Your voice counts – only 12 days left

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Make your voice heard!
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The current European Commission public consultation is about ancillary copyright as well as the ‘panorama exception’. We encourage you all to show support for a strong, mandatory freedom of panorama exception in Europe and to say “no” to ancillary copyright. COMMUNIA has already submitted their feedback, and you can let your voice be heard as well. Responses to the Commission’s survey must be received by June 15, and you can check out how to answer the questions with the guide at http://youcan.fixcopyright.eu/.

Why are these issues important for you?

As we’ve written before, ancillary copyright is good for no one. Everyday Internet users and consumers of news and articles would then have a harder time finding the news and information they were looking for, and would potentially face more constraints in quoting, linking to, aggregating, or otherwise using works protected by a new ancillary right for press publishers.

Even more worrying is adopting additional rights on top of a copyright system that is fundamentally broken. This is neither contributing to the Commission’s objective of modernizing the EU copyright framework nor adapting it to the challenges of a fast-evolving digital environment. Creating new rights (which are next to impossible to retract) is not a suitable method for managing the relationship between different market segments and the public. The ancillary copyright will cause substantial collateral damage to education and access to knowledge. Continue reading

Lisbon Council calls for broad text and data mining exception to promote EU research competitiveness

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The right to read is the right to mine!
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Yesterday the Brussels-based think tank The Lisbon Council published the policy brief Text and Data Mining for Research and Innovation: What Europe Must Do Next. It was written by Sergey Filippov and Paul Hofheinz. In the paper, the authors analyse contemporary text and data mining (TDM) trends, and make recommendations for how European policymakers can better support researchers who wish to engage in TDM activities.

The authors observe that Europe has fallen behind other parts of the world in text and data mining research. One reason is due to the ambiguous legal environment in Europe surrounding TDM. In 2014 the United Kingdom adopted a copyright exception for text and data mining for non-commercial research purposes, but the situation for other countries in Europe is not so clear. The European Commission has not been entirely helpful, either. In their December 2015 communication on copyright, they said they would consider introducing an exception for TDM. However, instead of recommending a robust exception that would truly support text and data mining as an increasingly important research tool, the Commission suggested a narrow interpretation that would restrict TDM only to those affiliated with a “public interest research institution”, and only for “scientific research purposes.”

In their paper, Filippov and Hofheinz say that European researchers may be “hesitant to perform valuable analysis that may or may not be legal”, and that scholars “are forced, on occasion, to outsource their text-and-data-mining needs to researchers elsewhere in the world.” They recognize that some of the language in play—such as “public interest research organisation”, “scientific research purposes”, and “non-commercial”—could be open to misinterpretation, or even be at odds with the underlying public policy intention.

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COMMUNIA response to Commission’s consultation on ancillary copyright and freedom of panorama

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Make your voice heard!
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The European Commission’s public consultation on the role of publishers in the copyright value chain and on the ‘panorama exception’ wraps up on 15 June. COMMUNIA has submitted its response (PDF) to the questionnaire. Our answers reflect the role of COMMUNIA as a non-profit organisation that defends the public domain and advocates a copyright system that benefits users, creators, educators, researchers and cultural heritage institutions. Below we provide a summary of our responses to both parts of the consultation.

Ancillary copyright for publishers

It will come as no surprise that we oppose the creation of a new neighbouring right for publishers. Doing so would have a strong negative impact on all the audiences identified in the questionnaire, including publishers, authors, journalists, researchers, online service providers, and users.

For the majority of publishers, it would establish an unnecessary (and often unwanted) additional right that they would have to deal with, and could even make it harder for them to grow and develop innovative business models. And perhaps more to the point, the experiments with ancillary rights for press publishers in both Spain and Germany did not result in increased revenues. Instead, it likely decreased the visibility (and by extension, revenues) of their content—exactly the opposite of what was intended.

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European Commission fails to ban geoblocking, does not give up on plans to cripple online platforms

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It's not a Digital Single Market if there is geoblocking!
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Yesterday the European Commission unveiled five more elements of its Digital Single Market Strategy. These consist of new e-commerce rules (including a legislative proposal to address unjustified geoblocking), updates to the EU audiovisual rules and ‘a targeted approach to online platforms‘. From the copyright perspective the geoblocking proposal and the communication on online platforms are most interesting.

Geoblocking for online content is now officially justified

While it is not a surprise it is still disappointing that the Commission has given in to pressure from rightsholders and now considers geo-blocking of online content ‘justified’. At least that is the message it is sending out with the legislative proposal that applies to all electronically supplied services except ‘services the main feature of which is the provision of access to and use of copyright protected works or other protected subject matter‘. It takes a lot of guts to sell such a proposal as an element of a digital single market strategy as it effectively reinforces the territoriality of the digital market place for content in the EU.

This failure of the Commission to deliver on the core of its promise to create a digital single market has caused Julia Reda to launch a new campaign website that aims to stop all forms of geoblocking once and for all (we encourage you to go there and register your disappointment with the path the Commission has taken). Geoblocking of content is one of the most irritating barriers when it comes to access culture online and seriously undermines the legitimacy of the copyright system as a whole.

Intermediary liability regime remains unchanged

The most interesting part of yesterday’s announcements concern the Commission’s plans for regulating online platforms. With regards to that the Commission published both its communication on Online Platforms and the Digital Single Market and its analysis of the earlier consultation on on that matter. In the past we had expressed concerns that the Commission might consider changes to the intermediary liability regime established by the e-commerce directive which could have far reaching negative consequences. Continue reading

The Copyright Joke

Cure of Folly (Extraction of the Stone of Madness)
EUIPO's Q&A on copyright
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How many European lawyers does it take to explain copyright? Start with 28 and add another dozen, because opinions vary. Even a basic project of explaining key copyright issues to EU citizens in 15 Q&As demonstrates that not only is European copyright fragmented into 28 incompatible systems but also that explaining the law is time-consuming and sometimes plainly ridiculous.

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Guestpost: Looking beyond Google for online access to EU culture and knowledge

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Europe needs a fair, legal framework
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Last month the US Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal from US authors who attempted to overturn a prior decision that Google’s scanning of millions in copyright books amounted to “fair use”. This refusal marks the end of a decade long legal fight about the Google books project. This means that in the US Google is free to scan and index in copyright protected books, in order to allow internet users to search the contents of the books.

The fact that Google is allowed to do this has received much criticism, not only from authors in the US but also from rights holders and media in Europe. Much of this criticism has been directed to the fact that the ruling allows a commercial entity to provide access to the full corpus of literature published in the US, but misses a much more important point.

As Ellen Euler, the Deputy Managing Director for Finance, Law, Communication of the Deutsche Digitale Bibliothek points out in her guest contribution below, this means that internet users in the US have access to a much broader body of knowledge and culture than the internet users in the EU. According to Euler we should not see Google Books as a threat to culture but rather as a reminder that Europe urgently needs to create a legal framework that enables access to the collections of our libraries, archives and museums, preferably by allowing them to make their collections available via their own online platforms.

Looking beyond Google for online access to EU culture and knowledge

by Ellen Euler

In the the digital and networked 21st century, cultural heritage institutions have an extended mandate: they must not only provide local access to culture and knowledge, but are also expected to make their collections available via the internet. As we spend an increasing amount of our time online, expect to be able to view and enjoy the the rich collections of our libraries, museums, and archives. And it’s important to provide online access to enable the discovery and innovative reuse of our shared cultural commons. As Tim Berners-Lee, one of the inventors of the web, sums up: “What’s not on the Net, is not in the world”.

When we digitize content from cultural heritage institutions, we begin the process of opening those materials to the world. As Armand Marie Leroi, a humanist and professor of evolutionary biology once said, “digitisation transforms them from caterpillars into butterflies”. Digitized texts allow us to pose entirely new questions and acquire new knowledge based on full-text searches and via other analytical tools and methods. This type of information mining is no longer restricted only to texts. Image recognition tools, combined with standardised metadata and geographical data, make it possible to interrogate other types of content too. We can use new quantitative research methods to test hypotheses and create linkages between bodies of knowledge. We can create virtual research environments to enable the contextualisation of collections within a broader framework.Continue reading

Freedom of Panorama – can we be satisfied with only non-commercial use?

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Public spaces are part of the commons
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The current European Commission public consultation is about ancillary copyright as well as the ‘panorama exception’ (nobody seems to understand why these two were combined in a single consultation process). Freedom of panorama refers to the legal right to take and share photos, video, and images of architecture, sculptures and other works which are located in a public place. We think that the freedom of panorama should be mandatory across the EU for both noncommercial and commercial purposes. Since the issue is now on the table, it’s important that any outcome supports the commonsense right to take and share images of objects in public places.

Everyday activities should not be limited

The sharing of photos taken in public places is a commonplace activity that should not be regulated by copyright. The issue of freedom of panorama was also discussed in the Reda report. An amendment was introduced by Jean-Marie Cavada to restrict freedom of panorama to only non-commercial uses, but a huge protest from citizens, photographers, and civil society organisations—including a Change.org petition that received over 500,000 signatures—helped remove the amendment from consideration.

But this didn’t stop the Commission from reopening the issue in its most recent consultation when it  asks, “What would be the impact on your activity of introducing an exception at the EU level covering non-commercial uses of works, such as works of architecture or sculpture, made to be located permanently in public places?”. Implementing a distinction between commercial and non-commercial use of images covered under the panorama exception will muddy any legal certainty for citizens engaged in taking and sharing images. What does “commercial use” mean? Is it related only to payments for direct use of a photograph? Would images that appear on a website that also contains online advertising automatically considered to be a commercial use? Would Wikipedia be considered a commercial project because it also asks for individual donations on its site? Could a user publish a photo on a for-profit social media platform? Continue reading

Ancillary Copyright: bad for both end-users and creators

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No additional copyrights for publishers!
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The Commission’s public consultation on whether to grant additional rights to press publishers is aimed at audiences beyond the publishers themselves, to include a wide range of stakeholders – including end users, consumers, and citizens. In this third post of our series on the consultation, we highlight what the introduction of an additional right for publishers would mean for end-users of news and online information, as well as content creators. We encourage everyone to make their views known to the Commission by answering the consultation questionnaire by 15 June.

[If you have not read our introductory post that deals with the more general problems of granting additional rights to publishers, you may want to read that first.]

Bad for end-users

We’ve already argued that granting new rights to press publishers is a fool’s errand. The adoption of an EU-wide ancillary copyright would have significant negative consequences for end-users of online news and information.  And users would encounter additional hurdles in finding the news and content they were looking for. In addition, these users would potentially face more constraints in quoting, linking to, aggregating, or otherwise finding and using works. Many users that rely on curated news aggregators like Google News or even RSS readers or other apps that reproduce snippets of content from news articles. If an additional right for press publishers is enacted, users would find that these existing news products and services will likely be disrupted, their prices increased, or even discontinued altogether (as we’ve seen in Spain with Google News).

The creation of an ancillary copyright for press publishers can have far reaching effects with regard to access to information beyond the traditional new aggregation services. For example, popular social networking apps and websites used by hundreds of millions of people could be affected too. Think about sites like Facebook and Twitter that permit anyone to post links and short pieces of text. Under a system where publishers are granted an additional right to such snippets, those publishers would be able to extract fees from social networking sites (who of course would likely pass on that cost to their users) in order to allow for open linking to content.

Bad for creators

The adoption of an ancillary copyright for press publishers would also harm content creators.  The data show that granting additional rights for press publishers does not lead to higher compensation for creators. Instead, it frustrates end-users and results in big content aggregators like Google News threatening to discontinue operations if they would be required to pay royalties to publishers for linking to content or providing short snippets to publishers’ content. Even if a system could be arranged where publishers would be compensated for the reproduction of short snippets or links, it’s not clear how (or if) that money would flow back to the authors of the original content.

In addition, an ancillary copyright for press publishers would run afoul of the intentions of creators who wish to share without additional strings attached because the right could be interpreted as unwaivable. For example, the Spanish ancillary right did not treat openly-licensed content differently from content under all rights reserved copyright. Content publishers sharing under Creative Commons licenses, which is increasingly popular, would still be subject to the ancillary copyright, as we wrote then: “By making the right unwaivable aggregators are required to pay fair remuneration to a collective rights management organisations even if a creator has chosen to apply a Creative Commons license that allows the free reuse of her creation.”

Make your voice heard

If you are are content creator, or end-user, we encourage you to make your voice heard and let the Commission know why introducing new rights for publishers is a terrible idea that will damage the European news landscape, social media platforms and more. You can respond directly to the consultation on the Commission’s site, or through an easy tool on youcan.fixcopyright.eu.

We will continue this series next week by highlighting the importance of securing a broad freedom of panorama across the EU.

How additional rights for publishers will hurt education and access to culture

Spotprent op de uitgever Jobard te Brussel
No additional copyrights for publishers!
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The Commission’s public consultation on the role of publishers in the copyright value chain and on the ‘panorama exception’ is addressed at a broad range of stakeholders, which includes both ‘Libraries/Cultural heritage institutions’ and ‘Educational or research institutions’. In this second post of our series on the consultation, we highlight what the introduction of an additional right for publishers would mean for the education and cultural heritage sectors. We encourage organisations and professionals from these sectors to make their views known to the Commission. [If you have not read our introductory post that deals with the more general problems of granting additional rights to publishers you may want to read that first.]

What additional rights for publishers mean for cultural heritage institutions…

Cultural Heritage Institutions struggle with making their collections available online. While large parts of their collections are not commercially available anymore, or were never in commercial circulation to  begin with, most materials from the 20th and 21st century are still covered by copyright and neighbouring rights. In order to make their collections available online institutions have to obtain permission from rightsholders to do so (they need to ‘clear the rights’). For out of commerce works this is an extremely time consuming and expensive process. Most institutions cannot afford large scale rights clearance and as a result there are very few works from the 20th century available via the websites of cultural heritage institutions (‘the 20th century black hole‘). Continue reading

Ancillary Copyright, Publishers’ Right, Link Tax: a bad idea under any name

Spotprent op de uitgever Jobard te Brussel
No to additional copyrights for publishers!
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The Commission is currently holding a public consultation on the role of publishers in the copyright value chain and on the ‘panorama exception’. Today we’re kicking off a short series of blog posts that will highlight the problematic nature of granting new copyrights for publishers, and why full freedom of panorama should be ensured for everyone in the EU. This post explores why new copyrights for publishers are a bad idea.

A brief history of ancillary copyright in Europe

For a long time, COMMUNIA has been critical of attempts to introduce additional rights for (press) publishers (see here for a collection of previous posts). The adoption of these ancillary rights would permit publishers to monetize the use of small snippets of text by news aggregators, search engines, and possibly others who collect and share links to publishers’ articles (hence the term: link tax). It first showed up in Germany and subsequently found its way into Spanish copyright law. It is well documented that in both cases the introduction of these new rights has failed to achieve the objectives of their proponents.

These failures have not prevented publishers from trying to get such a right created on a European scale. While the idea was not present in the Commission’s Digital Single Market strategy, Commissioner Oettinger made no secret of his sympathy for the idea, and made it clear that it could surface at any moment. Continue reading