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

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:

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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

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.

Petition in support of a single European Data License

In line with an issue raised in our policy paper on the proposed amendments to PSI Directive there is now a Spanish petition that asks the Europeana Commission to propose a single open data license to be used for Public Sector Information across all EU member states:

Dear Neelie Kroes,

We sincerely admire the courage and innovacion [sic] spirit shown by the European Commission in the revision of the ReUse of Public Sector Information Directive. However, as a member of the Opendata community I think the new Directive will be incomplete without the definition of an Opendata Licence shared by all the Member States Public Administration.

We encourage the European Commission to propose the Member States an Opendata Licence, badly needed to create a ReUse of PSI single market. The alternative to a shared opendata licence in the European Union would be a fragmented market similar to the current intellectual property rights landscape in Europe.

Let’s build a single opendata market with a single opendata licence.

Of course a open data space with fragmented licensing conditions cannot never be as bad as the overall intellectual property rights landscape in Europe, but the overall argument is very solid. If the Commission wants to unlock the potential of open data for all of Europe then the best instrument to do so is a single, standardized open data license for all of Europe.

Fair use in Europe: Bernt Hugenholtz and Martin Senftleben in search of flexibilities

In November Bernt Hugenholtz (IViR) and Martin Senftleben (VU Amsterdam) published a study that explores existing flexibilities within the European copyright regime that could be used to introduce the concept of fair use in Europe. This study follows on the heels of the Hargreaves Review, which examined the possibility of introducing a fair use exception in the UK.

In his report Hargreaves concluded that while it is highly desirable to introduce more open-ended flexibilities into UK copyright law, ‘significant difficulties would arise in any attempt to transpose US style Fair Use into European law.’ (Hargreaves, p.47). Instead of recommending the introduction of a Fair Use exception, Hargreaves looks at the benefits that a Fair Use exception provides and concludes that it is time to explore…

‘… with our EU partners a new mechanism in copyright law to create a built-in adaptability to future technologies which, by definition, cannot be foreseen in precise detail by today’s policy makers. This latter change will need to be made at EU level, as it does not fall within the current exceptions permitted under EU law. […] We therefore recommend below that the Government should press at EU level for the introduction of an exception allowing uses of a work enabled by technology which do not directly trade on the underlying creative and expressive purpose of the work (this has been referred to as “non-consumptive” use). (Hargreaves, p.47)

While Hugenholtz and Senftleben seem to embrace these conclusions, their study does not deal with introducing additional flexibilities into the European copyright system. Instead they have set out to explore existing room for more flexibility within the system. This system consists of the EU’s 2001 Information Society Directive (a.k.a ‘Copyright Directive), it’s 27 implementations into the national laws of the EU member states, and the WIPO internet treaties.

In their paper Hugenholtz and Senftleben argue that the current European copyright system provides ample room to create more flexible exceptions. According to them, member states seeking to provide more opportunities to users of copyright protected works are well advised to exploit these inherent flexibilities. Where the introduction of new exceptions at the EU level, as advocated by Hargreaves, would only come into effect after a multi-year legislative undertaking with an all but guaranteed outcome, working with existing flexibilities provides those member states who wish to introduce changes a much quicker route to achieve this objective. Continue reading