BEUC highlights consumer confusion in everyday uses of copyrighted material

BEUC, The European Consumer Organisation, has released an interesting fact sheet pertaining to confusion and uncertainty in consumer use of copyrighted materials. BEUC surveyed relevant stakeholders about the current copyright reform debates in the EU. These stakeholders ranged from collecting societies to academics and government ministries, and the conclusions drawn from their answers are both predictable and problematic: it seems no one can agree on the legality of using copyrighted content.

john from BEUC making a video

BEUC took simple and everyday examples on how consumers interact with copyrighted material (for example, making private copies of DVDs, selling an ebook online, or using a VPN to access your Netflix account while on holiday) and asked the stakeholder whether they believed the act was legal or not. Continue reading

Reda report: the good, the not-so-bad and the ugly compromise amendments

vote for the public domain

Back in April we published our list of the 10 worst and the 5 best amendments to Julia Reda’s draft report on the implementation of the InfoSoc Directive. Tomorrow the Legal Affairs committee (JURI) of the European Parliament will vote on these amendments to the draft report. In light of the upcoming vote and given that Julia Reda has just published the final voting list – including the compromise amendments – it is time for one last round of analysis.

As the name implies, compromise amendments are amendments the different political groups have agreed on as replacements of sets of (often contradictory) amendments related to a specific section of the draft report. Given that they reflect a partial consensus among some of the political groups, they are relatively likely to be adopted. If a compromise amendment (AMC) is adopted, the individual amendments that they replace are automatically rejected. If a CAM is rejected then all original amendments will be voted on individually.

In the following we are taking a quick look at the compromise amendments that deal with the issues we’ve previously highlighted. If you haven’t done so already, you may want to read our initial analysis first.

The Good

Three of our five best amendments have found their way into compromise amendments: AM 264 – which clarifies that what is in the public domain must stay in the public domain (in line with our policy recommendation #5 and with the Europeana Public Domain Charter) – has been subsumed into AMC 6, making it much more likely to be adopted. Having this compromise amendment adopted would be a significant win for the public domain. Continue reading

Copywrong website launched: help fix copyright

Today a new website was launched in the amp up to the vote on the Report on the Implementation of the InfoSoc Directive and its amendments on June 16 in the European Parliament’s legal affairs (JURI) Committee. The website aims to mobilise internet users to help save copyright reform at European level, in face of what is described as sabotage. It features a short film that explains in common language why copyright reform needed to make it functional in modern society:

The website, copywrongs.eu, also lists some of the most important amendements that need extra support during the vote. There is much to like on this list, including some reforms that are among our priorities: safeguarding the public domain, harmonising exceptions across Europe or providing a strong educational exception (which does not exist today). The list also includes ending geoblocking and speaks in favor of the right to quote to include video’s and sound recordings.

For more information on what is at stake in the vote, read our blogpost on the 10 worst and 5 best amendements on the Report.

The website was created by Pirate Party MEP Julia Reda (who wrote the Report) together with copy-me.org, a platform that shares information on culture and the information society. The site is available on GitHub for forking.

Why licensing is not always the solution

Last week we took part in a breakfast meeting at the European Parliament under the theme “Why licensing is not always the solution”. The meeting was hosted by MEP Jytte Guteland and co-organised by Communia together with Copyright for Creativity, IFLA, EBLIDA, and LIBER. Our goal was to demonstrate the need for reforms that go beyond licensing-based solutions, and focus in particular on supporting and expanding exceptions and limitations to copyright.

Alek Tarkowski, speaking on behalf of Communia, talked about the importance of exceptions and limitations as one of the building blocks of the Public Domain. As such, they are fundamental for creating breathing spaces within the copyright system, in which public interest goals can be achieved without copyright-related limitations.

The insufficiency of licensing-based solutions was a clear outcome of the “Licenses for Europe” structured debate in 2013. Yet in recent weeks licensing-based solutions have started to resurface in the public debate on copyright. The European Publishers Council pushes for self-regulatory solutions (that is licenses) in its submission to the Digital Single Market consultation. CISAC, in its letter to MEP Reda, goes even further and describes exceptions and limitations as damaging to artists and their families.

It is in this context that we are asking for the European legislator to review the scope of the exceptions and limitations that are currently in force – and which were defined in the InfoSoc Directive almost 15 years ago. We need strong, harmonised, re-imagined exceptions and limitations as a fundamental building block of a copyright system fit for the digital age.

While not the focus of our position paper, free licensing is sometimes seen as a specific case of self-regulation. The success of Creative Commons licensing has been raised in the past as an argument in favor of a focus on licensing-based solutions. We are against such arguments and see free licensing as another founding element of the Public Domain. It is worth reminding in this context the Creative Commons statement in support of copyright reform.

Our position is fully described in our new position paper, “The importance of exceptions and limitations for a balanced copyright policy. ​Licensing alone will not secure user rights”. You can find it, alongside previous statements, in our “Policy Papers” section.

UPDATE: IFLA and Copyright for Creativity have also published posts about the meeting.

London Manifesto: Copyright has to be fair

“We are calling for fair copyright that is fit for purpose and will benefit every European citizen” – that is the main message of the newly published manifesto, drafted by the Libraries and Archives Copyright Alliance (LACA), convened by the British Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals (CILIP). The London Manifesto is one more voice in support of a progressive copyright reform, raised in the ongoing European debate on copyright.

The London Manifesto (PDF) defines, in ten points, reforms that are necessary in order to make copyright fair for all stakeholders. These include:

  • Harmonised exceptions: Harmonisation and uniform application of copyright exceptions across all EU member states so that they apply regardless of media or technology.
  • Open norm: The addition of a new “open norm”, an open-ended exception subject to the three-step test, to avoid the current situation where European creativity and research cannot immediately benefit from technological innovations because copyright legislation is slow to catch up.
  • Right to lend: An automatic “right to lend” for libraries, to include the right to lend all digital media, including transferring digital files for a limited period.
  • Right to mine: An automatic right to perform computer analysis of copyright works for libraries, archives or their users whenever they have lawful access to the content. This recognises that the right to read includes the right to mine.
  • Mass digitisation: An automatic right for libraries, archives and museums to mass digitise their commercially unavailable research collections, and give online access across the whole of the EU without liability to compensate rightholders.
  • Standardised terms of protection for copyright: Swift and complete harmonisation of copyright durations across all member states.

The manifesto has been signed by 30 libraries and library associations, research institutions and organisations, including Communia.

The concept of a copyright system fair to all is an important one, and points to the need of more than just a balance of copyright norms. Fairness needs to be secured for all stakeholders, including those who are not in a privileged position in the copyright debate. We treat the manifesto as one more voice that opposes growing pressure from the cultural industry lobbyists, who believe that copyright reform should only serve to strengthen protection and increase financial gains for copyright owners.

COMMUNIA position paper on EU Digital Single Market

The aim of this position paper is to respond to the call made by European Commission to open public discussion on digital single market and its expected shape in the coming years.

We fully agree with President Juncker that we need to “break down national silos in copyright”. As was noted by President Juncker in his opening statement, one of the challenges standing in front of the Digitial Single Market is a modernisation of the  copyright rules in the light of the digital revolution and changed consumer behaviour. We fully support this position, which considers copyright a fundamental regulatory mechanism for a modern economy.

The current system of IP protection is not only over-complicated, but also unclear to all its stakeholders. Thus one of the goals of this modernisation should be a simplification of rules, and in particular a harmonisation across Member States and jurisdictions. Typically, harmonisation is mentioned with regard to territoriality and market fragmentation that affects commercial content. We want to point out that it is just as important to harmonise copyright rules that create freedoms for public institutions, certain uses beneficial to society (for example, educational and research uses) or for individual citizens.

These issues are often, wrongly, seen as of secondary importance, because of the fact that they are exceptions, functioning largely in non-market environments. Yet in the context of the Digital Single Market it is necessary to point out that there is also significant economic potential related to these user freedoms – for example in areas related to education, research or health care, not to mention SMEs and entrepreneurs. Proper copyright exceptions and limitations lead not only to greater user freedoms, but are also themselves significant added value. A broadly understood public domain is in this aspect similar to Public Sector Information, which is well understood in Europe to be a raw material, on which added value is created through re-use (provided that we provide adequate reimbursement to right holders where necessary and protect privacy and personal data).

Due to a lack of such harmonised exceptions across Europe, we not only miss out on potential economic and social gains. Different legal rules between Member States lead to uncertainty for anyone attempting to engage in cross border activities. Massive open online courses (MOOCs) are but one example of educational enterprises that could benefit from greater legal clarity in this regard.

For those reasons, we urge the Commission to expand and adapt current copyright exceptions and copyright limitations so that they serve public benefit in the digital, online environment. Furthermore, we ask that the Public Domain, a body of knowledge and heritage that can be freely used, is protected, strengthened and widened. We also believe that an open provision that ensures flexibility with regard to digital technologies and social practices should be introduced to support innovative business and civic developments. The following pillars could be the base for Digital Single Market reforms:

1. HARMONISATION OF EXCEPTIONS AND LIMITATIONS. Europe should harmonise exceptions and limitations of the Copyright Directive among the Member States and open up the exhaustive list so that the user prerogatives can be adapted to ongoing technological transformations. The limited list of Exceptions and Limitations established by the Copyright Directive restricts the possibilities to adjust the copyright system to the rapid pace of technological innovation that shapes how we interact with copyright-protected works. This not only limits the abilities of citizens to gain access to our shared culture and knowledge but also imposes restrictions for innovative business models, and as a result, economic growth. In the absence of open-ended exceptions such as a fair use clause it is imperative that exceptions and limitations can be adjusted to the needs of society at large and innovative economic actors in particular.

2. TERM OF PROTECTION. The term of copyright protection should be reduced. The excessive length of copyright protection combined with an absence of formalities is highly detrimental to the accessibility to our shared knowledge and culture. There is no evidence that copyright protection that extends decades beyond the life of the author encourages the production of copyright protected works. Instead, there is compelling evidence that the requirement to obtain permission for works by authors that have long died is one of the biggest obstacles for providing universal access to our shared culture and knowledge.

3. REGISTRATION. In order to prevent unnecessary and unwanted protection of works of authorship, full copyright protection should only be granted to works that have been registered by their authors. Non-registered works should only get moral rights protection. One of the unintended consequences of the near universal access to electronic publishing platforms is an increase in the amount of works that are awarded copyright protection even though their authors do not require or desire such protection. This extension of protection threatens to undermine the value and effectiveness of protection for works where copyright protection is necessary and desired.

4. LEGAL UNCERTAINTY. As a prerequisite for unlocking the cultural, educational and economic potential of the public domain, identification of works in the public domain should be made easier and less resource-intensive by simplifying and harmonizing rules of copyright duration and territoriality. The rules for establishing the duration of the term of protection of individual works have become so complex that it is almost impossible to establish with certainty whether a work is protected by copyright (including all neighboring rights) or whether it is in the public domain. This complexity in the system makes it very difficult to automatically calculate the status of a work. Two factors have contributed to this situation: the divergence of legislation between the different Member States, and a large number of (national) exception clauses. This situation can only be remedied by intervention on the European level, preferably by simplifying the rules and harmonizing them across Europe. The work on public domain calculators has highlighted the incredible complexity of copyright term rules which makes it very difficult to determine the copyright status of individual works. This means that one of the biggest obstacles to positively identifying public domain works (and thus unlocking their cultural, educational and economic potential) lies in the cumbersome process of determining the term of copyright protection.

5. DIGITAL REPRODUCTIONS. Digital reproductions of works that are in the public domain must also belong to the public domain. Use of works in the public domain should not be limited by any means, either legal or technical. The Internet enables the widespread re-use of digital reproductions of works of authorship whose copyright protection has expired. The public domain status of these works means that there is no owner of the works who can impose restrictions on their re-use. At the same time the owners of the physical works (such as heritage institutions) often feel that they are entitled to control over digital reproductions as well and that they can impose restrictions on their re-use. However, digitization of public domain works does not create new rights over it: works that are in the public domain in analogue form continue to be in the public domain once they have been digitized.

6. PUBLIC FUNDING OF DIGITIZATION PROJECTS. Digitization projects that receive public funding must at the minimum ensure that all digitized content is publicly available online. Allowing for the free redistribution of digitized content should be considered since it is beneficial for the sustainability of the access to digitized cultural heritage. When public funding is used for digitization projects it needs to be assured that the public benefits from these efforts. At the minimum this means that digital versions need to be available online for consultation by the public that has paid for the digitization effort. Public funding bodies should prioritize digitization projects that will increase the amount of our shared and culture that is available to the public. Memory institutions that receive public funding should consider making available digitized collections with as little restrictions as possible. Free availability of collections which includes the free redistribution and re-use of the digital artifacts will result in wider availability and reduce the risks inherent to centralized storage.

We would like to express our true devotion to support the above mentioned recommendations.

Since the European Commission encourages also sharing of graphical and multimedia elements, we would also like to submit a set of thematic postcards. Each one combines a treasure of European cultural heritage with one of our policy recommendations. The postcards are available here.

Copyright 4 Creativity releases copyright manifesto

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

Leading copyright scholars: full unification of EU copyright now!

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

Europe’s cultural heritage institutions deserve better

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

New policy paper on the re-use of public sector information in cultural heritage institutions

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.