Advocate General Wathelet: Extended Collective Licensing is NOT the answer for mass digitisation!

Keizerlijke bibliotheek en rariteitenkabinet
Enable access to digitized cultural heritage now!

Last week we saw another Advocate General (AG) opinion published that deals with the position of cultural heritage institutions within the EU copyright framework. Hot on the heels of AG Szpunar’s opinion on e-lending, AG Wathelet weighed in on the question of whether the French system for making out-of-print books available online is aligned with the EU copyright directive. His opinion in the case C‑301/15 Soulier en Doke is that the French scheme, which assigns the digital reproduction and performance rights for out-of-print books to a collecting society that then licenses them, is incompatible with the InfoSoc directive. Such an opinion effectively undermines the idea that Extended Collective Licensing (ECL) can serve as a solution for the copyright problems created by mass digitisation of cultural heritage collections.

This opinion comes at a crucial time when the EU Commission is finalising its copyright reform proposal, which is scheduled to be published in September. As part of this proposal the Commission has promised to propose measures that will “make it easier to digitise out-of-commerce works and make them available”. While the Commission has so far been silent on the mechanism that it would propose to achieve this goal, it is generally understood that there are two different approaches on the table:

The Death of Extended Collective Licensing?

While AG Wathelet’s opinion only concerns the specific question referred to the CJEU by the French court, it has much wider-ranging consequences. Should the CJEU rule in agreement with the opinion (note that a decision is not expected until after the September publication of the Commission’s proposal), then Extended Collective Licensing is effectively dead as a solution for the copyright problems created by mass digitisation. In this sense, this opinion supports the position expressed by cultural heritage institutions that the only real solution for their issues is an update of the relevant exceptions in the InfoSoc directive. Continue reading

Contrary to what publishers think, Libraries serve the Public

Adreskaart voor boekhandel Scheltema en Holkema
Have the publishers lost it?

It is relatively well documented that neither the French nor publishers are big fans of copyright reform. Given this, the comments from the CEO of the French publisher Hachette Livre on at last week’s London Book Fair are not entirely surprising.  

Less than three weeks after the European Commission launched a consultation that appears to be designed to create additional copyrights for publishers, Hachette CEO Arnoud Nourry warned his international publishing colleagues that Google is a bigger threat to publishers than Amazon and greatly benefit from what he called “the European Commission’s senseless attack on copyright”. According to a summary of his talk provided by the Bookseller, he then went on to declare that:

… vast exceptions to copyright law for libraries, for education, for fair use” could provide an opening for Google to rebrand itself as a library, opening up its repositories of scanned content for free and profiting from advertising income [and] questioned why the EC was targeting publishers: “It is as if the Commission had made it a priority to weaken the only European cultural industry that has achieved worldwide leadership. Need I remind you that nine of the 12 largest publishing companies in the world are European?”’

To anyone following the relatively tame course the Commission has charted out for reviewing the EU copyright rules, this looks like a relatively ill-informed overreaction by a publisher who seems to be offended that European legislators dare to even think about modernizing EU copyright without asking the publishing industry for permission first. The obsessive focus on Google as an evil outsider intent to destroy culture-as-we-know-it highlights the unease the traditional publishing sector still feels when it comes to all things digital.Continue reading

Research: Orphan Works Directive does not work for mass digitisation

Orphan Works directive: as useless as expected

In 2012 the European Parliament adopted the Directive on ‘certain permitted uses of orphan works by cultural heritage institutions’. The directive intends to fill the gap between the mission of cultural heritage institutions to share cultural works to citizens, and the complex, costly, and sometimes impossible task of locating rightsholders to get permission for online publication of these orphaned yet still-in-copyright works.

COMMUNIA’s 2012 analysis of the directive showed that it was bound to be a train wreck. A preliminary comparative study of the situation in the UK, the Netherlands, and Italy undertaken by the EnDOW project reveals that the national implementations of the directive across Europe do not provide the much needed solution for the problem of orphan works.

Under the directive, cultural heritage institutions are allowed to publish works online for viewing (not re-use) after a ‘due diligence search’ has been performed, recorded, and submitted to the orphan works database at OHIM. Works that have been registered in this database can then be digitized and made available online under an exception to copyright. So far the project only published its initial results, but we can already see that this piece of legislation will most likely not contribute to large-scale use of orphan works by Europe’s Libraries, Museums & Archives.

The main reason for this is that the diligent search requirements established by the directive have been implemented by member states in such a way that the cost of undertaking a diligent search is prohibitive. The study collected over 210 sources, databases, and registers that need be checked in diligent searches in the UK alone. Researchers from Italy found 357 possible databases and registers. Of the 87 identified sources in the Netherlands, 40 were not freely accessible, and 36 of these required personal contact or a physical visit to an institute. Since the legislation requires cultural heritage institutions to be diligent, they need to check each and every source to be covered by the limited exception provided by the directive.

These results illustrate that the EU approach to orphan works is unreasonably complex and won’t adequately address the problem it’s trying to fix. This is further shown in the actual number of orphan works available through the OHIM Orphan Works Database, which currently only shows 1,435 registered works. More than half of them are in the collection of the Dutch EYE Film Institute (which has worked on rights clearance for these works since at least 2008).

The preliminary results of EnDOW provide evidence that the European Union has failed in this attempt to provide much needed digital access to Europe’s cultural heritage. Given that the Orphan Works Directive does not help with mass digitisation projects, this means that there is a continued need to provide legal mechanisms that allow cultural heritage institutions to make works in their collection available online.

Note: This contribution has been written by Maarten Zeinstra. Maarten is technical advisor to EnDOW. The ideas expressed in this post should not be attributed to EnDOW.

Public Domain on Trial in Reiss-Engelhorn Museum vs. Wikimedia et al.

Portrait of Richard Wagner
Digitisation of public domain works should not create new rights.

Is it dangerous to take a public domain picture from Wikipedia and use it on your blog or print it on a T-shirt? Last week we wrote about a copyright case in Germany where several users of public domain pictures received letters from the lawyers of Mannheim’s Reiss-Engelhorn museum. The letters demanded payment for the use of photos of public domain art works that had been uploaded to Wikipedia. The museum justifies this legal action by pointing to the costs of digitizing their artworks and the respective acquisition of some form of ancillary copyright protection for simple photographs (“Lichtbildschutz”, § 72 in the German copyright law). On Wikimedia Commons, the repository that hosts media for Wikipedia, there is already a separate category for “Images subject to Reiss Engelhorn lawsuit”.

Amongst the several recipients of the letters were not only Wikimedia Germany and the Wikimedia Foundation, but also the online radio station and the non-profit website “Musical&Co”, which features music-related articles authored by children for children. Continue reading

UK Intellectual Property Office: what is in the Public Domain must stay in the Public Domain

Figuren bij een drukpers
Digitization does not create new rights over Public Domain works

It is not often that we find ourselves in agreement with the copyright policy positions of government entities entrusted with maintaining the copyright rules. Given this it is somewhat of a rare find to discover the UK Intelllectual Property Office (IPO) has recently thrown its full weight behind our policy recommendation #5 (‘Digital reproductions of works that are in the Public Domain must also belong to the Public Domain.’). In a recently updated copyright notice on ‘digital images, photographs and the internet’ the IPO provides the following answer to the question ‘Are digitised copies of older images protected by copyright?’

Simply creating a copy of an image won’t result in a new copyright in the new item. However, there is a degree of uncertainty regarding whether copyright can exist in digitised copies of older images for which copyright has expired. Some people argue that a new copyright may arise in such copies if specialist skills have been used to optimise detail, and/or the original image has been touched up to remove blemishes, stains or creases.

However, according to the Court of Justice of the European Union which has effect in UK law, copyright can only subsist in subject matter that is original in the sense that it is the author’s own ‘intellectual creation’. Given this criteria, it seems unlikely that what is merely a retouched, digitised image of an older work can be considered as ‘original’. This is because there will generally be minimal scope for a creator to exercise free and creative choices if their aim is simply to make a faithful reproduction of an existing work.

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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

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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Poland restricts access to digitized cultural heritage

Soon the most valuable digital works of art and culture may be available all around Europe, free of charge, licenses, watermarks, and in open, machine-readable formats.  Together with their metadata they can be used to not only promote rich heritage of our culture, but also to build innovative applications, web services and boost the creative economy all across the Europe. This is the promise made by the European Union, as contained in the new Directive on the re-use of public sector information.

But establishing a single framework, which enables the cross-border offer of products and services is not an easy thing. According to the last report of the PSI Group, Member States are struggling with many challenges while implementing the Directive into domestic law. As might be expected, the correct choice of licensing, charging and redress mechanisms are especially hard to solve.

In the recent Communia policy paper on the re­use of public sector information in cultural heritage institutions, we were  concerned that if Member States are not careful, the implementation of the changes required by the new Directive could do more harm than good when it comes to access to digitized cultural heritage in Europe. Work on the implementation of the Directive into Polish law shows that this scenario can happen in Poland.

In November 2014, Poland has published a draft proposal of the new bill, which assumes that documents held by cultural heritage institutions are within the scope of the Directive only if they are in the public domain, either because they were never protected by copyright or because copyright has expired.

The problem, therefore, lies in the fact that the remaining resources, even if the institution owns the copyright, have been excluded from the scope of the proposed law. The Ministry of Culture and Digital Heritage, which has been in favour of this very narrow reading of the Directive, believes that it should not apply either to works created by employees of institutions or to works, for which third parties have transferred rights to cultural institutions. What does this mean in practice?

Most importantly, re-use rules will not apply to such important information as descriptive metadata, bibliographic and catalog data. Without metadata and descriptions heritage resources will become useless for those wanting to re-use digital cultural resources. Similarly, public cultural institutions – for example modern art galleries – will still be able to restrict access to the information that they hold, even though it has been produced with public funds.

And such an implementation is in our opinion [see our policy paper p. 4-6]  contrary to the very principle that inspired both the 2003 and 2013 Directives and could lead to the creation of unnecessary hurdles to the re­use of public sector information.

What is maybe even worse, Polish cultural institutions will also be able to impose additional conditions – restricting commercial use (promotion or advertising) or allowing only certain forms and scope of reuse. Even for works that are in the public domain.

This implementation has the combined support of collective management organizations, museums (which in general are much more conservative than libraries in their approach towards digitization and sharing of cultural objects) and the Polish Ministry of Culture and Digital Heritage. One of the concerns raised is that the private sector will be able to build competitive services, museum catalogues or images banks, to those provided by the museums. But wasn’t it the idea of new PSI Directive? In general, it is surprising to see these organizations favour an approach that limits as much as possible reuse of cultural works – since such sharing is explicitly defined as part of their public mission.

All around the world, public domain is treated as the information that is free from intellectual property barriers. Anyone can use and reuse it, remix, combine and translate without obtaining permission. For commercial and non-commercial purposes. But no one can ever own it. In theory. Observing the legislative process in Poland, it becomes clear that in some countries the implementation of the new PSI Directive can indeed not only do more harm than good with regard to access to cultural heritage, but even threaten the idea of the public domain.

We hope that ultimately the Ministry of Administration and Digital Affairs – which is responsible for drafting the bill – will propose a law that supports a modern approach to digital cultural heritage and protects the Public Domain.  And that with time the Ministry of Culture and Digital Heritage will adapt Poland’s cultural policy as well so that allowing access and reuse is seen as part of the public mission, and not as threat to culture.

Europe’s cultural heritage institutions deserve better

For those of us looking forward to copyright rules that enable European cultural heritage institutions to provide online access to their collections, two important things happened last week: on Wednesday 29th October, the Orphan Works directive (OW directive) came into force and on Saturday 1st November, the new European Commission headed by Jean-Claude Juncker assumed office.

The first event marks the failure of the existing system, while the second one is reason to give us hope for a more meaningful modernisation of the European copyright system.

The fact that the current system does not take into account the needs of cultural heritage institutions is painfully illustrated by the Orphan Works directive. After years of legislative wrangling, Europe came up with a ‘solution’ for the problem of orphan works that requires cultural heritage institutions wanting to make orphan works available to undertake complicated searches for rights holders, before they are allowed to publish them. In most cases, the resources required for such searches are completely out of balance with the cultural and economic value of the work. This means that the Orphan Works directive may be a useful tool for making small numbers of high profile works available, but not as an enabler of mass digitisation projects.

The fact that the OW directive ended up as a crippled tool that fails to address the problem it was designed to answer (enabling mass digitisation of collections), is the result of a number factors: strong pressure from rights holders and their representatives to preserve the underlying principles of copyright even in a situation where they do more good than harm; the lack of coordinated advocacy efforts from cultural heritage institutions at the European Level; and a weak European Commission that was split on copyright.

With regards to the last point there is reason to hope that the situation is changing. The Juncker Commission that came into office on the first of November has made the modernisation of copyright one of its top priorities. In his mission letters to the Commissioners in charge of a connected Digital Single Market, Juncker made it clear that he expects his team to come up with ‘ambitious legislative steps’ towards ‘modernising copyright rules in the light of the ongoing digital revolution’ within the next six months.

In other words, the time to start fighting for copyright rules that enable cultural heritage institutions to properly function online is now!Continue reading

COMMUNIA policy paper on digitization agreements

The aim of this policy paper is to make policy recommendations for cultural institutions to preserve the Public Domain when using digitization services provided by private entities. This becomes particularly relevant in the context of the 2013 Public Sector Information (PSI) Directive which adds Museums, Libraries and Archives in the list of Public Sector Bodies (PSBs) that have to make their information reusable.

The Public Domain ensures the free dissemination of knowledge and provides everyone with the potential to access and create new works based on previous works. Thus, all Public Domain works should be free for everyone to use and reuse. Yet, as many cultural heritage institutions are entering into contractual agreements with third parties for the digitization of Public Domain works, there are serious concerns regarding the conditions of access, use and reuse of the resulting digitized copies.

Ideally, digital copies of Public Domain materials would be made immediately and freely available to the public. However, in practice, many of these public-private partnerships impose contractual restrictions that limit access and re-use of Public Domain materials. These restrictions have the same effect as introducing a new proprietary right over the digitized copies of Public Domain material, thereby substantially limiting the use and reuse of content that belongs to the common cultural heritage by subjecting it to a requirement of prior authorisation.

This risk is further increased with the introduction of the PSI 2013 regime, which allows the conclusion of exclusive agreements between private entities and PSBs under restrictive terms and with a potential perpetual validity.

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