European Parliament Civil Liberties committee is second EP committee to reject mandatory upload filters

Twee apen maken muziek
Article 13 is a threat to creative expression online
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Yesterday, the members of the European Parliament’s Civil Liberties Committee (LIBE) did the right thing and voted down the Commission’s proposal to impose upload filters on online platforms. The LIBE opinion, which was drafted by Polish EPP MEP Michał Boni and adopted with a clear majority of 36 votes for and just 5 against, dismantles the most problematic aspects of Article 13 of the Commission’s proposal: the members of the LIBE committee voted to remove the obligation for online platforms to use automated content recognition technologies to filter all user uploads in order to prevent users of these platforms from sharing copyrighted materials without permission from rights holders. The opinion also proposes strengthening user’s ability to contest the takedown of works they’ve uploaded.

Members of Parliament are recognizing the dangers upload filters pose to freedom of expresion..

While this approach is not perfect (as we have repeatedly said Article 13 should be deleted from the proposed directive), it shows that the members of the European Parliament are not willing to blindly follow the attempts by the music industry and the Commission to give big rightsholders more control over how we create, share and access content online. It is encouraging to see that the members of Parliament have listened to the arguments against automated upload filters, such as the recent warning by more than 50 prominent professors and scholars of copyright and internet law that automated filtering systems “would deprive users of the room for freedom of expression” and the open letter that we co-signed with 50 human rights and civil liberties organisations, which pointed out that content filters would both “limit the freedom to impart information […], and the freedom to receive information on the other.”

LIBE is now the second committee of the European Parliament that is calling for a halt to the automated content filtering plans proposed by the Commission. Back in July the Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee (IMCO) adopted the same amendments that were adopted yesterday by LIBE. While both committees will be at the table when the leading JURI committee discusses these plans, it is far from certain that the Committee on Legal Affairs will follow the line established by them.

…while Member States continue to push for mandatory censorship filters

Outside of the European Parliament the LIBE vote also sends a strong signal to the Member States who are discussing this issue in parallel. The Estonian presidency has proposed a new compromise text on article 13 that will be discussed among the member states later this week. The language proposed by the Estonian proposal significantly overhauls the Commission’s proposal, but that new coat of paint cannot hide the fact that it still tries to force online platforms to implement automated content filtering technologies. Continue reading

Educational Institutions in Europe advocate for a better copyright reform for education

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#fixcopyright for education
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There are many controversial things about current european copyright reform. We mainly hear about the fear of censorship of user-generated content or attempt to introduce something called ‘link tax’ to ensure press publishers right to control over the digital use of their content. But education? There are not many people, who will disagree that what Europe needs right now is a modern education system enhancing creativity, innovation and economic growth. Not to mention the importance of lifelong learning and the need of improving the quality and efficiency of education. Still repeated demand for digital skills and competences sounds like a cliche. You can find all of it well written down in EU documents and programs concerning education and training. So, there is one important question – why, when dealing with copyright issues, all these great ideas about the importance of education get forgotten?

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Before the Civil Liberties Committee vote: will reason win?

Melancholia
Will LIBE kill the filter?
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After a few postponements, the vote at the LIBE Committee on their opinion on content filtering article is finally happening today. Given the variety of amendments tabled by its members, it is understandable that the MEPs took their time in negotiating common ground. Unfortunately the deletion of article 13 was not an option for the Civil Liberties Committee. So what would be the next best outcome of the vote?

The peculiar fate of LIBE’s draft opinion

LIBE was the last Committee to be granted a right to release an opinion on the current copyright dossier. Following the Committee mandate, it will only opine on article 13 and corresponding recitals as the ones having implications on fundamental rights and privacy of users. In his decent draft opinion, rapporteur Michal Boni stepped away from the content filtering obligations and tried to clean up the mess the European Commission had left MEPs to deal with regarding intermediary liability.

That probably didn’t help him make more friends within the European People’s Party, his own group that in part supports the filtering obligation. However, in a surprising twist of events, Boni’s draft was adopted as part of the final opinion of the Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee, instead of the compromise language proposed by rapporteur Catherine Stihler and some truly horrific alternative ideas on how to make filtering great again authored by some Committee members.

A compromise by popular demand

This move gave some prominence to the draft, probably a bit more than it needed from the perspective of the LIBE Committee workflow. We can only suspect that the backers of content filtering as the go-to solution to enforcing copyright did not like the fact that a proposal deprived of it gained traction in the Committee where the rapporteur has a seat during JURI Shadows’ meetings. It is quite possible that the rescheduling of the vote had to do with the fact that the draft opinion has as many fans as it has enemies. Continue reading

SCCR/35 Communia questions to Professor Daniel Seng

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Today, at the 35th session of the WIPO Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights, Professor Daniel Seng presented his Updated Study and Additional Analysis of Study on Copyright Limitations and Exceptions for Educational (SCCR/35/5 REV).

Communia is a permanent observer of the Committee, and the following questions were made by me on its behalf:

Good morning, ladies and gentleman.

I’m speaking on behalf of COMMUNIA International Association on the Digital Public Domain.

We would like to thank the Secretariat for arranging for the update and expansion of the study on educational exceptions, and Professor Seng for conducting such study.

We have a few questions for Professor Seng regarding flexibilities, limitations and exceptions to TPM protection in the context of education.

According to your study, about 60% of WIPO Member States do not provide for flexibilities, limitations and exceptions to the protection of technological protection measures. Those findings are very concerning because, according to an impact assessment study conducted by the European Commission in 2016, technological restrictions are the most frequently encountered copyright-related obstacle by users of digital works in education: 31,2% of educators and 36,9% of learners stated that they “are not able to access, download, use or modify a digital work because of technological protection”.

When anti-circumvention laws were drafted at the international level, they were expected to protect TPMs insofar as they restricted acts not authorized by rightsholders. My first question to is if you think that this international legal framework permits users from circumventing technological measures when their aim is to exert their legal rights under the copyright exceptions, and if you believe that it would be appropriate for national laws to allow users to circumvent technological measures in order to exert their rights under educational exceptions?

My second question concerns Member States that do not allow circumvention. In the impact assessment study that I mentioned, mechanisms available to end-users to enforce their rights to use TPM-protected works, without circumventing the TPMs, were only identified in 8 EU countries, which means that 20 EU countries are doing nothing to ensure that their teachers and students can enjoy their rights under national copyright exceptions. Furthermore, even where such mechanisms exist, they can be very burdensome. In Germany, Spain and Sweden it is necessary to go to court to get access to the TPM-protected work. In France, Italy, and the United Kingdom, it is necessary to file a complaint with the relevant authorities or open a mediation procedure.

So, my second question to you is: what are the mechanisms available to teachers and students to enforce their rights to use TPM-protected works in those Member States that do not permit the circumvention of the TPMs?

Finally, I would like to know which country do you think has the most adequate provisions to ensure that beneficiaries of exceptions and limitations for educational purposes can legitimately access and use TPM-protected works?

SCCR/35 Communia statement on limitations and exceptions for education

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In our capacity of permanent observers of the WIPO Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights, we are attending the 35th session of the Committee, which is taking place in Geneva from 13 to 17 November 2017.

The following is the statement made by Teresa Nobre on our behalf on agenda item 7: Limitations and exceptions for educational and research institutions and for persons with other disabilities.

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Estonian Presidency makes one more step towards licensing educational content

Soap Bubbles
Do not import across Europe Extended Collective Licensing for education
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Do you remember the idea of educational fair use? The idea that education can benefit from a broad, flexible exception for a wide range of uses of copyrighted content while teaching and learning? The question is worth asking, as this progressive approach to copyright and education has not been mentioned even once in the ongoing European copyright reform process. It is a sign of how far away we are from right copyright for education. Instead, we are being pulled ever deeper into an opposite model, in which licensing is seen as the best copyright solution for educators and educational institutions. The Council of the European Union has just made one more step in that direction.

A quick reminder where we are with the copyright reform process in Brussels: the key vote in the JURI committee is continuously extended, and currently is planned for January 2018. The date should be seen as tentative. In the meantime, one more committee – the civil liberties committee LIBE – will make it’s vote in late November (but with a sole focus on the controversial article 13, the content filter article). As we await decisions to be made in the European Parliament, a proposal from the Council, prepared by the Estonian Presidency, has recently surfaced. Unfortunately, it spells one more step towards the licensing chasm for the educational sector.Continue reading

Paradigm lost? How creativity is weaponized against us

Time Clipping Cupid's Wings
Does creative industry support creativity?
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This post is based on the talk Anna gave during CopyCamp 2017 “Paradigm Lost? How Our Freedoms are Weaponized Against Us and What We Can Do About It”. A video of the talk is available here.

How do you lobby for a great copyright in the post-political world? With difficulty, since it is also a post-factual world: politicians seem to care more about marketing than evidence. Perhaps when the facts are not important we should then look for a better propaganda?

Copyright beyond the bubble

This “better propaganda” should not be populist or based on lies. Digital rights organizations need a better, compelling narrative to convince people to care more. We need to test new approaches because European citizens do not realize that they are bound by the copyright framework every time they access news, knowledge or entertainment on the internet.

We also need to find more compelling ways to talk about rights in the digital environment because these days everybody is a creator and the only difference is that some of us identify as such and many of us don’t. Those of us who don’t, also don’t think that our small acts of creativity such as memes or photos we post online are serious enough to give us this status, but this does not change the fact that we are indeed creators.

From creativity to celebrity

In both cases creativity is crucial for self-expression, and self-expression is key to one’s identity. Today all three: creativity, self-expression and identity become market commodities, increasingly so via social media. So what happens when they enter the market?

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Fighting (for) copyright at Mozfest

Johan de Witt 's nachts op straat aangevallen
Working on a healthy internet
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The last weekend of October in London, Mozilla organised Mozfest, its annual festival for the open internet movement. Mozilla wants to enable communities to contribute to making the internet a healthy place. The festival serves as a platform where civil society organisations, artists, journalists, copyright experts and other creators can come together to share and discuss the issues close to their hearts.

At Mozfest, COMMUNIA organised two session on copyright issues. We wanted to explain the role it plays online, but also to reimagine copyright that could support, and not hinder, new forms of creativity.
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Access to cultural heritage: Geoblocking or a Digital Single Market

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Geoblocking has no place on the Internet
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This is a slightly edited version of an analysis that was first published by Europeana on the Europeana Pro website

More than a year after the European Commission published its proposal for a Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market (DSM directive), the proposal continues to be discussed both in the Council and in the European Parliament. While the discussions in the European Parliament have recently slowed down to a crawl (the vote in the Legal Affairs committee is not expected before January), the discussions between the Member States in the Council are picking up steam: earlier this week, the Estonian Council presidency’s  consolidated compromise proposal was made public.

The compromise proposal contains an entire new chapter (chapter 1a – Measures to facilitate collective licensing’) that contains an a new article (art 9a – ’Collective licensing with an extended effect’). To anyone familiar with the Commission’s proposal (and the critical reception by cultural heritage institutions) this addition will appear somewhat odd as the Commission’s original proposal already relied on ’collective licensing with an extended effect’ as a mechanism that would allow cultural heritage Institutions to make out of commerce works (OOCW) from their collections available online.

So what exactly is going on here? Articles 7-9 of the Commission’s proposal are aimed at enabling the cross border use of out of commerce works. This would allow cultural heritage institutions to make such works from their collections available online so that they can be accessed from everywhere within the EU. While we think that relying on extended collective licensing alone will not be sufficient to achieve this objective for all sectors and all types of work, we are happy with the ambition to solve this problem on an EU wide basis.

A legal basis for Extended Collective Licensing

By contrast, the newly proposed article 9a focusses on (existing) national extended collective licensing arrangements and would not have any cross border effects. Instead, it introduces provisions into the EU legal framework that would remove the legal uncertainty that currently surrounds the extended collective licensing arrangements that exist in a number of (mainly nordic) EU Member States:

A functioning copyright framework that works for all parties requires the availability of proportionate, legal mechanisms for the licensing of works. Systems such as extended collective licensing or presumptions of representation are a well-established practice in several Member States and can provide such solutions, […] Given the increasing importance of the ability to offer flexible licensing solutions in the digital age, and the increasing use of such schemes in Member States, it is beneficial to further clarify in Union law the status of licensing mechanisms allowing collective management organisations to conclude licences, on a voluntary basis, irrespective of whether all rightholders have authorised the organisation to do so (Recital 28a + 29c of the Estonian Compromise proposal)

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Bending over backwards – ALDE wants to ensure online is like the offline

Vergaan van het schip de Vrijheid
Protect online freedom     of expression
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Despite ambitious planning, the JURI Committee vote on the Copyright in the Digital Market directive seems increasingly unlikely to happen in 2017. Meanwhile, following the lead of the EPP, ALDE (The Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe) published a new position paper on Copyright in the Digital Single Market earlier this month. ALDE seems to be deeply split when it comes to the question of copyright policy. Perhaps this is why the paper offers a very blurred perspective on how the group’s MEPs will vote in the upcoming votes in the Civil Liberties (LIBE) and Legal Affairs (JURI) committees in the European Parliament.

A blurred compromise to keep everyone happy

While many liberal MEPs are traditionally supportive of less restrictive copyright rules and value the protection of individual freedoms, ALDE’s official spokesperson for the copyright file, MEP Cavada is one of the most outspoken proponents of stronger copyright protection in the European Parliament.

Positions of the political groups in JURI with respect to selected elements of the DSM directive proposal [Source].

The new position paper seems to be an attempt to bridge both positions. Following a somewhat rambling introduction that extensively highlights the need to fight online piracy (which technically is not included in the scope of the DSM directive), the position paper states that attempts to protect copyright online should not infringe users’, consumers’ and citizens’ rights:

ALDE wants to protect copyright online because we need to ensure that creators are fairly remunerated for their creations. In taking measures to ensure this, however, ALDE is not ready to go as far as to infringe users’, consumers’ and citizens’ rights to exercise their freedom of expression online. Just as in working against any unlawful behaviour, online or offline, ALDE will do as much as possible, while maintaining a fair balance of fundamental rights, such as the right of information and the right of free expression.

Unfortunately the position paper leaves it unclear what this would mean for ALDEs position towards article 13 of the Commission’s proposal (which require upload filters for online platforms). Continue reading