all around Europe. Under the amended directive, libraries, museums and archives are now asked to make parts of their collections available for reuse. In particular, documents in the Public Domain (either because never protected or because the protection expired) are under the general re-use rule of Art. 3(1), while documents in which libraries, museums and archives hold intellectual property rights are under the derogatory rule of Art. 3(2): only when institutions allow re-use are they under the obligation to ensure that the general re-use conditions are respected. Accordingly, the re-use requirements of the directive only apply to works that are not covered by third-party intellectual property rights.
While laudable in principle, the inclusion of cultural heritage institutions in the scope of the directive raises a number of questions related to how Member States should implement the new PSI directive. If Member States are not careful, the implementation of the changes required by the new directive could do more harm than good to cultural heritage institutions. In order for the directive to meet its overall objective, i.e. to contribute to opening up the resources held by Europe’s cultural heritage institutions, three main recommendations for member states can be formulated:
- Member States should implement the Directive in line with the principles established by Article 3 and ensure that all documents that are not currently covered by third party intellectual property rights fall within the scope of the Directive.
- Member States must not implement the Directive in such a way that encourages or requires institutions to charge for the reuse of works that they make available for reuse. The decision to charge for reuse must be up to the individual institutions. If this is not the case the Directive will limit access and reuse of the public domain.
- For documents that are still protected by intellectual property rights but where these rights are held by the cultural heritage institutions, Member States should encourage the use of Open Definition-compliant licenses, such as the Creative Commons licenses or the Creative Commons Zero mechanism. This applies in particular to metadata produced by cultural heritage institutions, in the limited cases where these metadata can attract copyright (such as long form descriptions of cultural heritage objects).
For a deeper analysis of these issues see the full policy paper on the re-use of public sector information in cultural heritage institutions.
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
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:
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.
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.