The bi-annual meeting of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights (SCCR) took place last week in Geneva. Teresa Nobre and Alek Tarkowski participated in the meeting on behalf of Communia, which has observer status. We were particularly interested in the debate on exceptions for education.
As Communia, we have until now focused our policy work on the European Union (albeit we were present at WIPO, as observers, briefly for debates on the public domain in 2012). We decided to start attending SCCR meetings in order to address the issue of good copyright for education also at global level. We hope that we can contribute to set out a global education exception.
In Geneva, we joined a broad coalition of civil society organizations and groups, and representatives of public interest institutions such as libraries or archives that have been participating in these meetings. Our particular focus is on education, an issue that until now has not been strongly represented by civil society observers at WIPO. We are hoping to change this situation. Delia Browne, who represented Creative Commons as a representative of Creative Commons Australia, joined us at the meeting.
The issue of exceptions and limitations to copyright has been on the WIPO agenda for years. In 2013, the Marrakesh Treaty was signed, requiring all WIPO members to provide a domestic copyright exception that allows the creation of accessible versions of books and other copyrighted works for visually impaired persons. The exception secured by the treaty is an important win, and a clear evidence that a global copyright standard that supports public interest can be established through the WIPO process.Continue reading
In Communia Association we are well aware of challenges which copyright reform brought for the whole movement of activists actively engaged in copyright debate. Currently we’re facing the Commission’s proposal that restricts access to information, internet freedoms and threaten digital economy. Moreover, the voice of civil society is not heard in Brussels. Therefore we also believe that one of the biggest challenges for the movement is to motivate everyone, who cares about sharing and creativity. Therefore we took part in Mozfest, the event connecting a global group of people working toward an open, innovative, and censorship-free web.
The most important for us was the opportunity to meet advocates interested in a variety of different areas, including open education, Wikimedians, and those dealing with network neutrality and online censorship. They all have reasons to be interested in the direction of the development of copyright law in Europe, and we did our best to get them them on board with copyright reform actions.
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
Last January, COMMUNIA invited creators to share thoughts about their relationship with the public domain. They spoke at the Public Domain Day 2016 event we organised in the European Parliament, hosted by MEP Julia Reda. We learned from their experiences that copyright can be perceived as a hurdle for creators, that sharing your work into the public domain can make businesses grow, and that the reuse of materials of which the copyrights have expired can lead to beautiful new things happening.
Sebastiaan ter Burg made a great video about this event. Watch and learn how a stronger public domain can foster culture and innovation in Europe:
2016 promises to be a crucial year with regard to the future of the public domain. Later this year the European Commission will—for the first time in over 15 years—propose changes to the EU copyright rules. This provides the opportunity to adopt policies that will strengthen the public domain. You can read more here on how COMMUNIA thinks that can be done.
How to secure user rights in education? This was the question we asked during a policy debate organised by Communia and hosted by MEP Michał Boni in the European Parliament on the 17th of November. Panelists, politicians and stakeholders participating in this debate discussed two approaches: the creation and use of Open Educational Resources (OER), and a progressive copyright reform for education.
While these issues are usually presented separately, as Communia we see them as two aspects of a single effort to ensure user rights in education. This two-path approach has been acknowledged at least since 2013, when the Creative Commons community argued that the movement behind open licensing policies needs to be involved in the copyright reform debate as well. Today in Europe, we are facing both developments related to OER policies (related to the Opening Up Education initiative, launched in 2013), and a copyright reform process in which education has been highlighted by the EC to be one of key areas for modernisation of copyright.Continue reading
European copyright law reform enters its decisive phase. Changes will be proposed by the Commission in the coming months, and will determine the shape of European law for many years. Activists involved in copyright reform from across Europe met last week in Warsaw to discuss this subject. During the meeting we worked to expand the participants’ knowledge on the legislative process in the European Union, but also map the major challenges and plan further action of non-governmental organizations in Europe.
Activists from 12 countries in Europe, who work on the reform of copyright law, came to Warsaw for the School of Rock(ing) EU Copyright, organized by Communia Association, European Digital Rights Initiative (EDRI) and Centrum Cyfrowe. The participants discussed the main areas of upcoming reform: text and data mining, geoblocking, fair use in education, freedom of panorama, online access to cultural heritage, the liability of intermediaries, court injunctions in copyright and approach “follow the money”. Continue reading
This post was written by Lisette Kalshoven and Katarzyna Rybicka.
Fifteen years ago, the explosive growth of the file sharing network Napster changed the music industry forever. It was a simple response to the difficulty of finding, downloading and sharing music over the web. Since then, policy makers and stakeholders have been trying to resolve the ongoing challenge of unauthorised copying, without much success. In many instances copyright enforcement turns out to be either ineffective, or is applied in such a way that violates fundamental rights such as the right to information, freedom of expression or privacy and protection of personal data.
Last Saturday in Amsterdam, the renowned institute for research on intellectual property rights, IViR (Institute for Information Law) held a symposium on Alternative Compensation Systems (ACS) for cultural goods. An ACS can be described as a legal mechanism which permits the reproduction, downloading, sharing and sometimes even modification of copyrighted works. This can be done without the need for an opt in from users (mandatory ACS) or with an opt in (voluntary ACS), but with both options giving compensation to the creators and copyright owners of those works.
The IViR researched the non-commercial use of cultural goods online for two years. The results suggest that consumers are dissatisfied with the existing legal access channels. As a consequence, different forms of ACS were supported by the majority of the Dutch population questioned. Continue reading
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.
Last week Communia joined the “European Observatory on Infringements of IPR” which is hosted by the European Union’s Office of Harmonization in the Internal Market (OHIM). The Observatory’s task is to provide the EU Commission with insights on every aspect of IPR infringement. It does so primarily by conducting surveys and studies on how, where and why IP rights are violated by whom and to what extent. In addition is helps coordinate across borders the efforts of various institutions involved in law enforcement. It also runs general as well as focussed awareness campaigns in the field of IP. This is done in conjunction with a permanent stakeholder dialogue, which is organized in working groups and a yearly plenary.
The European Observatory on Infringments of IPR is a unit of the EU’s Office of Harmonization in the Internal Market (OHIM), which is located on top of a cliff overlooking the Mediterranean sea in Alicante, Spain
As part of this year’s plenary, held last week in Alicante, Spain, Communia joined the observatory as only the seventh civil society group. By far the largest stakeholder group are 58 industry representatives, followed by 28 public sector institutions and 10 representatives with an observer status, which include international orgnizations such as OECD but also US interest groups. This heavy industry bias of the observatory members has to do with the Observatory’s origin being an initiative from the world of industrial property (such as trademarks, registered designs) and insititutions fighting product counterfeits entering the EU internal market.
The decision to join the observatory was prompted by the fact that the Observatory increasingly moves its focus also to the field of copyright and related rights. A major part of its agenda for 2015 deals with finding out about what children and young adults know and think about counterfeit goods and copyright violation, and with running campaigns to raise the yonger generation’s awareness of the damage done by rights violations.
The observatory is also working on a “Study on Open Licensing and the Public Domain”, both of which are core fields of expertise of COMMUNIA Association as a network and of its members. We can draw on this knowledge and also on the material produced by the Communia Project between 2007 and 2011 to support the Observatory with such studies. This offer was met with great interest by the research staff involved.
Over and above support for the study, Communia will strive to make a case for the Public Domain as a concept and as a pool of re-usable cultural heritage whenever that seems appropriate in the work of the Observatory, especially in the relevant working groups. The necessity to do this is obvious, as the Public Domain does not have too many other supporters and its value for society is often overlooked.
Last week the Lisbon Council published a new Policy Brief on Copyright Reform for Growth and Jobs: Modernising the European Copyright Framework. In the policy brief Ian Hargreaves and Bernt Hugenholtz draw up an agenda for copyright reform in the European Union by proposing a menu of policy options that could be implemented relatively quickly.
Hugenholtz and Hargreaves start their policy brief by looking at the current situation in Europe, and they do not like what they see: Not only do they consider Europe’s copyright framework to be out of touch with an economy that is shaped more and more by the impact of digital technologies, they are also skeptical about what currently passes for copyright reform in the EU:
In December 2012, the European Commission vowed “to ensure that copyright stays fit for purpose in this new digital context” after a key orientation debate convened by President Barroso. […] As practical steps, the Commission offered two parallel tracks of action. The first, already underway, is a “stakeholder dialogue” to address six issues […]. A second track of work is to arise from a series of market studies, impact assessment and legal drafting work “with a view to a decision in 2014 whether to table legislative reform proposals.”
How does this emerging European approach to reform look in a global context? The answer is it looks rather cautious, given the continued pace of technological change and the increasing indications that other countries are ready to pursue more rapid and more radical reform. History also suggests that Europe will struggle to achieve the political momentum needed to deliver even the modest and piecemeal change of the type currently under discussion.
We have already pointed out the flaws of the Licenses for Europe approach here, so we could not agree more. While the Commission directs critics of the stakeholder dialogue to the parallel review of the EU legal framework that the Commission is currently undertaking, there is very little reason to believe that this will result in any substantial reform agenda. In this situation Hugenholtz and Hargreaves see an urgent need for reform that is both effective and can be implemented within the existing European and international frameworks:Continue reading