Why is a museum suing Wikipedia for sharing?

Portrait of Richard Wagner
digitisation of public domain works doesn't create new rights

Above is the Portrait of Richard Wagner by Cäsar Willich, one of the contested images.

Yesterday the Wikimedia Foundation and Wikimedia Deutschland announced that they’re fighting a copyright infringement lawsuit brought by the Reiss Engelhorn Museum. The German museum is suing Wikimedia for publishing digital reproductions of public domain artworks from its collection on Wikipedia. The physical works of art housed in the museum are clearly in the public domain, but German copyright law might apply to photographic reproductions of those works. According to Wikimedia,

The Reiss Engelhorn Museum asserts that copyright applies to these particular images because the museum hired the photographer who took some of them and it took him time, skill, and effort to take the photos. The Reiss Engelhorn Museum further asserts that because of their copyrights, the images of the artwork cannot be shared with the world through Wikimedia Commons.

Wikimedia aligned its goals with those of many cultural heritage institutions, and restated their community’s ongoing commitment to increasing the accessibility and reuse of creative content in the commons. The foundation and Wikimedia Deutschland disagreed with the views of the museum, saying that “Copyright law should not be misused to attempt to control the dissemination of works of art that have long been in the public domain…[t]he intent of copyright is to reward creativity and originality, not to create new rights limiting the online sharing of images of public domain works.” Continue reading

Open Letter on the Commission’s flawed Online Platform Consultation

A woman shouting into a man's ear-trumpet. Wood engraving.
Consulting without listening?

Last week we have pointed out our concerns about a number of copyright related questions buried deep inside the EU commission’s ongoing consultation on the ‘Regulatory environment for platforms, online intermediaries, data and cloud computing and the collaborative economy‘. Our main points were that the consultation does not adequately address the effects of regulatory measures aimed at platforms on EU citizens and that the consultation is designed in such a way that it discourages end users from participating.

Today we have relayed these concerns in letters to First Vice President of the European Commission Frans Timmermans (who is in charge of the better regulation agenda) and Members of the European Parliament. These letters are supported by 29 organisations representing civil society, news publishers, consumers and the digital industry share their concerns regarding the European Commission’s approach in consulting on copyright matters. The letter makes it clear that we are not the only ones who consider the online platforms consultation to be flawed:

The Commission’s “Online Platforms consultation” includes some questions on copyright, which had not previously been the subject of consultation. However, critical questions dealing with the creation of new, controversial copyrights for publishers are only open to right holders to answer, denying European citizens and relevant stakeholders the right to be heard. Further, the Commission is set to adopt a Communication on Copyright on 9th December, which covers these issues, before the end of the consultation and a proper analysis of the contributions received. Continue reading

COMMUNIA untangles copyright and education on Medium

Teacher's Desk - Linn School
Keep copyright out of the classroom

COMMUNIA has opened a new line of communication: copyright untangled where we discuss copyright and education. The aim of the series is to provide context on the state of play on copyright and education in the EU, while keeping it understandable for people who are not very familiar with copyright law, the legislative process or the workings of European politics. Our goal is to explain why copyright needs to become “untangled”, if we want it to be fit for modern education. Besides pieces on copyright reform we also discuss innovations in education in relation to copyright, issues such as open education or digital and media literacy, and will conduct interviews with teachers who share their experiences.

We will post a new piece on Copyright Untangled every two weeks, written by either the COMMUNIA members who also write on this website, and also guest authors who provide a new perspective on their area’s of expertise: education, innovation and copyright. To give an example, Adam Karpiński has written about principles we need to keep in mind when we think of a new education exception for Europe. Natalia Mileszyk has written on the open education movement and a future post will discuss the commercial or noncommercial nature of education today.

You can follow the copyright and education series via https://medium.com/copyright-untangled

Activists meet to discuss copyright reform in Europe

School of Rock(ing) EU Copyright
School of Rock(ing) EU Copyright

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

Open Access and the Power of Editorial Boards: Why Elsevier Plays Hardball with Deviant Linguists

Open Access: the revolt of the editors?

The recent infight between the world’s largest academic publishing company, Elsevier, and (soon: former) editors of one their journals over attempts to make the journal open access – that is, freely available online – demonstrates the potential power of editorial boards in shaping the digital future of academic publishing.

The academic publishing system runs on reputation. Researchers gain reputation by publishing in reputable journals, which are more read and cited than other journals. The better the reputation of a journal, the more prestigious is it to review and serve as a member of the editorial board. Of course, the related reputation dynamic is self-stabilizing and highly path dependent because prestigious journals get more submissions, have higher rejection rates, more prestigious authors and reviewers, all of which contributes to being cited more often, which in turn is the key reputation metric in most disciplines (see a paper by Jakob Kapeller and myself on this issue for the field of economics).

The path dependence of journal reputation in contempary academic publishing is one of the reasons – if not the main reason – why new open access journals face a steep uphill battle against incumbent journals. The few open access journals that managed to acquire substantial prestige such as some of Public Library of Science (PLoS) journals did so mostly because of the very high prestige of founding editors, including nobel laureates. It is also the reason why simply calling for researchers to switch to open access outlets won’t work. Since careers and funding depend on the proven ability to publish in established “top journals”, researchers in general and early-career researchers in particular have strong incentives to avoid newly founded open access outlets. Continue reading

Creative Commons Summit: next steps in copyright reform

Julia Reda at the Creative Commons Global Summit 2015
Dear CC be more than a fig leaf!

The Creative Commons Summit, a bi-annual meeting of members of the CC network and friends of the Commons, took place in mid-October in Seoul, South Korea. One of the event’s tracks was devoted to copyright reform advocacy. The track was organised by member organisations of Communia, including Creative Commons.

In 2013, during the previous CC Summit, Creative Commons adopted a position on copyright reform. CC re-emphasized that even though the licenses are an essential mechanism to share creativity within the existing bounds of the law, it is now more important than ever to engage in a review and modernisation of copyright law itself. This commitment was confirmed during this year event.

Communia was especially honored to have MEP Julia Reda, the author of the European copyright evaluation report, give a keynote at the Summit. Reda stressed that while CC has been successful in showing how the copyright debate can be reframed, the values embraced by CC are not present enough in policy debates. Even worse, the existence and successes of Creative Commons licensing can be used as proof that the current system of copyright works, and that no fundamental change  is needed. “Be more than a fig leaf”, Reda told CC activists.

The danger, according to Reda, is that CC will become “an island of free culture in a broader sea of automated takedowns and enforcement”. If we are to avoid that, we need to move the policy debate. Activists have been good at blocking the worst reform proposals, including SOPA, PIPA, or ACTA. We have been much worse at formulating a positive reform agenda. Continue reading

Directors of major European cultural heritage institutions demand copyright reform

Keizerlijke bibliotheek en rariteitenkabinet
Online access to cultural heritage now!

Today, Europeana published an open letter to Commissioner Oettinger in which the directors of 29 major European cultural heritage institutions demand a reform of the European copyright rules that would allow their institutions to make more of their collections available online. This letter comes in response to the Commission’s intention to review parts of the existing copyright rules to make sure that copyright functions within the Digital Single Market.

In their letter (which can be signed by additional institutions here), the directors argue that their institutions are hindered by the fact that the existing exceptions and limitations benefitting their organisations have not evolved to reflect the ways that citizens access and engage with cultural content:

Europe’s public cultural heritage institutions are key to influencing and shaping our lives with unrivalled access to information, culture and our shared history. They promote knowledge, education, research and encourage the creation of new culture.

Ways to share and engage with cultural content have been transformed in a digital age, but limitations in current European copyright rules restrict that full potential. As a result, our institutions contain large collections established and cared for using public funds but they cannot be made easily available to the public online.

Continue reading

More evidence from Germany: ancillary copyright still not working

Interieur met een vrouw die de krant leest
More band news for proponents of ancillary copyright

Over the last month the German publishers who are pushing for ancillary copyright for press publishers on the EU level have encountered two more setbacks in their attempts to turn the ancillary rights that they have in Germany into actual revenue.

Freedom to link upheld

First the Bundeskartellamt (the German competition authority) rejected claims made by the publishers that Google has acted in violation of competition rules by removing from its search results text snippets from publishers who have not granted them a royalty-free license. Google had started removing such snippets after the introduction of the ancillary copyright for press publishers to avoid having to pay for displaying the snippets. As a result, the publishers soon discovered that not having their stories findable via Google News cost them substantial amounts of visitors—and thus revenue. Because of this realization, the majority of publishers grant royalty-free licenses to Google to ensure that their content is included in Google News.

In their complaint to the Bundeskartellamt the publishers argued that Google was abusing its dominant position in the search and news aggregation markets if it would not display the snippets unless it was granted a royalty-free license. The Bundeskartellamt flat-out rejected this argument, stating that if an online service does not want to acquire a license for the display of snippets—and hence only display search results without a snipped portion of the underlying text—it is perfectly free to do so. According to the competition authority there is nothing in antitrust law that prevents companies from doing this, even if they hold the dominant market position. Continue reading

Polish Copyright Collection Societies and Their Financial Data

Fruits de l'Industrie et de l'Economie
Royalties: years may pass from collection to distribution

Copyright Collection Societies (CCSs) are organisations traditionally set up by authors, performers, and other kinds of rightholders to collectively manage their rights. Nowadays, there are more than 250 CCSs in the EU. Copyright Collection Societies collect around €6 billion in royalties in the EU every year. The vast majority of this income feeds into the approximately 70 EU CCSs managing authors’ rights, representing over one million authors. Most of this income is derived from musical creations — more than 80% in the case of authors’ societies.

Since the role of CCSs in collective rights management and shaping of copyrights is crucial, the European Union adopted the Directive 2014/26/EU on collective rights management and multi-territorial licensing of rights in musical works for online uses in February 2012 (see our previous coverage here). The transposition date for Member States was April 2014. The directive sets up a common framework for financial reporting. CCSs have to draw up and publish an annual transparency report including detailed accounts, financial information, and a special report on the use of the amounts deducted for purposes of social, cultural, and educational services.

Poland is an example of member state that introduced the obligation of disclosing the CCS financial data long before the directive implementation deadline: the first reports were submitted in 2011. Centrum Cyfrowe, a member organization of COMMUNIA, conducted the analysis of the financial and narrative reports of Polish CCSs for the years of 2010-2013. The CCSs were obliged to disclose these reports for the study. Continue reading

Research confirms: new Spanish ancillary copyright is actually good for no one

Het zieke kind
Ancillary copyright: a cure worse than the disease

It is generally accepted wisdom that if you do not want something to be noticed you can best announce it on a Friday afternoon. Presenting a study right before the start of the summer holidays is a variation of this. Seen in this light, it is a bit unfortunate that the Spanish Association of Publishers of Periodical Publications (AEEPP) decided to release a study on the impact of the Spanish ancillary copyright on the 9th of July when half of Europe was already in (pre)vacation mode (which is why we are covering the study 3 months after its release—for your post vacation enjoyment).

Spain’s ancillary copyright law came into effect on January 1, 2015,  after extensive lobbying by the Association of Publishers of Spanish Newspapers and in spite of opposition from other industry players and civil society groups (including us) who were concerned that the new rights would have a negative impact on media diversity and the ability to access news and other information. As a first casualty of the new, unwaivable right, Google closed its Google News service in Spain.

The new study, which was commissioned by the AEEPP and carried out by NERA consulting, confirms most of the concerns raised by opponents of the ancillary right. Based on comScore data for the first 3 months of 2015 the study finds that the closing of Google News (and a number of smaller news aggregation services) that followed the introduction of the new law has led to a (predictable) decline of internet traffic directed at Spanish newspapers: Traffic to newspaper sites has dropped more than 6% on average and 14% for small publications. Continue reading