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.

U.S. Register of Copyright Maria Pallante pushes for copyright reform in the U.S

This post by Creative Commons’ Timothy Vollmer was originally posted on the 20th of march on the Creative Commons blog (‘Pallante’s Push for U.S. Copyright Reform‘) and is reposted here with permission from the author.

Today, U.S. Register of Copyright Maria Pallante stood before Congress to say: we need a new copyright law. Pallante’s prepared remarks (127 KB PDF) to the U.S. House of Representatives, Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property, and the Internet called for “bold adjustments” to U.S. copyright law.

This is a most welcome aspiration. A strong push for copyright reform is currently occurring around the world through domestic reviews and in international fora like WIPO — coming both from those wanting increased recognition of user rights and those calling for tighter author controls. With the United States one of the leading nations advocating for stronger copyright protection through treaties such as ACTA and the TPP, the international community will be closely observing any movement in U.S. domestic law.

In addition to several meaningful reform ideas — including shortening The copyright term itself, alterations to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, and making revisions to exceptions and limitations for libraries and archives — we’re happy to see that the Register is highlighting the crucial need to expand and protect the public domain. Some of the most compelling work undertaken by Creative Commons and others in the open community has to do with increasing the accessibility and value of the public domain. We hope a more positive public domain agenda can become ingrained into the foundations of U.S. copyright policy. The central question: Can the United States devise a better system for both authors and the public interest in an environment where technology and social norms are increasingly disconnected from an aging copyright law?

Pallante said, “[A]uthors do not have effective protections, good faith businesses do not have clear roadmaps, courts do not have sufficient direction, and consumers and other private citizens are increasingly frustrated.” However, there is no doubt that public copyright licenses are offering a substantial and effective counter to some of these pains — even noted by Ms. Pallante in her longer lecture at Columbia University titled The Next Great Copyright Act (337 KB PDF), “[S]ome [authors] embrace the philosophy and methodology of Creative Commons, where authors may provide advance permission to users or even divest themselves of rights.” CC licenses and public domain instruments are right now helping alleviate frustration with copyright for all — individuals, businesses, institutions, governments — who opt in to using public licenses and licensed works.

Indeed, public licenses are easy-to-use tools for communities that wish to share their creativity on more flexible terms. And when millions of motivated creators share under public copyright licenses like CC, they create great and lasting things (hello Wikipedia). Public copyright licenses shine brightly in the light of Pallante’s telling reflection: “If one needs an army of lawyers to understand the precepts of the law, then it is time for a new law.”

At the same time, the existence of open copyright licenses shouldn’t be interpreted as a substitute for robust copyright reform. Quite the contrary. The decrease in transaction costs, increase in collaboration, and massive growth of the commons of legally reusable content spurred on by existence of public licenses should drastically reinforce the need for fundamental change, and not serve as a bandage for a broken copyright system. If anything, the increase in adoption of public licenses is a bellwether for legislative reform — a signal pointing toward a larger problem in need of a durable solution.

We and the rest of the international community are looking forward to seeing what Pallante and Congress have in mind when they continue the discussion after today. In her oral testimony, Ms. Pallante said, “Copyright is about the public interest.” We hope that the public interest has a seat at the table, with room both for open content licensing and positive legislative reform. The existence of CC licenses does not limit the need for reform. Open licenses help forward-thinking people and institutions to live and thrive in the digital age now, and illuminate the roadmap for beneficial reform to come. Let us begin.

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

UK government proposal to modernize copyright underlines failure of EU approach to hostage works

The UK Government has published a Government Policy Statement based on the recent Consultation on modernising Copyright held in the UK. The document summarizes the findings of the consultation and outlines policy actions that the UK government intends to take. The policy statement (pdf) covers three fields where the government intends to legislate: ‘Improvements to copyright licensing’, ‘Extended Collective Licensing’ and ‘Codes of Conduct for collecting societies’:

The Government, following the Hargreaves Review, made a number of proposals to make copyright licensing more efficient and remove unnecessary barriers to the legitimate use of works while preserving the interests of right holders. These include schemes to allow use of ‘orphan’ works whose copyright holder cannot be found or is unknown, voluntary extended collective licensing, and introducing minimum standards of conduct for collecting societies, underpinned by a backstop power to impose a statutory code of conduct on a collecting society where required.

These measures bring some currently unlawful or unlicensed activities within the scope of legal activity, allowing licensing to occur and thus benefiting right holders and licensees alike. They have potential to cut costs and improve compliance with copyright law, and to improve confidence in the UK copyright system.(p.7)

In the light of the discussion about the ‘Orphan works’ directive the first two of these should be of interest beyond the borders of the Island Kingdom. 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.

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.

Séverine Dusollier’s Scoping Study on Copyright and Related Rights and the Public Domain at WIPO CDIP/8

The Scoping Study on Copyright and Related Rights and the Public Domain by Séverine Dusollier (document CDIP/7/INF/2) has been discussed at WIPO CDIP/8 (Committee on Development and Intellectual Property). WIPO secretariat will prepare a document to provide more information on three of the recommendations contained in the study (namely recommendations 1.c., 1.f. and 2.a.) proposing to lead further research on the legitimacy of tools such as CC0 dedicating works to the public domain, the development of tools identifying public domain works, being databases of calculators and cooperation with cultural heritage institutions and UNESCO to enhance the availability of public domain works.

1.c. The voluntary relinquishment of copyright in works and dedication to the public domain should be recognised as a legitimate exercise of authorship and copyright exclusivity, to the extent permitted by national laws (possibly excluding any abandonment of moral rights) and upon the condition of a formally expressed, informed and free consent of the author. Further research could certainly be carried out on that point.

1.f. International endeavours should be devoted to developing technical or informational tools to identify the contents of the public domain, particularly as far as the duration of copyright is concerned. Such tools can be data collections on works, databases of public domain works, or public domain calculators. International cross-operation and cross-referencing of such tools is of particular importance.

2.a. The availability of the public domain should be enhanced, notably through cooperation with cultural heritage institutions and UNESCO (through its work on the preservation of intangible cultural heritage).

Before reaching that consensus, delegations discussed whether they wanted to further discuss or implement the recommendations and which ones they would like to explore. As part of this discussion, Melanie Dulong de Rosnay made the following statement on behalf of the Civil Society Coalition and COMMUNIA:

“I would like to present a statement on behalf of the Civil Society Coalition and COMMUNIA international association on the digital public domain and take the opportunity to thank the secretariat for all the efforts led since years to lead a study on the public domain. As this is the first time I take the floor, I would like to also thank the chair for this opportunity and briefly introduce our work. COMMUNIA has been funded by the European Commission between 2007 and 2011 and recently incorporated as an international organization under Belgian law.

The most emblematic output of COMMUNIA is the Public Domain Manifesto, which was translated in over twenty languages and signed by several thousands individuals and a few hundreds associations worldwide. The author of the study under discussion was a member of the thematic network and we welcome very warmly all of its recommendations. A vibrant, positively defined public domain is of vital importance for the international copyright framework and for the Development Agenda as set up by the Recommendations in particular from Cluster B recommendations 16 and 20.

[Cluster B Norm-setting, flexibilities, public policy and public domain Recommendations 16. Consider the preservation of the public domain within WIPO’s normative processes and deepen the analysis of the implications and benefits of a rich and accessible public domain & Recommendation 20. To promote norm-setting activities related to IP that support a robust public domain in WIPO’s Member States, including the possibility of preparing guidelines which could assist interested Member States in identifying subject matters that have fallen into the public domain within their respective jurisdictions]

Specifying the boundaries of the Public Domain is of paramount importance for business and cultural sector organisations alike, as:

  • (a) an increasing number of businesses is making use of Public Domain material to offer value added services (e.g. applications based on public domain content) and
  • (b) cultural sector organisations and memory institutions are holding vast amounts of Public Domain material which they cannot use without a clear understanding of the Public Domain boundaries.

For these reasons, we believe CDIP is the right forum to discuss this study and all of its recommendations.

It is time to make full use role of the informational works owned by all of us, be that literature, music, the output of scientific research, educational material or public sector information. Identifying and preserving works which can legally be reused freely is beneficial for the society as a whole, for cultural expression, for innovation by economic actors based on public data, for access to knowledge and especially education through Open Educational Resources, a movement which is strongly supported by UNESCO, and for development by all countries.”

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.

Surprisingly sensible proposal for an overhaul of the copyright system from Russia (Is Dmitry Medvedev a copyfighter?)

It is well known that sometimes you need to be an outsider to be able to analyze complex problems in a meaningful way. In the ongoing discussions about copyright in the digital environment Russian president Dmitry Medvedev might turn out to be the much-needed outsider. In the past Russia has not had a very strong voice in the discussion about copyright; it has neither been involved in the WIPO development agenda nor has it been part of the ACTA negotiations. Out of this relatively neutral position comes a somewhat unexpected intervention of Russian president Dmitry Medvedev who used last week’s G20 summit to propose an overhaul of the copyright system to the leaders of the G20 member states assembled in Cannes.

It appears that his initiative was largely ignored by his audience as well as the press (both of them having been too busy ‘saving Greece/the euro/the world’ or covering the ongoing attempts to do so) which is rather unfortunate since Medvedev’s proposal contains a number of really interesting points.

First of all, it is really refreshing to hear a world leader state the obvious with regards to the modernization of the copyright system:

Digital technologies and global information networks have made a real breakthrough in information accumulation and exchange. The old principles of intellectual property protection established in a completely different technological context do not work any longer in an emerging environment, and, therefore, new conceptual arrangements are required for international regulation of intellectual activities on the Internet.

Continue reading