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

‘Orphan works’ compromise fails to deliver

The compromise text of the proposed orphan works directive is finally out. If nothing unexpected happens, this text should be what gets adopted later this year, what needs to be transposed into national legislation within 2 years from then, and what cultural heritage institutions that are confronted with hostage works need to deal with for the next decade or two. This text also represents the first finished legislative project that is part of the European Commissions Digital Agenda, which attempts to make Europe ‘fit for the digital age’.

Given all of the above, it is unfortunate that the text also is a legislative train wreck that fails to make any substantial improvements to the situation in which memory institutions engaged in digitization efforts find themselves. The compromise text of the proposed directive (‘compromise’ refers to a compromise between the three EU legislative bodies the Commission, the Council and the Parliament, not a compromise between the many stakeholders affected by this legislation) has essentially abandoned the initial purpose of the proposed directive. That purpose was to ensure that the public gains access to those works that are held hostage by the copyright legislation that has failed to keep up with social and technological change. Instead, the proposed directive has morphed into a twisted attempt to protect the ideology underpinning 20th century copyright legislation against the effects of the problems created by the rigidity of this very ideology. Continue reading

Information Sans Frontières: Orphan works directive in it’s current form creates more harm than good

Information Sans Frontières (ISF), an alliance representing public cultural heritage institutions in Europe, has published a new position statement on the proposed Orphan Works directive. On 23 March the ISF reacted to the recent changes in the proposal that resulted from the ongoing negotiations between Council, Parliament and the Commission stating that it was “deeply disappointed in the outcome.” The ISF is highly critical of the latest version which has transformed the proposed Directive into an instrument that is more likely to complicate access to orphan works than to promote it.

According the ISF there are 4 main issues with the Orphan Works directive in it’s current (23 March) form:

  1. The provision to require remuneration for past use of an orphan work as a rights holder re-appears needs to be removed. It undermines the entire purpose of the directive which is to create certainty for users of orphan works (we have raised this point before)
  2. The provision allowing commercial uses of orphan works (article 7 in the original proposal) needs to be restored in order to allow for public-private partnerships to fund digitization projects
  3. The provisions on technical requirements for record keeping related to diligent searches carried out in order to identify orphan works should be made less technology-specific.
  4. The ‘liability’ amendment that has been added as recital 16a needs to be removed as it increases legal uncertainty for users of orphan works and as such is counterproductive to the overall aim of the directive (facilitating the digitization of Europe’s cultural heritage).

This analysis provided by ISF is largely in line with the concerns raised by COMMUNIA in our policy paper on the proposed directive and later statements on this site. Overall Information Sans Frontières makes it clear that it considers the directive in its current form unable to achieve the objectives it is supposed to achieve. In an updated version of the position statement from 2 april the ISF concludes that:

… we hope that the high-lighted difficulties will be removed in forthcoming negotiations with the Commission and Council. If they are allowed to remain, the Directive will not achieve its purpose, according to the Commission’s IP strategy of promoting the digitisation and making available of the collections of European cultural institutions (p.13). We believe that the Directive will set damaging precedents, and will be of negligible use to our member institutions. As the intended beneficiaries of the Directive, we shall ask the Parliament to reject the Directive in plenary if these problems are not solved.

As we have mentioned here before it is alarming to see an organization representing the intended beneficiaries of the proposed directive reject it in its current form. This is more than understandable as the changes that have been introduced during the negotiations so far have turned a good but technically flawed instrument into an instrument that introduces additional uncertainties and restrictions for cultural heritage institutions that are already struggling to provide access to cultural records from much of the past century.

Cultural heritage institutions concerned over proposed European orphan works directive

This post by Lucie Guibault was first published on the Kluwer Copyright Blog and is reproduced here with kind permission of the author.

The Proposal for a Directive on certain permitted uses of orphan works, introduced in the European Parliament on 24 May 2011, has been following its merry way through the legislative meanders ever since. The debates around the text of the proposal are heating up right now, for the European Commission pushes for rapid adoption while stakeholders watch out against any measure possibly affecting their respective interests.

Already since the beginning of this year, the Danish Presidency has published two revised compromise proposals, one on 6 January and the second one on 10 February 2012. The last proposal was followed by a Presidency non-paper on a possible single database for orphan works for discussion at the Working Party on Intellectual Property (Copyright), held on 17 February 2012. The drafting suggestions made by the Belgian delegation have unfortunately not yet been made available.

The crux of the discussions revolves around the need under the Proposal for a directive for cultural heritage institutions to carry out a diligent search about the orphan status of a work and the extent of such an obligation. Cultural heritage institutions warn that the unhappy result of imposing such an obligation may be that large-scale digitization efforts will see no benefit, after the adoption of the Directive, over the situation they face now. The danger remains that the twentieth century will remain the unknown century for Europe’s children. Its culture will be inaccessible in digital format.

A realistic and practical approach about the kind of collection represented by orphan works is paramount. Examples are:

  • Books discussing the chances of war, published 1910-1913
  • Sound recordings of ordinary people, using ordinary speech, to illustrate regional dialects in Denmark
  • Anonymous political pamphlets expressing dissident views under the Communist regime in Hungary

For each of these collections the commercial value of the rights is zero or nearly zero. Safeguards for rightholders of orphan works are required, but need to be proportionate to the kind of material in a collection.

A call has been made by cultural heritage institutions to the Council of Minsters’ working group for a more balanced and practical solution as follows:

  • Diligent search, a valuable concept, must not necessarily apply to every work (including every embedded work), but must be proportionate to the collection being digitized
  • Restrictions on commercial use must be sufficiently flexible to allow for commercial funding of digitization projects
  • Requirements for recording diligent searches, and uses of orphan works, should not be over-specified in law
  • If the use of an orphan work is permitted by the national licensing scheme of a Member State, the Directive should provide for the permission to extend to all Member States in that particular case. (Such a provision would not impose licensing solutions on all Member States. But it would avoid a fragmented Internal Market of mutually exclusive licensing arrangements.)

The Presidency non-paper of 14 February partly responds to these concerns by suggesting that a single database be set up following the ARROW model to convey information about which work is being used and by whom.

The question remains, however, whether the other concerns voiced by cultural heritage institutions regarding the extent and the cross-border validity of a diligent search will be addressed in the final text of the directive.

To be continued!

Information Sans Frontiers highly critical of proposed orphan works directive

Information Sans Frontières, a newly formed alliance from the library world (Europeana, JISC, LIBER and EBLIDA) has just released a memorandum on the proposed orphan works directive addressed to the Council of the European Union. The memorandum, backed by some of the the most obvious beneficiaries of the proposed directive is nevertheless highly of the proposal:

Information Sans Frontières is an alliance representing the institutions in the Member States addressed by the proposed Directive. We urge that the Directive should embrace unpublished as well as published works, and creative works in all media. We are unanimously of the view that the Directive is in danger of failing to achieve its policy objectives, in particular large-scale digitization projects. The Presidency compromise proposal has several inherent contradictions with respect to the purpose of the Directive.

  • It is too prescriptive of the methods to be used by the target institutions, insisting on procedures that in some cases will be impracticable
  • It is insufficiently hospitable to solutions based on licensing, which are mentioned briefly in Recital 20 but which have no legislative support in the following Articles in order to allow them to function across borders
  • It seeks to modify the exceptions contained in Directive 2001/29/EC by adding further restrictions on the freedom of action of the target institutions
  • It prescribes over-burdensome methods for institutions to publish their records

You can read the full text of the memorandum here (ISF does not seem to have a website yet).

The memorandum echoes some of the objectives raised by COMMUNIA in our own policy paper on the directive, and raises a couple of issues that we have not touched upon. It is of course rather worrisome that and organization such as Europeana, which embodies the aspirations of the Europeana Union in the digital heritage realm, makes it this clear that the proposed directive will not make it any easier for them to achieve it’s objectives. This is even more worrying since it is the same European Commission that is formulating these objectives, via it’s Recommendation Commission recommendation on the digitisation and online accessibility of cultural material.