New study: ever more complex copyright is holding back creators

Creative Jail
Copyright must not become a creative jail
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One of the biggest shortcomings of the discussion on copyright is that most of it seems stuck in a fairly outdated creators vs users dichotomy. Copyright laws around the world are generally structured in such a way that they grant exclusive rights to creators and try to balance these with a limited set of rights for users (in the form of exceptions or limitations to copyright). Based on this design it is widely assumed that more (or stronger) exclusive rights benefit creators and that more (or broader) exceptions to copyright benefit users.

This conception is problematic on a number of levels. For one it is clear that creators benefit from user rights that ensure that users have a basic level of access to culture through educational systems and via public institutions such as museums and libraries. On the other hand users benefit from the exclusive rights granted to creators as they incentivise the very production of culture and knowledge that they want to access.

A more fundamental challenge to this general understanding of copyright is posed by the fact that the roles of users and creators are not mutually exclusive,  but overlapping. Many creators are also users of copyrighted materials and the other way around. The technological development of the past two decades has contributed to this blurring of the boundaries between creators and users. Digital technologies greatly facilitate both the creative re-use of existing works and the distribution of the resulting new works. This development has resulted in the emergence of the (somewhat nonsensical) category of “user generated content” and concepts like the “prosumer“.

These concepts deal with users becoming creators, and there are relatively straightforward answers to the challenges posed, such as the need to introduce an exception for user generated content in the EU copyright framework that we have been advocating for. But there is another more interesting side of the coin: creators becoming users. While it is true that creators have always appropriated the works of those authors who came before them, these dynamics have been turbocharged by the digital revolution. Creators have entire libraries of content at their fingertips, and the tools to manipulate, incorporate and build on existing works are becoming increasingly sophisticated. These are exciting times to be a creator, but this new reality also brings creators into contact with the limitations to their creative freedom imposed by copyright law. Continue reading

Is the new education exception in Germany geared towards the 21st century?

Anatomische les van professor Paaw
New law already scheduled for review
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This is a guest post by Bernd Fiedler, policy manager at Wikimedia Deutschland. Bernd previously worked as a teacher and is aiming at improving the framework for free education. WMDE is a Communia member organisation.

In the “Urheberrechts-Wissensgesellschafts-Gesetz” (engl. roughly: Copyright Knowledge-Society Act), the German legislator tries to improve the legal framework for educators and scientists in Germany, as part of a general clean-up of the exceptions section of the Copyright Code. In general, 15% of a protected work can be used for educational and scientific purposes without permission until 2023.

The law, introduced last minute at the end of the legislative period in 2017, was long overdue. It was heavily lobbied, it is limited to five years, and it is already scheduled for review. Still, as Federal Minister of Justice Heiko Maas put it, because it is bundled into a single document, it somewhat clarifies regulation for educators, coming into effect on March 1, 2018.

In Germany, legislation on education and research is fragmented due to the federal constitution. So far, with the exception of the Copyright Code, which is federal law, the state-level executive and legislative bodies have full responsibility for education in their Länder (states). This includes the details on how copyright exceptions and limitations for education are handled in practice, which is regulated very granularly in treaties between the states’ culture ministers on one side and rightsholder representatives on the other. In practice, there were 16 different ways of handling copyright in education and some federal-level treaties that had to be considered.

From March onwards, educational institutions can use up to 15% of any single work (e.g. Book, Film etc.) in order to supply their courses and staff, and use that amount even for third-party presentations, as long as this serves to present the teaching outcome or similar at the institution itself. Single images, “a few” scientific articles from the same academic journal issue, out-of-distribution works and “works of smaller proportions” can be used in their entirety.

Before, the federal law only contained vague legal terms such as “shorter extracts”, “works of smaller proportions”, the meaning of which had to be negotiated into the abovementioned treaties at state level, leading in practice to different extent limitations in each state.

Shortcomings of the new exception

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Licenses: we are past copyright

The finish in the great match race [...] at Sheepshead Bay, N.Y., June 25th, 1890 between Salvator and Tenny / L.M.
Copyright exceptions should win this race
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We have been arguing for quite sometime now that handing out the power to define the scope of users rights to right holders – in the form of license agreements that they can (almost unilateral) draft and frame as they wish – is bad. Really bad: licenses fragment the legal framework that mandatory exceptions try to harmonize; licenses contain abusive terms or impose obligations on users that are not foreseen in the laws; and licenses have a huge impact on national budgets.

Unfortunately, this message has not come through to all, or not everyone understands what we are saying, or worse right holders have done a nice job in convincing lawmakers that’s the right way to go.

Allowing licenses to override exceptions is the only treat that publishers want

The current copyright reform carried the promise of being a landmark in the history of the EU copyright law. Lawmakers would finally show they understand that copyright is not superior to any of the other fundamental rights that every constitutional law across Europe grants to their citizens, and would make things right. Sadly, however, the prospects of that being the case for education are now very low.

MEPs passed the last year negotiating the scope of the educational exception. On the one hand, those who side with schools, teachers and students, proposed amendments to eliminate some of the constraints that the educational exception contains. On the other hand, those who side with publishers have been pushing for more restrictions, in order to narrow down the scope of the proposed exception even further.

Not enough MEPs understood that the most problematic aspect of art. 4 is not the scope of the mandatory exception (n.º 1) but the fact that Member States may choose not to apply such mandatory exception if licenses covering those uses are easily available in the market (n.º 2).

It is our understanding that publishers could not care less about the scope of the educational exception, provided that they can rule out the application of said exception with their own license agreements. This is copyright “taking the back seat”, as Professor Niva Elkin-Koren would put it.Continue reading

Open Letter challenges Portuguese Government’s position on art. 13

Today, a group of Portuguese organizations, including an important innovation acceleration hub, software companies, free culture and users rights advocates, and the Portuguese association of librarians, archivists and documentalists, sent an open letter to the Portuguese Government asking to the Government to reconsider its position in relation to art. 13 (the proposal to require online platforms to filter all uploads by their users).

As we have noted before, Portugal is, along with France and Spain, one of the countries that supports the Commission’s plan to force online platforms to install upload filters that would prevent any uses of copyright protected not explicitly approved by rightsholders. Portugal has also been pushing forward amendments proposed by the French Government that would significantly change the way online platforms operate. Under the rules proposed by the French, operating open platforms would only be possible with permission from rights holders.

Portugal can still make it right!

The signatories of the letter acknowledge the negative impact that such proposals would have on the fundamental rights of the Portuguese citizens and on the booming Portuguese ecosystem of startups and entrepreneurs, which is as important to the Portuguese economy as the tourism industry. They, thus, ask to the Portuguese Government to depart from its initial position, which privileges the interests of a small class of commercial copyright holders, and to embrace the future of digital innovation instead.

This open letter is yet another reminder that copyright policy cannot be based on the interests of commercial rightsholders alone and a reminder that it is important to challenge the positions of national governments on this important issue (see this helpful overview by MEP Julia Reda for other governments that need to be reminded that we need copyright rules that embrace the future instead of the past).

New policy paper on the 2017 review of PSI Directive

1200px-PSM_V43_D075_Chemical_laboratory
chance to improve reuse in Europe
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Today COMMUNIA published a policy paper on the 2017 review of the Directive on Public Sector Information (PSI Directive). The Directive first came into effect in 2003, and was amended in 2013 to clarify that 1) PSI should be presumed to be “reusable by default,” 2) museums, archives, and libraries were subject to the Directive provision, 3) acquisition fees were limited to marginal costs of reproduction, and 4) documents were to be made available for reuse using open standards and machine readable formats.

The Commission’s 2017 review could lead to further changes to improve reuse of public sector information. We made several recommendations to strengthen access and reuse of PSI.

First, we recommend that scientific research results resulting from public funding should be made available under a permissive reuse rights regime as PSI. The Commission should ensure that policy efforts to improve access to publicly funded scientific research are complementary—and not in conflict with—each other.

Second, we suggest that a revised Directive should ensure that all documents that are not currently covered by third party intellectual property rights fall within the scope of PSI national legislations.

Third, we recommend the Commission codify their earlier guidelines on recommended standard licences for PSI, and also ensure accurate licensing metadata across PSI and open data portals that reflects these licensing options.

Finally, we suggest that a revised Directive should ensure that CHIs and public sector bodies that are alike in their aims and funding structure must only be permitted to charge fees for costs directly incurred in providing access. We emphasise the importance of suitable state funding for CHI which will also enable them to make as many resources reusable as possible.

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Stop the #censorshipmachine now!

Today the Copyright working group of the Council is meeting for the first time under the new Bulgarian presidency. The agenda consist of discussions about articles 11 (press publishers right) and article 13 (upload filters for online platforms) and it appears that the Bulgarian Presidency is planning to push ahead on both of them in line with the one sided approach taken by the Estonian presidency. In the light of this meeting Pirate Party MEP Julia Reda has released a video featuring a number of MEPs from across the political spectrum speaking out against mandatory filtering of user uploaded content:

In the video the MEPs make it clear that filtering technology that would be mandated under article 13 will be used to limit the free expression of internet users in the EU. They also point out that it is highly problematic to require large corporations to install filtering technology that they will then operate outside of any public oversight and without any ability for meaningful recurse by normal users.

The examples provided by the MEPs in the video are a welcome reminder that it will not be enough to prevent upload filters from becoming mandatory by deleting article 13 from the proposed DSM directive, but that we we need to regulate the application of existing filtering technology and that that we finally need to positively define what rights users have when it comes to re-using existing works to express themselves online.

The time to stop the #censorshipmachine is now and you can contribute to this by sharing Julia Reda’s video or the excellent explainer video produced by the Create.Refresh campaign.

Transparency and the ongoing hypocrisy around “evidence-based” policymaking

Man bekijkt een schilderij door een vergrootglas, Honoré Daumier, 1847
Policymakers should back up rhetoric with action
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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.

Today’s topic for Copyright Week is Transparency: Whether in the form of laws, international agreements, or website terms and standards, copyright policy should be made through a participatory, democratic, and transparent process.

For Copyright Week last year we wrote about transparency and representation in relation to the public consultations leading up to the European Commission’s release of their new Directive on copyright in the Digital Single Market. Our headline read, “Evidence-based copyright policy making should be a no-brainer.” We argued, “It’s obvious to us that any legislative proposal should be developed from reliable, impartial economic and policy research whose foundation is based on evidence and facts.” But when we saw what was in the Commission’s draft, it became clear that a large swath of substantive feedback from the public was mostly ignored.

Here we are a year later, and the situation in the EU has not improved one bit.

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Educators ask for a better copyright

Educators ask for a better copyright
58 signatures for better copyright
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Today COMMUNIA sent a joint letter to all MEPs working on copyright reform. The letter is an urgent request to improve the education exception in the proposal for a Directive on copyright in the Digital Single Market. It is supported by 53 organisations representing schools, libraries, universities and non-formal education, and also 5 individual educators and information specialists.

The future of education determines the future of society. In the letter we explain the changes needed to facilitate the use of copyrighted works in support of education. We listed four main problems with the Commission’s proposal:

#1: A limited exception instead of a mandatory one

The European Commission proposed a mandatory exception, which can be overridden by licenses. As a consequence educational exception will still be different in each Member State. Moreover, educators will need a help from a lawyer to understand what they are allowed to do.

#2 Remuneration should not be mandatory

Currently most Member States have exceptions for educational purposes that are completely or largely unremunerated. Mandatory payments will change the situation of those educators (or their institutions), which will have to start paying for materials they are now using for free.

#3: Excluding experts

The European Commission’s proposal does not include all important providers of education as only formal educational establishments are covered by the exception. We note that the European lifelong-learning model underlines the value of informal and non-formal education conducted in the workplace. All these are are excluded from the education exception.

#4: Closed-door policy

The European Commission’s proposal limits digital uses to secure institutional networks and to the premises of an educational establishment. As a consequence educators will not develop and conduct educational activities in other facilities such as libraries and museums, and they will not be able to use modern means of communication, such as emails and the cloud.

You can still endorse the letter by sending an email to education@communia-associations.org. You can read the full letter below or download the PDF.Continue reading

Seven ways to save the EU copyright reform effort in 2018

Vuurwerk ter ere van de kroning van Willem III en Maria II tot koning en koningin van Groot-Brittannië
Its 2018! Time to finally #fixcopyright
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With the arrival of 2018 the discussions of the Proposed Copyright in the Digital single Market Directive enters into its third year. After more than a year of discussions in both the Parliament and the Council, it is likely that 2018 will at the minimum see final positions from both institutions. Depending on how quickly these positions will be established we may even see the adoption of the directive in 2018. To get everybody up to speed here is a quick refresher of what is at stake in 2018:

1. The publishers right must die!

Form the start the idea of granting press publishers a neighbouring right (an extra layer of copyright) in their publications has been one of the most controversial parts of the Commission’s proposal. The idea, based on laws that have failed in both Germany and Spain, is so deeply flawed that there is almost no one from the academic community who is willing to argue in favor (there are of course lots of academics who oppose it). Even worse, in the course of 2017 it has become clear that both the European Parliament and the European Commission have tried to lock away self-commissioned studies that clearly show that the new right not only would be ineffective at directing views (thus, funds) back to publishers, it would also harm media pluralism and access to information.

In spite of the overwhelming amount of evidence speaking against it, and even though its original sponsor (Commissioner Oettinger) is no longer in charge of the dossier, the idea of granting press publishers more rights in order to economically strengthen them refuses to die. It is time that MEPs and the Member states realize that adopting laws based on wishful thinking is the opposite of evidence based policy making, and refuse to create additional rights for publishers. This should be easy as there is an alternative proposal that would strengthen the legal position of press publishers without threatening the freedom to link.

2. Real legal certainty for Text and Data mining!

One of the core problems of copyright systems without a flexible exception (like fair use) is that everything not specifically permitted in the text of the copyright law will be deemed an infringement. This has resulted in an unclear legal status regarding Text and Data mining (letting computers read and interpret texts and other data). Since most forms of text and data mining require the making of copies, rights holders argue that text and data mining needs to be licensed, even if the entity engaging in TDM has legal access to the text and/or data to be mined. Continue reading

Mercosur-EU Free Trade Agreement: a bad deal for the public domain

Handel en koopvaardij
Stop the secret erosion of the Public Domain
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Contrary to what the negotiating parties expected (and what many civil societies organizations feared), the Mercosur-EU Free Trade Agreement (FTA) was not signed during the World Trade Organization (WTO) Ministerial Conference that took place at the beginning of December in Buenos Aires. Thus, the signing of the FTA that has been negotiated for almost twenty years was postponed once again. Over this time the negotiations were frozen during the era of the leftist governments in South America, but regained speed after the arrival of neoliberal governments to Brazil and Argentina.

Like many other multilateral agreements that have been negotiated in recent years (TPP, TTIP, etc.), the Mercosur-EU FTA covers a large number of areas (not all strictly related to trade) ranging from the exchange of goods to capital movements, phytosanitary measures, electronic commerce and intellectual property (IP). The area of ​​negotiation related to IP is extremely broad, including patents, trademarks, geographical indications and copyright, among other topics.

From TRIPS to TRIPS Plus

In most of the issues related to IP, the Mercosur-EU FTA goes beyond the international obligations imposed on the countries in 1994 with the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) in the context of the creation of the World Trade Organization. TRIPS established a minimum regulatory floor on IP that forced a large number of countries, including those of the Mercosur, to modify their laws, establishing restrictions on the circulation of knowledge and negatively affecting the public domain. In the field of copyright, TRIPS established a minimum copyright term of the author’s life plus 50 years, meaning that countries like Uruguay, which at that time had a term of only 40 years, was a major change. TRIPS also forced the countries to establish criminal penalties for IP infringements conducted on a commercial scale, as well as to protect software using the same regulatory framework as that applied to literary works. While some of these measures were already established in the Berne Convention and other treaties administered by the World Intellectual Property Organization, TRIPS stipulated economic sanctions for countries that did not comply with the obligations, which resulted in rapid adaptation to a new regulatory framework. Continue reading