Calculating the Public Domain

Many people recognise the value of works which are in the public domain and may even be familiar with many initiatives that provide access to public domain works (such as the Internet Archive, Wikimedia Commons, Project Gutenberg, etc). Yet, many people do not have a very clear conception of what the public domain is or why it is important.

New digital technologies make it possible for the public to access a vast quantity of cultural and historical material. Much of this material is in the public domain, and ongoing digitisation efforts mean that much more public domain material (in which copyright has expired) will be made available for the public to enjoy, share, and reuse.

However, it is often difficult to determine whether a work has entered the public domain in any given jurisdiction, because the terms of copyright protection differ from country to country. And  people are sometimes unclear about what can or cannot be done with works in the public domain. Copyright laws are complicated, and for the layperson it may not be clear how they apply in relation to a specific work. Though there are many international and multinational copyright agreements and copyright organisations, the exact details of copyright law vary from one country to another. Different countries have different legal systems and traditions – and copyright laws reflect these differences. Hence, given that works enter the public domain under different circumstances depending on the country, oftentimes the status of an individual work cannot be universally established. Rather, it needs to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis for every jurisdiction.

In order to make public domain determinations a less daunting task, the Open Knowledge Foundation has been working on the development of the Public Domain Calculators (http://publicdomain.okfn.org/calculators/) – a tool that enables people to determine the copyright status of a work (in the public domain, or not), thus helping users realize the value of artworks from the past.

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Preserving the Public Domain

Copyright Week provides a timely opportunity to reflect on Communia’s mission to preserve the public domain and our common heritage against copyright extension, misleading attempts to privatize public domain works, the shrinking of users’ rights, and the general trend in extending the scope of copyright in ways detrimental to the production of culture and knowledge.

Communia began as a European Union-funded research network, consisting of an initial group of 50 researchers, practitioners and activists, and led by Juan Carlos De Martin. Communia was joined by non-European institutions in order to study the public domain at large, and also related topics such as open licensing, copyright exceptions and limitations, orphan works, and open data. Unusually, the Communia project produced a piece of work not foreseen in the original grant agreement, the Public Domain Manifesto. The Manifesto is an emblematic text stating that the public domain, the obverse of copyright, is a wealth of works which are difficult to identify and to define. The Manifesto proclaims, Public Domain is the rule and that copyright is the exception. Continue reading

Commission announces public consultation on the review of EU copyright rules

Last week Thursday the European Commission launched its much anticipated public consultation on the review of the EU copyright rules. This consultation is the first visible sign of the second track of the Commission’s attempt to modernise the EU rules (the first track consisted of the rather unsuccessful Licenses for Europe stakeholder dialogue). In the words of the Commission the focus of the consultation is on:

… ensuring that the EU copyright regulatory framework stays fit for purpose in the digital environment to support creation and innovation, tap the full potential of the Single Market, foster growth and investment in our economy and promote cultural diversity.

With regards to the contents of the consultation, a first reading reveals a mixed bag of questions, with a surprising amount of them actually touching on issues that are closely related to our own policy recommendations. The consultation comes in the form of a 37 page document with a grand total of 80 questions that cover everything from the functioning of the single market for copyrighted works, linking and browsing, copyright term duration, registration of copyrighted works and exceptions and limitations for cultural heritage institutions, education, research, persons with disabilities and “user generated content”. In addition, there are questions about private copying and levies, the fair remuneration of authors and performers, respect for rights, and even the possibility of a single EU copyright title. Finally there is an open question for everything else that stakeholders might want to tell the Commission.

The deadline for providing answers to all of these questions is the 5th of February, which if one takes into account the upcoming holiday period is rather short. Continue reading

Responding to the European Commission consultation on PSI: Minimizing restrictions maximizes re-use

The Communia Association has responded to the European Commission’s consultation on recommended standard licenses, datasets and charging for the re-use of public sector information (PSI). The Commission asked for comments on these issues in light of the adoption of the new Directive on re-use of public sector information. See our response here. The Directive 1) brings libraries, museums, and archives under the scope of the Directive, 2) provides a positive re-use right to public documents, 3) limits acceptable charging to only marginal costs of reproduction, provision, and dissemination, and 4) reiterates the position that documents can be made available for re-use under open standards and using machine readable formats. Communia recognizes the high value of PSI not only for innovation and transparency, but also for scientific, educational and cultural benefit for the entire society.

We have been providing feedback to the Commission during this process. We last wrote about the Directive in June, and questioned why the Commission had not yet clarified what should be considered a “standard license” for re-use (Article 8). The dangers of license proliferation–which potentially leads to incompatible PSI–is still present. But it’s positive that the Commission is using this consultation to ask specific questions regarding legal aspects of re-use.

Part 3 of the questionnaire deals with licensing issues. One question asks what should be the default option for communicating re-use rights. We believe that there should be no conditions attached to the re-use of public sector information. The best case scenario would be for public sector information to be in the public domain. If it’s not possible to pass laws granting positive re-use rights to PSI without copyright attached, public sector bodies should use the CC0 Public Domain Dedication (CC0) to place public data into as close as possible to the public domain to ensure unrestricted re-use.

Communia calls on the Commission and Member States to ensure that core datasets are released for maximum re-use, either by exempting PSI from copyright and sui generis database rights altogether, or by requiring that these rights are waived under the CC0 Public Domain Dedication.

Another question first states that the Commission prefers the least restrictive re-use regime possible, and asks respondents to choose which condition(s) would be aligned with this goal. Again, we think that every condition would be deemed restrictive, since the best case scenario would be for PSI to be removed from the purview of copyright protection through law or complete dedication of the PSI to the public domain using CC0.

Some conditions would be particularly detrimental to interoperability of PSI. An obligation not to distort the original meaning or message of public sector data should be deemed unacceptable. Such an obligation destroys compatibility with standard public licenses that uniformly do not contain such a condition. The UK’s Open Government License has already removed this problematic provision when it upgraded from OGL 1.0 to OGL 2.0. Any condition that attempts to discriminate based on the type of use or user, or imposes additional requirements on the re-user, should be avoided. Examples include: 1) fees for cost recovery, 2) prohibitions on commercial use, modifications, distortion, or redistribution, and 3) unreasonable attribution requirements. Copyleft conditions can threaten interoperability with existing “attribution-only” standard licenses.

In addition to mentioning CC licensing as a common solution, the questionnaire notes, “several Member States have developed national licenses for re-use of public sector data. In parallel, public sector bodies at all levels sometimes resort to homegrown licensing conditions.” In order to achieve the goals of the Directive and “to promote interoperable conditions for crossborder re-use,” the Commission should consider options that minimize incompatibilities between pools of PSI, which in turn maximize re-use. As far as we are concerned that means that governments should be actively discouraged from developing their own licenses. They should consider removing copyright protection for PSI by amending copyright and/or PSI law or waive copyright and related rights using CC0.

Part 4 of the questionnaire addresses charging options for PSI re-use. While the Communia Association did not provide an opinion on this matter, Federico Morando, Raimondo Iemma, and Simone Basso have provided an in-depth analysis on the Internet Policy Review website.

Creative Commons comes out in support of copyright reform

Today Creative Commons (CC), the US non-profit that publishes the Creative Commons licenses (and Communia Member) has published a statement in support of copyright reform. This step comes after a year long discussion on how Creative Commons, which has traditionally defined itself as a neutral steward of the CC Licenses, should relate to ongoing discussions about reforming copyright in various countries around the world.

The statement issued by CC makes it clear that the success of the CC licenses should not be used as an argument that current copyright legislation is flexible enough since it enables voluntary licensing schemes like Creative Commons:

Creative Commons (CC) has enabled a new approach to copyright licensing over the last ten years. CC licenses facilitate novel social, educational, technological, and business practices, and support productive relationships around networked knowledge and culture.

We are dedicated stewards of our licenses and tools, and we educate users, institutions, and policymakers about the positive benefits of adopting CC licenses. Our licenses will always provide voluntary options for creators who wish to share their material on more open terms than current copyright systems allow. But the CC vision—universal access to research and education and full participation in culture—will not be realized through licensing alone.

Around the world, numerous national governments are reviewing or revising their copyright law. Some proposed revisions would broaden the scope of uses of copyrighted works permitted without the rightsholder’s permission. In response, it has been suggested that the very success of CC licenses means that copyright reform is unnecessary—that the licenses solve any problems for users that might otherwise exist. This is certainly not the case. CC licenses are a patch, not a fix, for the problems of the copyright system. They apply only to works whose creators make a conscious decision to affirmatively license the right for the public to exercise exclusive rights that the law automatically grants to them. The success of open licensing demonstrates the benefits that sharing and remixing can bring to individuals and society as a whole. However, CC operates within the frame of copyright law, and as a practical matter, only a small fraction of copyrighted works will ever be covered by our licenses.

Our experience has reinforced our belief that to ensure the maximum benefits to both culture and the economy in this digital age, the scope and shape of copyright law need to be reviewed. However well-crafted a public licensing model may be, it can never fully achieve what a change in the law would do, which means that law reform remains a pressing topic. The public would benefit from more extensive rights to use the full body of human culture and knowledge for the public benefit. CC licenses are not a substitute for users’ rights, and CC supports ongoing efforts to reform copyright law to strengthen users’ rights and expand the public domain.

More background information on the statement can be found in this blogpost on the Creative Commons website.

Intellectual Property Rights do not equal Innovation and Creativity

The post below is cross posted from Kennisland (Kennisland is a COMMUNIA member).

Last month, the Office for the Harmonization of the Internal market (OHIM) and the European Patent Office (EPO) published a study on intellectual property rights intensive industries’ contribution to the economic performance and Employment in the European Union.

The study is modelled after a much criticized 2012 study published by the Department of Commerce and the US Patent and Trademark Office that attempted to measure the impact of IPR intensive industries on the US economy. Both studies come to similar conclusions, namely that IPR intensive industries make significant contributions to overall employment and GDP in the surveyed economies. For the European Union OHIM and EPO claim that:

IPR-intensive industries contribute 26% of employment and 39% of GDP in the EU. (page 6)

The study could be read to imply that without IPR one quarter of us would be out of work and that the EU would suddenly lose more than a third of its economy. Although it is fairly obvious that this is rather unrealistic, it did not prevent EU Commissioner (and noted copyright hawk) Michel Barnier from jumping on the opportunity to express once more how important he thinks that IP rights are:

“I am convinced that intellectual property rights play a hugely important role in stimulating innovation and creativity, and I welcome the publication of this study which confirms that the promotion of IPR is a matter of growth and jobs. It will help us to further underpin our evidence-based policy making.”

Unfortunately, this particular study has almost nothing to do with evidence-based policy making. On the contrary, the study represents one of the more brazen attempts to mislead the public (and policy makers) by throwing lots of data around and calling that evidence. Continue reading

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.

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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