The Rhetoric of Copyright Extremism

In the end, nothing happened. When the European parliament adopted a compromise version of MEP Julia Reda’s evaluation report of the EU copyright directive, the attempt of MEP Jean-Marie Cavada to restrict the right to publish pictures of buildings and artworks permanently installed in public places (“freedom of panorama”) was voted down by a huge margin. The majority that had supported the Cavada amendment in the legal affairs committee vanished under a storm of protest, spearheaded by Wikipedians fighting for their right to include pictures of buildings and artworks in their free encyclopedia.

However, while the final version of the report did not suggest restricting freedom of panorama, it did not include a specific provision to protect it, either. Instead, member countries would still be free in whether and how to implement such a limitation into their respective national copyright laws. In a way, this outcome is a typical example of the widespread copyright extremism in Europe, which blocks even the most sensible and moderate copyright reform proposals.

The overall spectrum of opinions in current copyright debates ranges from abolitionism, that is, proposals to discard copyright altogether, to copyright extremism on the other side. Copyright abolitionism is a position sparsely mentioned in regulatory conversations. While authors Joost Smiers and Marieke van Schindel, for instance, have managed to create some buzz around their book “No Copyright”, the attention was only short-lived and the discussion left no real lasting mark on the conversation overall. And abolitionist positions brought forward by libertarian researchers such as Michele Boldrin, David K. Levine and their colleagues have only played a very marginal role in scientific discourse, as well.

However, we observe that rhetoric around ratcheting up extreme copyright protections plays a major role in the mainstream of regulatory conversations around copyright, while rarely recognized and called out as extremism. Rather, even the most far reaching positions are considered perfectly legitimate when brought forward in committee hearings, policy papers or campaigns. In a way, current copyright discourse is heavily skewed towards the side of copyright extremism, which makes any moderate and balanced reform of copyright laws difficult, if not impossible. Taking a closer look at the relentless rhetoric of copyright extremism might therefore help to identify and address this problem. Continue reading

Alternative Compensation Systems only work if adopted by all sides

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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.

One of the interesting results of the study was that if implemented, a monthly compensation system fee of only ca. €1.74–collected via a surcharge on existing Dutch Internet subscriptions–would raise the same amount of revenues for rights holders as the current market for recorded music, which is ca. €144 million per year. In addition, the researchers examined the amount the respondents said they would be willing to pay for participating in a compensation system covering recorded music, which is €9.25 per month for a mandatory ACS.

If this holds true, it means that a well-designed ACS for recorded music would mean bigger revenue in the recording industry (and thus more income for creators) while still within the acceptable range that consumers would be willing to pay. Interestingly, the biggest (voluntary) subscription-based music service now, Spotify, has a monthly subscription fee of €9.99, slightly higher than what users said they’d be willing to pay when asked by the IViR researchers.

“It shimmers, it’s yellow, it might be even gold,” said Dr. Christian Handke, the co-author of the report, during his presentation at the conference. But the economic panel raised important questions, such as who should be responsible for the distribution of revenues, who should bear the operating and enforcement costs, and how would a mandatory ACS be implemented without inhibiting innovation in the music industry. These are still questions without clear answers. In short, the results are promising, but it seems we are far from implementing a mandatory ACS.

The panel on user involvement in copyright policy had intriguing panelists, including MEP Julia Reda, Agustín Reyna from BEUC and Jim Killock from Open Rights Group. They discussed, among other things, how an ACS could be adopted within European policy.

There were two important take-aways from the panel on the adoption of a mandatory ACS. First, it needs to be tested on a smaller scale before it can be implemented at the national (or Europe-wide) level. IViR realises this and is designing an experiment in The Netherlands with relevant stakeholders.

Second, Reda pointed out that such a system would never come into being if rights holders and consumers are not on the same page. Past experience has shown that consumers and citizens are more likely to get involved with copyright policy if they sense a potential negative change in how they’re able to interact with copyrighted materials, as opposed to lending their voices for a positive campaign without an immediate observable threat. The recent media attention for the freedom of panorama in the EU illustrates her point. This is a challenge, and one that we should try to overcome. We need to get citizens more involved in copyright reform in a way that makes it better suited for the digital age. We welcome discussion on how to overcome this challenge.

European Parliament must not open the door to ancillary copyright for press publishers

Tomorrow the European Parliament will vote on the Reda report on the implementation of the 2001 copyright directive, which has been approved by the legal affairs committee on the 16th of June. One of the most contentious issues during the vote in the legal affairs committee was an amendment by proposed by the German EPP MEP Angelika Niebler that would have encouraged the Commission to introduce an new ancillary copyright for press publishers on the EU level.

In a last minute departure from the already agreed on compromises, both EPP and ALDE insisted that this amendment should be voted on separately, clearly hoping that this manoeuvre would somehow succeed in getting the desired language into the text of the report. Unfortunately for the proponents of the ancillary copyright, this move backfired and the legal affairs committee voted the amendment down with a relatively clear majority.

Quality journalism or ancillary copyright?

A couple of days ago it emerged that the proponents of the ancillary copyright for press publishers have mounted another last minute attempt, this time attempting to insert language calling for the introduction of an EU-wide ancillary copyright for press publishers into the report via another amendment tabled by MEP Niebler. This amendment will be voted on during the plenary vote on Thursday. The amendment proposes to add a new paragraph (57a) to the report:

Calls on the Commission to evaluate and come forward with a proposal on how quality journalism can be preserved also in the digital age in order to guarantee media pluralism, in particular taking into account the important role journalists, authors and media providers such as press publishers play with regard thereto.

While the text of the amendment does not explicitly talk about an ancillary copyright for press publishers, it is clear that this language is intended to give the Commission an excuse to come forward with a proposal that would introduce such a right. Continue reading

Simple is beautiful. Copyright exceptions for education

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Being a teacher in 2015 is both easier and more difficult than it was 30 years ago. It can be more difficult as there is pressure to follow new trends in online and digital technologies, the Internet of things, social media, and a push to adopt a more interactive approach to teaching. But there are new tools and and practices to ease these new expectations. Almost any educational materials that teachers wish to use are now at their fingertips. No longer do educators need to spend their lives searching through physical libraries or collecting stacks of CDs or DVDs for viewing in their classes. Today, much of this content is available online with a simple click. But therein lies another difficulty. Copyright. Even though almost anything is now available to view, not everything can be legally used. Or–perhaps even worse–it is not clear whether a teacher or student can use it, or under what circumstances.

EXCEPTION?

What teachers legally can and cannot use is defined by educational exceptions and limitations within national copyright laws. Set out by the EU InfoSoc Directive, exceptions and limitations are not a mandatory rule within EU member states, which means member states can choose to adopt the exception or not, and within reason interpret the exception to conform to their own ideas. Since the early 2000s, the InfoSoc Directive rule of “use for the sole purpose of illustration for teaching or scientific research” has been implemented in various different ways. Some countries literally translated the provision into their legal system, while others allowed some creativity in its implementation. But to be sure, 28 member states means 28 different legal regimes. This raises several questions. What is the reason why in 2015 teachers in Poland enjoy a different set of rights than teachers living in Slovenia, Finland or Portugal? Continue reading

More licenses are not the solution for text and data mining

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Earlier this week  LIBER released a response to the STM Association’s statement about text and data mining (TDM). The STM Association asserts that legal certainty already exists for TDM via publishers’ licences, and that creating copyright exceptions for text and data mining activities would undermine the investment incentives for ensuring that high-quality content is available.

LIBER refutes these claims. First, they say that publishers’ licenses for TDM are not straightforward or easy to understand.

Licences could never be described as simple; they are highly complex and can take months or even years to complete. They often refer to laws in other jurisdictions and in most European countries they can override the flexibilities that exceptions are intended to provide. Many licences explicitly forbid TDM associated activities such as crawling of content and the depositing of data in institutional repositories.

Second, LIBER argues that forcing researchers to acquire licenses to engage in text and data mining will divert investment money away from conducting important research, and instead will be used to pay for license compliance and monitoring activities. Instead, they say that a copyright exception for TDM would actually promote investment, not inhibit it.

An exception for TDM can act as an investment incentive. By implementing the exception for TMD proposed by the Hargreaves review of UK copyright frameworks, the UK government has made a clear statement that legal clarity around activities such as TDM will spur innovation and growth. In the wake of the implementation of this exception tools to support TDM and improve the quality of content have already begun to emerge. Researchers in the UK have developed their own openly available tools for conversion of text files into structured standardised formats.

COMMUNIA strongly supports the notion that “the right to read is the right to mine.” We encouraged the development of clear rules for researchers who must be able to read and analyse all information that is available to them through text and data mining. We are an original signatory to the Hague Declaration on Knowledge Discovery in the Digital Age. And we criticized the development of bespoke licenses, which would create confusion and claim to grant permission to do many things that re-users do not need permission to do.

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.

Don’t mess with the right to link: Savethelink.org

(Hyper)links are the fundamental building blocks of the web, but the practice of linking has come under attack over the last few years. If copyright holders are able to censor or control links to legitimate content, it could disrupt the free flow of information online and hurt access to crucial news and resources on the web.

While many internet users may take for granted that no one requires permission or is forced to pay a fee to link to another place online. But this isn’t the case everywhere. Copyrighted content holders (including news organizations, media, and entertainment sites) around the world are working to remove the right to free and open linking, and the threat is more present than you may think.

Today a coalition of over 50 organizations (including COMMUNIA) from 21 countries are launching Savethelink.org. The campaign aims to raise awareness about the issue and prompt action to urge decision makers to protect the practice of free and open linking online.

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COMMUNIA representative Lisette Kalshoven, Kennisland Advisor on copyright, heritage and open education, said, “Europe is in danger of limiting access to culture and knowledge by undermining the right to link.” Continue reading

Hague Declaration calls for IP reform to support access to knowledge in the digital age

Today COMMUNIA joins over 50 organizations in releasing the Hague Declaration on Knowledge Discovery in the Digital Age. The declaration is a collaboratively-created set of principles that outlines core legal and technical freedoms that are necessary for researchers. The principles would allow them to be able to take advantage of new technologies and practices in the pursuit of scholarly research, including activities such as text and data mining. The drafting of the declaration was led by LIBER, the Association of European Research Libraries. It was developed through contributions from dozens of organizations and individuals. COMMUNIA is an original signatory to the declaration.

One of the key principles recognized in the declaration is that intellectual property law does not regulate the flow of facts, data, and ideas–and that licenses and contract terms should not regulate or restrict how an individual may analyze or use data. To realize the massive, positive potential for data and content analysis to help solve major scientific, medical, and environmental challenges, it’s important that intellectual property laws–and private contracts–do not restrict practices such as text and data mining. Continue reading

EU Digital Single Market strategy: a starting point for copyright reform

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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

Reda report: the 10 worst and the 5 best amendments

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.

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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

AMs 252-257 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;
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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