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.

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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

EDRi and Communia team up for the organisation of “School of Rock(ing) EU Copyright”

Communia is partnering up with EDRi,  organising the “School of Rock(ing) EU Copyright” in Warsaw, Poland, November 5-6th. COMMUNIA advocates for policies that strengthen the public domain and increase access to and reuse of culture and knowledge, and we believe that a strong network of activists for European copyright reform is crucial for this.  Events such as this 2-day course are essential to train future policy influencers and to strengthen the network of copyright reform advocates.

EDRi offers travel support for 20 participants, applications should be in before September 6. 

EDRi offers a stipendum of maximum 300 EUR to cover transport and accommodation costs for up to 20 participants of the School of Rock(ing) EU Copyright and the CopyCamp conference in Warsaw. Non-funded participants will also be welcome, of course.

If you’re interested, please apply by sending an email to with the title “Application for The School of Rock(ing) EU Copyright” stating in no more than 200 words why you are interested in attending CopyCamp and the School of Rock(ing) EU Copyright, why you should be selected. We’re looking for people who have experience and/or plan to prepare campaigns on a national level, who can help building online campaigning tools, who have the ability to create networks with similar organisations on national and international levels and general knowledge of the main problems in the current EU copyright system. Continue reading

On the need to protect copyright exceptions from contractual interference

Combat des polonais contre les russes
Protect Copyright exceptions from harm.

One of the positive points contained in the recently adopted Reda report that we have not discussed here before is the freedom to exercise copyright exception and limitations (although this is not a new topic – see Treaty Proposal on Limitations and Exceptions for Libraries and Archives). In paragraph 61 of the report the members of the European Parliament stress that ‘the effective exercise of exceptions or limitations, and access to content that is not subject to copyright or related rights protection, should not be waived by contract or contractual terms’.

The Directive 2001/29/EC (so-called the Infosoc Directive) introduced 21 exceptions and limitations to copyright, making only one of them mandatory (transient or incidental acts of reproduction), and leaving the remaining 20 optional for national legislators to implement.

This has led to cherry-picking by countries in their implementation of the optional exceptions and limitations, and it has created a situation where users in different EU member states have different rights when it comes to their interaction with copyright-protected materials. Even worse is the fact that the existing legislation does not contain rules that protect users from a contractual or technological override of the exceptions and limitations available within current EU system. As a result, rightsholders and intermediaries are essentially able to limit or modify exceptions or limitations, thus reducing the potential benefit of the copyright exceptions for the public. Continue reading

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

Een violist en een fluitist musicerend
ACS: a viable solution for creators and users?

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

European Parliament adopts Reda report, fails to demand real copyright reform

Yesterday the European Parliament approved MEP Julia Reda’s evaluation report of the copyright directive. With the report the European Parliament gives a clear signal that the European Copyright rules need to be modernised. This puts the ball in the court of the Commission, which needs to come up with concrete legislative proposals for a copyright reform – which it promised to deliver before the end of the year. Both Commissioners Oettinger and Ansip have reacted positively to the Report, while its author, Pirate Party MEP has expressed the hope that the Commission’s proposal will be more ambitious than the EPs report, which has been watered down considerably through a large number of amendments.

So while the report is a clear signal that MEPs want to see a modernisation of the EU copyright rules that date back to 2001, it is much less clear what shape these modernised rules should take. Most of the report is based on compromises that MEP Reda has brokered between all major political groups represented in the EP. As a result, the report does not outline a clear plan for reforming copyright. Still, it is possible to distill from it a number of things that MEPs clearly both want and don’t want to see in the reform proposal. It is also clear that pressure from civil society – related to such issues as Freedom of of Panorama, hyperlinking or ancillary copyright, helped avert worst amendments to the report.

MEPs do not want to see further limitations of user rights.

Attempts have  been made to include language that would limit the rights of end users. Fortunately all of these attempts failed. The majority of MEPs is clearly unwilling to further limit the ability of citizens and other users to interact with copyright protected material. Continue reading

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