European Parliament Approves Updated PSI Directive

Yesterday, the European Parliament formally adopted the updated directive on the reuse of public sector information. The announcement confirms the draft changes made to the directive in April of this year. Some notable changes (see here for a more comprehensive breakdown of the changes):

  • libraries, museums, and archives are now be covered under the directive

  • all legally public documents are subject to reuse under the directive

  • any charges are be limited to marginal costs of reproduction, provision and dissemination

  • documents and metadata are to be made available for reuse under open standards and using machine readable formats

European Commission Vice-President Neelie Kroes praised the adoption of the new rules on open data:

[T]o make a real difference you need a few things. You need prices for the data to be reasonable if not free – given that the marginal cost of your using the data is pretty low. You need to be able to not just use the data: but re-use it, without dealing with complex conditions [...] We are giving you new rights for how you can access their public data for re-use, but also extending rules to include museums and galleries. That could open up whole new areas of cultural content, with applications from education to tourism. Indeed, Europeana already has over 25 million cultural items digitised and available for all to see – with metadata under an open, CC0 licence.

The Communia Association has been keenly interested and involved in seeing public sector data freed for widespread use by making it broadly available in the public domain. In January 2012 we released a policy paper with suggested changes to the PSI directive. Communia is pleased to see that cultural heritage institutions are included under the scope of the amended directive. Another positive aspect of the new reuse directive is the narrowing of the language around acceptable licensing for public sector information through the removal of text encouraging the development of additional open government licenses. At the same time, the Commission has not clarified what should be considered a “standard license,” thus there is an ongoing concern potential for Member states to create diverging and potentially incompatible license implementations. And, the EU lawmakers chose not to address the Communia recommendation of explicitly including public domain content held by libraries, museums and archives under the reuse obligation of the amended directive. But all in all, the updated directive is a step in the right direction.

The new directive will be implemented by Member states over the next two years. In the interim, the Commission will be looking for guidance on licensing issues (among other things) from EU-funded projects such as LAPSI 2.0. Communia is an active member in the LAPSI group. LAPSI will be developing PSI licensing guidelines and good practices as a deliverable to the Commission.

Hugenholtz & Hargreaves on Modernising the European Copyright Framework

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.

Copyright reform?

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

Research sector, SMEs, civil society groups and open access publishers withdraw from Licences for Europe dialogue on text and data mining

COMMUNIA, along with several other representatives from the research sector, has withdrawn from the Licences for Europe dialogue on text and data mining due to concerns about the scope, composition and transparency of the process.

A letter of withdrawal has been sent to the Commissioners involved in Licenses for Europe explaining the reason that these stakeholders can no longer participate in the dialogue and the wish to instigate a broader dialogue around creating the conditions to realise the full potential of text and data mining for innovation in Europe:

We welcomed the orientation debate by the Commission in December 2012 and the subsequent commitment to adapt the copyright framework to the digital age. We believe that any meaningful engagement on the legal framework within which data driven innovation exists must, as a point of centrality, addressthe issue of limitations and exceptions. Having placed licensing as the central pillar of the discussion, the Licences for Europe Working Group has not made this focused evaluation possible.

Instead, the dialogue on limitations and exceptions is only taking place through the refracted lens of licensing. This incorrectly presupposes that additional relicensing of already licensed content(i.e. double licensing) – and by implication also licensing of the open internet – is the solution to the rapid adoption of TDM technology.

This approach also undermines the considerable work that has been done in Europe to increase the amount of Open Access content available and encourage its exploitation. We are concerned, therefore, that our participation in a discussion that focuses primarily on proprietary licenses could be used to imply that our sectors accept the notion of double licensing of as a solution. It is not. We firmly believe that the right to read is the rightto mine.

Furthermore, we would point to the urgent need to be competitive with the United States and the high‐tech economies in Japan and South Korea, where legal barriers to TDM are far lower precisely because of the existence of copyright limitations and exceptions there.

Continue reading

EU Presidency proposes compromise on draft Directive on collective management of copyright

The proposal for a Directive on collective management of copyright and related rights and multi-territorial licensing of rights in musical works for online uses in the internal market is now awaiting first (and single) reading by the European Parliament (indicatively foreseen in November). According to the European ordinary legislative process (the Directive proposal is following the ordinary codecision procedure), the Parliament is asked for its opinion on the proposed legislation before the Council adopts it. In the framework of the inter-institutional dialogue, the Conciliation Committee of the Council of the European Union issued a compromise text (aka ‘Presidency Compromise’) aiming at reconciling the positions of the EP and of the Council.

The Compromise text was adopted in early April (to our knowledge, it has not been widely circulated but has been made available online by the Austrian Parliament). The adoption of this text at a rather early stage of the legislative procedure, suggests that a possibility of a conclusion at first reading exists. However, it does not take account of the draft reports released by the Parliamentary Committees a few weeks after. As we highlighted earlier, the opinion drafted by MEP Helga Trüpel for the CULT Committee shares some core arguments with Communia’s policy. The deadline for tabling amendments on the leading Committee’s report (JURI) is June 6th.

It is thus interesting to look more closely at the content of the Compromise text to have a better idea about what the Council would be ready to vote for at the present time of the procedure (more than the Parliament insofar as the guessing about the final parliamentary vote is very uncertain at this stage of the procedure), although new matters of discussion may arise during the amendment and ‘lobbying’ period. Continue reading

Copyright policymaking and the digital public domain: a bitter-sweet wishful thinking from France

The mission on culture at the digital era commissioned by the French government and supervised by Pierre Lescure, rather pompously entitled ‘Acte II de l’exception culturelle’, released its report this week in Paris: ‘Rapport sur la politique culturelle à l’ère des contenus numériques’, downloadable in two volumes on the website of the Ministry of Culture (in French).

The Lescure Report is a new step in the policymaking on creative content in the digital society in France. Following the presidential elections last year, the new government wanted to induce reflection about the future of the HADOPI system adopted by the former government, and more generally on the protection of national culture on the Internet. The ambition heralded by this mission was big, so were the expectations about the resulting report.

The Report addresses a wide range of issues (the first volume of the Report is about 480 page-long) spanning copyright exceptions, non-commercial sharing, liability of intermediaries, financing models to support culture digitization, digital libraries, online clearing of rights on photographs and copyright enforcement. Among its key proposals, the Report argues for the prolonging of the graduated response, albeit under new conditions and under the responsability of another administrative authority (the HADOPI authority would disappear), as well as a new taxing system targeting telecommunication operators meant to finance the transition of cultural industries to the digital age. Moreover, the Report concurs with conservative views on copyright enforcement and discards the proposals elaborating alternative remuneration systems for rightholders and legalizing non-commercial sharing of copyrighted content. Not surprisingly, it has been criticized for being skewed towards industrial interests and in carrying on the repressive policy against webusers (read the critical view from La Quadrature du Net on the ‘wishful thinking and real dangers’ of the Report). Continue reading

European parliament starts discussing the proposed Directive on collective management of copyright

The European Commission’s Proposal for a directive on collective management of copyright and related rights and multi-territorial licensing of rights in musical works for online uses in the internal market is slowly progressing through the legislative process in Brussels. As part of this no less then five committees of the European Parliament (Legal Affairs, Culture and Education, Industry, Research and Energy, Internal Market and Consumer Protection and International Trade) are in the process of forming their opinion on the proposal.

At this stage the draft opinions written by the rapporteurs for the four non-leading committees have been published. These opinions take the form of amendments proposed to the text of the directive (sometimes these are accompanied by short justifications).

In our policy paper from January we identified two main issues with the proposed directive: The first one concerns the transparency of repertoire information that has to be provided by collective management organisations and the second concerns the relation between collective management and open content licenses. In our analysis the proposed directive fails to sufficiently address these two issues.

We are happy to see that among the four published opinions the draft opinion of the Committee on Culture and Education authored by Helga Trüpel shares the concerns voiced in our policy paper. In the introduction of the document she writes:

The Rapporteur would like to stress that rightholders should have the possibility to make their works available under an open content license of their choice, for instance under Creative Commons, without necessarily opting out from the collective management system.

Furthermore, the Rapporteur would like to give even more flexibility to rightholders in the management of the rights. CMOs should provide accurate repertory information, in particular for works falling into the Public Domain. CMOs should ensure that the information in respect of the works whose term of protection terminates is accurate and regularly updated, in order to exempt such works from licensing and avoid claims to be enforced by CMOs in that regard.

In the following we take a closer look at the relevant amendments contained in the draft opinion of the Committee on Culture and Education:

Continue reading

U.S. Register of Copyright Maria Pallante pushes for copyright reform in the U.S

This post by Creative Commons’ Timothy Vollmer was originally posted on the 20th of march on the Creative Commons blog (‘Pallante’s Push for U.S. Copyright Reform‘) and is reposted here with permission from the author.

Today, U.S. Register of Copyright Maria Pallante stood before Congress to say: we need a new copyright law. Pallante’s prepared remarks (127 KB PDF) to the U.S. House of Representatives, Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property, and the Internet called for “bold adjustments” to U.S. copyright law.

This is a most welcome aspiration. A strong push for copyright reform is currently occurring around the world through domestic reviews and in international fora like WIPO — coming both from those wanting increased recognition of user rights and those calling for tighter author controls. With the United States one of the leading nations advocating for stronger copyright protection through treaties such as ACTA and the TPP, the international community will be closely observing any movement in U.S. domestic law.

In addition to several meaningful reform ideas — including shortening The copyright term itself, alterations to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, and making revisions to exceptions and limitations for libraries and archives — we’re happy to see that the Register is highlighting the crucial need to expand and protect the public domain. Some of the most compelling work undertaken by Creative Commons and others in the open community has to do with increasing the accessibility and value of the public domain. We hope a more positive public domain agenda can become ingrained into the foundations of U.S. copyright policy. The central question: Can the United States devise a better system for both authors and the public interest in an environment where technology and social norms are increasingly disconnected from an aging copyright law?

Pallante said, “[A]uthors do not have effective protections, good faith businesses do not have clear roadmaps, courts do not have sufficient direction, and consumers and other private citizens are increasingly frustrated.” However, there is no doubt that public copyright licenses are offering a substantial and effective counter to some of these pains — even noted by Ms. Pallante in her longer lecture at Columbia University titled The Next Great Copyright Act (337 KB PDF), “[S]ome [authors] embrace the philosophy and methodology of Creative Commons, where authors may provide advance permission to users or even divest themselves of rights.” CC licenses and public domain instruments are right now helping alleviate frustration with copyright for all — individuals, businesses, institutions, governments — who opt in to using public licenses and licensed works.

Indeed, public licenses are easy-to-use tools for communities that wish to share their creativity on more flexible terms. And when millions of motivated creators share under public copyright licenses like CC, they create great and lasting things (hello Wikipedia). Public copyright licenses shine brightly in the light of Pallante’s telling reflection: “If one needs an army of lawyers to understand the precepts of the law, then it is time for a new law.”

At the same time, the existence of open copyright licenses shouldn’t be interpreted as a substitute for robust copyright reform. Quite the contrary. The decrease in transaction costs, increase in collaboration, and massive growth of the commons of legally reusable content spurred on by existence of public licenses should drastically reinforce the need for fundamental change, and not serve as a bandage for a broken copyright system. If anything, the increase in adoption of public licenses is a bellwether for legislative reform — a signal pointing toward a larger problem in need of a durable solution.

We and the rest of the international community are looking forward to seeing what Pallante and Congress have in mind when they continue the discussion after today. In her oral testimony, Ms. Pallante said, “Copyright is about the public interest.” We hope that the public interest has a seat at the table, with room both for open content licensing and positive legislative reform. The existence of CC licenses does not limit the need for reform. Open licenses help forward-thinking people and institutions to live and thrive in the digital age now, and illuminate the roadmap for beneficial reform to come. Let us begin.

Open Letter regarding the Commission’s stakeholder dialogue on text and data mining

In January Communia was invited to participate in the European Commission’s ‘Licenses for Europe‘ stakeholder dialogue. This stakeholder dialogue is one part of the Commission’s agenda to ‘modernise copyright in the digital economy‘. Communia participated in Working Group 4 on Text and Data Mining for Scientific Research Purposes.

Unfortunately the first meeting of this working group which took place on the 4th of February in Brussels did not live up to the expectations raised by the Commission’s earlier announcement. It quickly became evident that the stakeholder dialogue is based on a flawed assumption (‘more licensing will bring copyright in line with the requirements of the digital economy’) and that the process was designed to prevent a serious discussion about how to unlock the potential of scientific text and data mining.

Given this the participating organisations representing academia, researcher community and civil society (including Communia), have decided to make these concerns public in the form of an open letter to the Commissioners Barnier, Geoghegan-Quinn, Kroes and Vassiliou (re-published at the end of this post). The letter which was published today raises a number of concerns that need to be addressed before the stakeholder dialogue on text and data mining can continue.

Chief among these concerns is the belief that in order to have an open discussion about the reform, possible solutions cannot be limited to licensing. From our perspective text and data mining cannot be solved by re-licensing texts to libraries, researchers or the public. What Europe needs is clarity that text and data mining works that are lawfully available does not require permission by rights holders. A stakeholder dialogue that simply declares this position off limits can hardly be called a dialogue at all. In the case of Public Domain content, there is a risk that a focus upon licensing will lead to unlawful re-licensing of content that is out of copyright.

In addition the whole process needs to become more transparent and needs to include all stakeholders (including academics and the Commissions own Research and Innovation Directorate General, which is currently being limited to attend as an observer).

The open letter has been published in the hope of getting the Commission to change the terms under which the stakeholder dialogue is being conducted. Should this not be the case, Communia and the other organisations that have signed the letter are very likely to step away from the dialogue. As the list of supporting signatories shows this is supported by a growing number of academics who are rightfully concerned about the prospects for conducting data driven research in Europe. Continue reading

Communia condemns the privatization of the Public Domain by the Bibliothèque nationale de France

Last week the Bibliothèque nationale de France (BnF) concluded two new agreements with private companies to digitze over 70.000 old books, 200.000 sound recordings and other documents belonging (either partially or as a whole) to the public domain. While these public private partnerships enable the digitization of these works they also contain 10-year exclusive agreements allowing the private companies carrying out the digitization to commercialize the digitized documents. During this period only a limited number of these works may be offered online by the BnF.

Photo by Scarlet Green (CC-BY)

Together with La Quadrature du Net, Framasoft, SavoirsCom1 and the Open Knowledge Foundation France COMMUNIA has issued a statement (in french) to express our profound disagreement with the terms of these partnerships that restrict digital access to an important part of Europe’s cultural heritage. The agreements that the BnF has entered into, effectively take the works being digitized out of the public domain for the next 10 years.

 

The value of the public domain lies in the free dissemination of knowledge and the ability for everyone to access and create new works based on previous works. Yet, instead of taking advantage of the opportunities offered by digitization, the exclusivity of these agreements will force public bodies, such as research institutions or university libraries, to purchase digital content that belongs to the common cultural heritage.

 

As such, these partnerships constitute a commodification of the public domain by contractual means. COMMUNIA has been critical of such arrangements from the start (see our Public Domain Manifesto) and our Policy Reccomendations 4 & 5. More interestingly these agreements are also in direct contradiction with the Public Domain Charter published by the Europeana Foundation in 2011. In this context it is interesting to note that the director of Bibliothèque nationale de France currently serves as the chairman of the Europeana Foundation’s Executive Board.

 

COMMUNIA policy paper on proposed Directive on collective management of copyright

Today the COMMUNIA International Association presents its sixth policy paper. The paper is a reaction to the European Commission’s proposal for a directive on collective management of copyright and related rights and multi-territorial licensing of rights in musical works for online uses in the internal market.

The COMMUNIA Association welcomes the European Commission’s efforts to modernise collective management in Europe by providing rules for multi-territorial licensing of rights in musical works for online uses, and more generally by increasing the standards for transparency and accountability of Collective Rights Management Organizations (CMOs) operating in Europe.

Copyright management plays a central role in determining legal certainty for the digitisation of the European cultural heritage and for enabling an accessible and reusable digital Public Domain. This proposed directive intervenes at a crucial moment in the evolution of the information society and in the history of the European copyright system, where innovation and public access to knowledge should be a priority of policy-making.

The policy paper draws attention to two issues where the proposal should be improved. The first one concerns the transparency of repertoire information. We consider the proposed measures not sufficient and suggest an amendment to require that CMOs must provide this information more widely. The second issue concerns the relation between collective management and open content licenses. In our opinion, the proposed directive fails to address the existing incompatibilities between the collective management of rights and open content licensing.

The full COMMUNIA Association reaction on the Directive proposal on Collective Management of Copyright can be downloaded here. For further information about the paper please contact the COMMUNIA Association at communia DOT association AT gmail DOT com.