What does Anne Frank tell us about copyright reform?

Anne Frank campaign cover photo
#readannediary
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On April 26—World Intellectual Property Day—the original, Dutch-language version of The Diary of Anne Frank was published online at annefrank.centrumcyfrowe.pl. With the publication of the original version of the diary, we wanted to highlight the absurdly long copyright terms in the EU. In addition, we wanted to point out that, contrary to the general assumption, the duration of copyright is still not unified across the EU. This leads to the troubling practice of geo-blocking which creates artificial boundaries online. Our posting of the diary online attempts to show the complicated copyright framework for this and similar works, and champions freedom to access to cultural heritage works in the public domain for  creators as well as users. But our campaign appeared to convey an even stronger message.

The campaign raised various concerns with regard to copyright terms and access to culture. We’ve already examined the differences between the three versions of the diary, so we won’t go into that in depth here. Without a doubt, versions A and B did not enter into public domain in the Netherlands due to specific copyright regulations (This is due to a transitional rule in the Dutch copyright act which states that works posthumously published before 1995 will retain copyright — in this case large parts of the original writings will only expire in 2037).

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Don’t bury Chopin’s legacy under a mountain of IPRs

The only known photograph of the famous pianist and composer, taken by Louis Antoine Bisson, public domain.
limitation on public domain is improper?
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The article was written by Marcin Serafin, the head of public policy team in Centrum Cyfrowe

The Poles and French will probably fight for the next few centuries over whether Frederic (or Fryderyk) Chopin was of Polish or French nationality. Both nations view Chopin as a national treasure, and preserve his memory and heritage. And there is no doubt that in both countries copyrights to his work have expired. Contrary to the case of Little Prince, there is absolutely no doubt about this, as Chopin died almost 170 years ago. This is why we were shocked to learn that the National Institute of Fryderyk Chopin (NIFC) not only issued an ordinance protecting his name and public image, but also filed an application to register two trademarks with the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) for all possible classes of products and services using the word “Chopin”. With that, no more “Chopin Hotels”, “Chopin chocolates”, composition of flowers named “Chopin bouquet” or any other product without a license, is possible. 

First, let’s understand the facts. The EUIPO database holds 26 trademarks and 4 designs (some registered, some refused or rejected) with the “Chopin” element. Two of the trademarks have been filed on behalf of the NIFC for a wide variety of products and services. Also, NIFC has drafted a long list of terms and conditions users will need to agree to in order be able to use their Chopin trademark. Applications are reviewed by a board and if approve – the licensing fees are imposed. The board sets the rules to which a  license may be obtained for use of the trademark. There are 8 applicable licensed uses, including “music with patriotic messaging”, “European high culture”, “high esthetical value”, and “mastership or highest quality.”Continue reading

Anne Frank and the Term of Copyright Protection: Why it’s Time to Move from Harmonisation to Unification

Anne Frank campaign cover photo
#readannediary
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The text was written by Katarzyna Strycharz. 

Since the beginning of the year there’s been a lot of discussion (and confusion too) about whether the Diary of Anne Frank is now in public domain. Under the normal rules regarding the duration of copyright protection, the work should have entered into the public domain on 1 January 2016. However, there were several unusual circumstances that brought this into question. First, the Anne Frank Foundation announced their plans to list Otto (Anne Frank’s father) as a co-author, which would extend the protection period of the published diary until 2050. Next, due to a transitional rule in Dutch law it became clear that Anne Frank’s original writings would not enter the public domain in 2016 in the Netherlands (and many other EU countries with similar rules). Finally, in early February the Wikimedia Foundation (the organization that hosts Wikipedia and related projects) decided to remove the Dutch-language text of the diary from Wikisource.

On Tuesday 26 April, World Intellectual Property Day, the original, Dutch-language version of ‘The Diary of Anne Frank” will be published online at annefrank.centrumcyfrowe.pl. With this publication of the original version of the diary we seek to highlight the absurdly long duration of copyright in the EU, as well as the fact that, contrary to general assumptions, the duration of copyright is still not unified across the EU and the troubling fact of geo-blocking which creates boundaries online.

On the Anne Frank Foundation website we can read that “Anne Frank’s original writings, as well as the original in-print versions will remain protected for many decades”. So, when does the copyright of the diary expire? It seems that the answer varies from country to country, and we’ll try to investigate whether there is somewhere in the EU where the writings of Anne Frank are now in the public domain.

Transitional provisions in the Dutch law

To fully understand the issue at hand, we observe that there are actually three versions of Anne Frank’s diary writings. Two versions of her manuscripts (version A and B) were combined into the book (version C). This book is commonly known as the the Diary of Anne Frank, and was published in 1947.

As we have previously discussed, version C was compiled by Otto Frank and thus is still protected by copyright 70 years from the time of his death in 1980. But in the case of manuscripts (version A and B) there is no doubt that Anne Frank was the sole author. As we can read  in the statement of the Anne Frank Stichting (who runs the Achterhuis in Amsterdam)“Otto Frank is not the co-author of the original diary writings of Anne Frank”. The same is confirmed by the Anne Frank Foundation (who own the copyrights in Anne’s work), which claims that “copyrights to Anne Frank’s original texts originally belonged to the author, Anne Frank herself”.

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Page from ‘De Dagboeken van Anne Frank”, published by the Dutch Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide Studies (2001 edition), showing the three versions (from top to bottom A, B and C) of the 9 november 1942 entry in Anne Frank’s diary.

In the Netherlands copyright lasts for 70 years after the death of the author. And even though Anne Frank was killed in 1945, this doesn’t mean that the A and B versions of her diary are in the public domain under Dutch law. This is because the full manuscripts were first published in 1986, and the rule at that time said that works which were first published posthumously are protected for 50 years after the initial publication.

The 2013 Dutch copyright act implementing the 1991 term directive contained transitional provisions stipulating that rights which existed under the previous law continue to exist. This means that versions A and B of the Frank diary will remain under copyright in the Netherlands until 1 January 2037 (50 years after the 1986 publication).

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Copyright Week 2016: The public domain as foundation for EU copyright law reform

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We’re taking part in Copyright Week, a series of actions and discussions supporting key principles that should guide copyright policy. Every day this week, various groups are taking on different elements of the law, and addressing what’s at stake, and what we need to do to make sure that copyright promotes creativity and innovation.

COMMUNIA advocates for policies that expand the public domain and increase access to and re-use of culture and knowledge. Over the last few years we’ve focused on policy advocacy and copyright reform in Europe, especially in light of the review of the EU copyright rules. The public domain is an essential sphere for creativity and knowledge production, and its limitless potential continues to inform our copyright reform advocacy.

We write in our March 2015 policy paper about several changes to EU copyright law that would better support the public domain. Some of these include capping the term of copyright protection to the minimum required by the Berne Convention, opposing the introduction of ancillary copyrights, protecting the freedom of panorama, and exempting works produced by the public sector from copyright protection. In addition, we call for the introduction of a positive definition of the public domain, the recognition of the legal validity of voluntary dedication of works to the public domain by their authors, and clarity that digitizing public domain works should not generate new exclusive rights.

In June of last year the European Parliament adopted an evaluation report on the existing EU copyright rules authored by MEP Julia Reda. While the EP failed to call for substantial updates to exceptions and limitations, it contains some support for the public domain. It urges the European Commission to clarify that once a work is in the public domain, the simple act of digitisation does not create new rights. It suggests that the term of copyright be held at the international standard (life of the author plus 50 years). It also states that works created by government employees should be in the public domain. Finally, it recognizes that authors should be able to dedicate their works to the public domain.

With its report, the European Parliament also rejected the introduction of an ancillary copyright for for press publishers. This is an important victory as adding such an extra layer of rights to the already extensive body of copyright and copyright-like protections would further limit the public domain. Unfortunately, the European Commission still hasn’t distanced itself from plans to introduce an ancillary copyright on the EU level, which has prompted 83 members of parliament to reconfirm their opposition to it in December.

With legislative proposals promised by the Commission in the first half of this year, 2016 promises to become a crucial year with regard to the shape of the public domain in Europe. On the 25th of January we are kicking the year off with an event in the European Parliament celebrating Public Domain Day (hosted by MEP Julia Reda). Together with creators and policymakers, we will discuss the value of the public domain and how an update of the EU copyright rules can strengthen the public domain for everyone.

Invitation to Public Domain Day celebration in the European Parliament

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Celebrate Culture with us in the European Parliament
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Join us on January 25th in the European Parliament to celebrate Public Domain Day. This day falls on the first day of the new year and marks the term of copyright protection on creative works.

This new state for cultural works means that they are now free to be reused for new cultural, commercial, educational and innovative practices. During the lunch-event in the Members Salon we will talk about the value of the public domain in fostering Europe’s innovation capacities, by inviting creators to share how they use public domain works in their businesses and approach copyright.

Speakers include our host in the European Parliament Julia Reda (MEP, The Greens EFA – Germany), Alek Tarkowski (Director Centrum Cyfrowe), Paul Keller (Director Kennisland).

Please RSVP for this event to Lisette Kalshoven at lk@kl.nl

For more details please refer to the official invitation.

Doubling the size of the useable public domain

Shepherdess with a Flock of Sheep
The commons continues to grow
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On Tuesday Creative Commons released its 2015 State of the Commons report. The annual report showcases data and trends about the growth and diversity of the commons.

Creative Commons—which is a founding member of COMMUNIA— reported a major milestone this year: over 1.1 billion CC licensed photos, videos, audio tracks, educational materials, research articles, 3D models and more have now been contributed to the shared global commons. More people and institutions than ever before make use of CC’s tools to free up rights-protected content for everybody to re-use.

In addition, CC noted a huge increase in the number of works shared in the public domain using the CC0 Public Domain Dedication and out-of-copyright works marked with the Public Domain Mark. According to the data, the total number of public domain works using these tools in 2014 was about 17.5 million. That number jumped to nearly 35 million in 2015. This means that the size of the CC-marked public domain nearly doubled over the last year. This is in part due to the tools being more widely and adopted by platforms like Europeana and Flickr. Providing clear information about the public domain status of works is crucial so that subsequent creators know they can use those works without any restriction. Continue reading

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.
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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 detektor.fm 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
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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
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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

European Parliament adopts Reda report, fails to demand real copyright reform

Yesterday the European Parliament approved MEP Julia Reda’s evaluation report of the copyright directive. With the report the European Parliament gives a clear signal that the European Copyright rules need to be modernised. This puts the ball in the court of the Commission, which needs to come up with concrete legislative proposals for a copyright reform – which it promised to deliver before the end of the year. Both Commissioners Oettinger and Ansip have reacted positively to the Report, while its author, Pirate Party MEP has expressed the hope that the Commission’s proposal will be more ambitious than the EPs report, which has been watered down considerably through a large number of amendments.

So while the report is a clear signal that MEPs want to see a modernisation of the EU copyright rules that date back to 2001, it is much less clear what shape these modernised rules should take. Most of the report is based on compromises that MEP Reda has brokered between all major political groups represented in the EP. As a result, the report does not outline a clear plan for reforming copyright. Still, it is possible to distill from it a number of things that MEPs clearly both want and don’t want to see in the reform proposal. It is also clear that pressure from civil society – related to such issues as Freedom of of Panorama, hyperlinking or ancillary copyright, helped avert worst amendments to the report.

MEPs do not want to see further limitations of user rights.

Attempts have  been made to include language that would limit the rights of end users. Fortunately all of these attempts failed. The majority of MEPs is clearly unwilling to further limit the ability of citizens and other users to interact with copyright protected material. Continue reading