Encouraging! Culture Committee votes against content filtering

Woman approaching a windmill
Stop the filtering nonsense!
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The concept of content filtering has been making quite a career. Not only did it land in the copyright directive proposal, but also it has been introduced into the draft of the Audiovisual Media Service Directive (AVMSD) that is currently making its way through the European Parliament. In the context of the AVMSD, filtering of uploads by video-sharing platforms would serve to prevent legal audiovisual content that could harm children. As important as protecting children may be, the CULT Committee has just voted against that idea. This was the right thing to do.

A seemingly quick solution to filter whatever the decision makers don’t want users to see is a very dangerous tool in any context. It is an arbitrary approach to the flow if information online and as such it can be used as a censorship machine. This  “automatized conscience” will operate on a very abstract definitions of content that could impair children’s “physical, mental or moral development” or incitement to terrorism, violence and hatred. Humans often argue about what constitutes such incitement with many cases finding their finale in court. How could we trust algorithms with such a dispute?

Fortunately, 17 members of the CULT Committee understood that. Nine of them either do not see the danger or have an unwavering faith in the potency of technology to solve complex societal problems. Hopefully, the AVMSD debate helped CULT Committee see both the danger and the pointlessness of content filtering and they will take a similar decision for a better copyright. After all, in the context of copyright, putting the interest of rightholders before the interest of the public is an even worse reason to employ algorithms as censors.

JURI rapporteur take on education is not in tune with everyday practices

Allegorie op het onderwijs
Education deserves more attention
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For several months now, we have been arguing that ‘the devil is in the detail’ when it comes to the Commission’s education proposal. MEP Therese Comodini Cachia draft amendments to the proposed exception for digital and cross-border teaching activities, while introducing some improvements, do not meet the educational community expectations to see a better copyright reform. And, worst still, they represent a serious step back in relation to the existing EU acquis in the area of educational exceptions.

The licensing fight continues

We appreciate MEP Comodini efforts to mitigate the negative impact of article 4(2), which allows Member States to give precedence to licenses over the proposed exception. However, we believe she misses the opportunity of getting rid of the Commission’s infamous proposal, while still protecting the extended collective licensing (ECL) schemes that exist in the Nordic countries.

Under the Commission’s proposal, any licensing offer could rule out the application of the education exception, thus negating much of the substance and effectiveness of the exception. MEP Comodini seems to recognize that many educational institutions would be ill-placed to negotiate license terms or would be forced to accept the terms dictated by the licensor, and thus introduced some substantial changes to article 4(2). Under Ms. Comodini’s proposal, the unilateral and discretionary offer of the rightholder to conclude a licensing agreement is not sufficient to deny the educational establishment concerned the right to benefit from the educational exception. An existing contractual relation is needed to override the exception.Continue reading

The Legal Affairs Committee meeting on copyright was a clash of civilisations

Batle of Hanau
Will the old thinking win?
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Now that most of the committees have published their draft opinions on the Commission’s Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market, it’s time to hear their members presenting their initial views. JURI hosted a meeting on 22 March where MEPs voiced a range of opinions on various aspects of the copyright reform proposal. The divide between the MEPs seems to run deeper than mere disagreements on definitions; instead, they underscore a fundamental schism in the MEPs’ understanding of the world we live in.

The industry-backers

Some MEPs reacted to the copyright reform proposal using a 20th century ordering of the world, where mass-scale creative industries emerged and eventually were consolidated. For MEPS such as Jean-Marie Cavada (ALDE, France) or Angelika Niebler (EPP, Germany) the world has not changed all that much in terms of where important stuff happens. Cavada and Niebler think publishers and other rightsholders produce all the real value, while the internet and new sharing technologies is like a portable TV that  that main purpose of is to constantly rip them off.

Seeing the world like that, it’s no wonder that they mostly approve of the European Commission’s original proposal, and oppose reforms that champion users’ rights, which for the most part they see as legitimizing tech-enabled theft. There is no coincidence that many of those creative industry backers are from France and Germany, countries that built their considerable entertainment industries well before the digital era.

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European Parliament legal affairs committee pushes for strong exception for text and data mining

Figuren in een laboratorium, Jan Luyken, 1683
unlocking research possibilities for all
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MEP Therese Comodini Cachia, Rapporteur for the European Parliament’s influential Committee on Legal Affairs (JURI), finally released the official version of its already-leaked draft opinion on the Commission’s Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market.

As we explained yesterday, Comodini’s draft misses the opportunity to introduce more forward-looking provisions that would strengthen the position of users such as a much-needed exception for user-generated content and freedom of panorama. At the same time, there are positive amendments, including the removal of the ill-advised ancillary right for press publishers.

The JURI draft amendments are quite positive with regard to the exception for text and data mining. The Commission’s original proposal limited the beneficiaries of the text and data mining exception only to research organisations, and only for purposes of scientific research. Comodini’s amendments would expand the TDM exception to apply to anyone for any purpose. In addition, it would mandate that publishers provide a mechanism for users who otherwise do not have legal access to the corpus of works to be able to engage in TDM on the publisher’s content, possibly after paying a fee to those publishers. Finally, the amendment would direct Member States to setup a secure facility to ensure accessibility and verifiability of research made possible through TDM.

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JURI rapporteur proposes to fix most egregious flaws of the copyright reform proposal

Het is goed om voor het eerst weer te schrijven
Redrawing the balance
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Today, MEP Therese Comodini Cachia, the European Parliament’s main rapporteur for the proposed copyright in the Digital Single Market directive published her draft of the JURI report (pdf) on the Commission’s proposal. In line with the initial reactions from the rapporteurs from the Culture and Education (CULT), Internal Market and Consumer Protection (IMCO), and Industry Research and Energy (ITRE) committees Ms. Comoidini’s report points out substantial flaws in the Commission’s unbalanced and backward-looking proposal.

Unlike her colleagues from CULT and IMCO Comodini has limited her report to fixing flaws in the provisions proposed by the Commission. While such fixes are important, this means that her draft report constitutes a missed opportunity to introduce more forward-looking provisions that would strengthen the position of users such as much-needed exceptions providing legal certainty for user generated content and ensuring freedom of panorama in all of the EU.

Below we provide a brief overview of the changes to the Commission’s proposal that Ms. Comodini proposes in her draft report. We will follow-up over the next few days with more in- depth analysis of individual issues.

R.I.P ancillary right for press publishers

Her most straightforward intervention is to delete the Commission’s proposal for a new neighboring rights for press publishers. In line with what we and many others had proposed she instead proposes to solve the enforcement problems of press publishers by improving their ability to act against infringing uses of works published by them:

Member States shall provide publishers of press publications with a presumption of representation of authors of literary works contained in those publications and the legal capacity to sue in their own name when defending the rights of such authors for the digital use of their press publications. (AM 52)

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Industry, Research and Energy Committee’s draft opinion is more conservative than it would seem

Participants of the first Solvay Conference, in 1911, Brussels, Belgium
Copyright is important for research & industry
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It is great that ITRE Rapporteur Zdzisław Krasnodębski joined IMCO Rapporteur Catherine Stihler in thinking that the right to read is the right to mine. As we explained in detail, his draft proposal opens up the TDM exception to anyone and makes sure any safeguarding measures won’t stand in the way of applying the technology. As progressive as it is, however, the fact that ITRE’s Rapporteur focused only on TDM and proposed a minor tweak of article 14 is also a statement. What is not mentioned is as significant as the changes that are proposed.

The fact that the most controversial articles are not a subject to any improvement by the ITRE draft opinion may of course indicate how the Rapporteur perceives the Commission’s mandate to propose input on copyright. Naturally, the TDM exception would provide an enormous opportunity for the European industry to expand their R&D without looking for an academic partner to benefit from the exception. But is that really all there is in the directive proposal that could benefit the realms of Industry, Research and Energy?

Better education makes better economy

In the information economy, modern accessible education is a cornerstone. Now that across all industries there is an enormous demand for workers that can keep up with developments in technology and knowledge, lifelong learning becomes an inseparable element of any professional career.

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Draft opinion from research committee promotes a TDM exception available to all

Portret van Deborah Delano lezend, James Abbott McNeill Whistler, 1858
The right to read is the right to mine
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We’ve already reviewed the draft opinions from the European Parliament’s Culture and Education Committee (CULT) and the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection (IMCO) on the Commission’s proposal for a Directive on copyright in the Digital Single Market. Regarding the introduction of an exception for text and data mining (TDM), the IMCO amendments would strengthen the Commission’s original plan by creating a broad exception for text and data mining that would apply to anyone for any purpose. On the other hand, the changes offered by CULT would further restrict the ability to conduct TDM in the European Union.

TDM for all

This week the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE) released its draft opinion on the Commission’s plan. Rapporteur Zdzisław Krasnodębski’s suggested changes focus on the proposed exception for text and data mining. ITRE’s amendments—similar to those offered by IMCO—would support an expansive TDM exception that could be leveraged by entities beyond research organisations, and for purposes beyond scientific research.
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MEP Stihler highlights user-generated content, but where’s freedom of panorama?

Melancholia
Amendments should focus on user rights
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Last week the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection (IMCO) released a  draft opinion on the proposed Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market. It’s not bad. Rapporteur Stihler’s opinion makes it clear that the European Commission’s proposal is seriously flawed and requires substantial changes. It contains proposals for amendments that address many of the issues with the original proposal.  This week we’ve written more extensively on these, including the suggestion to drop the ancillary copyright for press publishers, the broadening of the TDM exception to permit mining by anyone for any purpose, a potential fix to the content upload filtering mechanism, and the continued problematic reliance on licensing within the exception for educational purposes.  

We are pleased that just as in the draft CULT opinion, IMCO acknowledges the importance of protecting and strengthening user rights. Rapporteur Stihler’s broad scope is especially important, as it would permit a person “to use an existing work or other subject matter in the creation of a new work or other subject-matter, and use new work or other subject matter”. In other words, it doesn’t matter what a user needs the protected content for, he or she may just use it as long as they create something new with it. For reference, CULT’s draft opinion proposed a UGC exception to apply primarily when it serves criticism, illustration, parody, etc.

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MEP Stihler means well for education, but there is serious room for improvement

The Birth of Minerva
Even the best exception is broken with licensing
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We welcome the positive sound that MEP Stihler’s draft opinion for the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection (IMCO) brings to the copyright debate. She proposes to broaden the TDM exception to a level of ‘right to right is the right to mine’, hears the clear call from the cultural heritage institutions to fulfill their public task of providing (online) access to culture, and proposes to delete the unsubstantiated article 11 of the proposed directive on copyright in the Digital Single Market.

For education, the Scottish MEP has aims that strongly resonate with us, as she noted in her introduction:

Also, in the field of the use of works and other subject matter in teaching activities (Article 4), the Rapporteur believes that the exception should benefit not only all formal educational establishments in primary, secondary, vocational and higher education, but also other organisations such as libraries and other cultural heritage institutions, providing non-formal or informal education. The Rapporteur believes that the best solution is to have a single and mandatory exception for all types of teaching, both digital and non-digital, formal and informal.

These are more-or-less the same points we make in our position paper on the draft directive. In it, we argue that ‘the devil is in the detail’. The analysis of MEP Stihler’s proposed amendments appears to require the same title. While we can do less than fully applaud her aims, there is some serious room for improvement in the actual proposed text. We appreciate amendments that strengthen the exception, but note at the same time that even the best exception will be broken if licensing solutions are favored by the legislator. Continue reading

Rapporteur Stihler wants to protect users from content filtering

Vue du théatre taillé dans le roc, près du jardins de la maison de plaisance d'Hellenbrunn (!) pris du dehors.
The filter must go, and so should article 13
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Catherine Stihler, Rapporteur of the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection (IMCO) released her draft opinion on the proposed Copyright in the Digital Single Market Directive. In this opinion, Stihler rightly states that article 13, which proposes to implement content filter mechanisms that would block some of users’ uploads, fails to achieve its purpose. She tries to make sure rightsholders and creators would receive a fair and balanced compensation for the exploitation of their work without negatively impacting the digital economy or internet freedoms of consumers. Acting on this, Stihler tries to fix article 13. However, we believe that the only appropriate response is to delete it altogether.

The filter must go

It is commendable that in her opinion MEP Stihler explicitly says that any attempt to address the value gap cannot be enforced if it has a negative impact on fundamental rights and internet freedoms of consumers. This is something the potential beneficiaries of the proposed article seem to ignore.

Explaining why the upload filter must be removed, MEP Stihler states that filter machines are not capable nor suitable to take into account user rights such as exceptions and limitations. This is something all the opponents of the upload filter, including COMMUNIA, have pointed out before. Therefore in her amendments she rightfully removes all references to the ‘effective’ recognition technologies, which would make the Directive text more technology neutral and future-proof. Continue reading