145 Organisations Tell Member State Ambassadors: There’s Still Much To Fix on EU Copyright Reform

135COREPER
The legislation is destined to become a nightmare
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Today, Communia and over 135 organisations published an open letter to the Committee of the Permanent Representatives of the Governments of the Member States to the European Union (COREPER). That group meets today, and the Bulgarian presidency will be pushing for all Member States to endorse its proposed changes to the draft Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market. Earlier this week we previewed these latest changes, warning that there’s danger ahead if the Council adopts the still-unsatisfactory updates to Article 13, 11, and 3a.

The letter is critical of the compromised proposed by the Bulgarian Presidency and calls upon COREPER to continue the discussions on the copyright reform. We ask for COREPER not grant the Bulgarian Council Presidency a mandate to negotiate with the European Parliament. From the letter:

We are deeply concerned that the text proposed by the Bulgarian Presidency in no way reflects a balanced compromise, whether on substance or from the perspective of the many legitimate concerns that have been raised. Instead, it represents a major threat to the freedoms of European citizens and businesses and promises to severely harm Europe’s openness, competitiveness, innovation, science, research and
Education. […]

With so many legal uncertainties and collateral damages still present, this legislation is currently destined to become nightmare when it will have to be transposed into national legislation and face the test of its legality in terms of the Charter of Fundamental Rights and the Bern Convention. We hence strongly encourage you to adopt a decision-making process that is evidence based, focussed on producing copyright rules that are fit for purpose and on avoiding unintended, damaging side effects.

The signatories of the letter include national organisations from across 25 EU Member States, representing human and digital rights groups, media freedom orgs, publishers, journalists, libraries, scientific and research institutions, educational institutions including universities, creator representatives, consumers, software developers, start-ups, technology businesses, and internet service providers. They repeat and amplify the voices raised previously to express their deep concerns about the artificial sense of urgency created by the Bulgarian Presidency.

(This week, two other important open letters were published: 169 professors of law and academics urge to oppose the new press publishers right. 55 European organizations do the same: “Enough is enough”).

The neverending story: Article 11 must be deleted

Caïn venant de tuer son frère Abel, by Henry Vidal
Enough is enough!
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We still can’t believe how bad the last plan of MEP Axel Voss for the press publishers right is. At the end on March MEP Voss released his proposal for a compromise on Article 11, and the changes he is proposing are even more radical and more broken than anything we’ve seen thus far. It’s time for everyone to stand up and say again, “enough is enough.”

Today, Communia and 55 other organizations, including associations of European public institutions, companies and start-ups, journalists and libraries, news publishers and civil society organisations sent a letter to MEP Voss trying again to present the obvious and well documented arguments against the introduction of a new right for press publishers. The signatories hold that that a neighbouring right for press publishers and news agencies will neither support quality journalism nor foster the free press. Rather it will lead to massive collateral damage and a lose-lose-situation for all stakeholders involved.

Unfortunately, MEP Voss has his very own definition of the term “compromise”. With regard to Article 11 it is especially unfortunate since this is one of the few contentious issues where a real compromise has already been identified: that is, the approach presented earlier by MEP Voss’ predecessor MEP Comodini (and also contemplated in the Estonian presidency) that would rely on a presumption that publishers are the rights holders, thus making it easier for these entities “to conclude licences and to seek application of the measures, procedures and remedies.” But this idea was simply abandoned by the current rapporteur. The signatories of the letter agree that given the empirical evidence presented thus far that the right will not accomplish what it sets out to do – not to mention the detrimental effects on journalism and access to information, Article 11 must be deleted.

 

Council: Member States close to adopting a copyright maximalist position

Twee tijgers sluipend door het gras
Danger looming in the Council
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It is still unclear if the Bulgarian Council presidency will manage to get the member states in line to agree on a general negotiation position at the COREPER meeting scheduled for this Thursday. Under pressure from the Bulgarian presidency (or rather those who put pressure on them), the member states seem to be moving towards a common position. Last week’s working group meeting appears to have resolved most of the controversies around Article 3a (optional text and data mining exception) and Article 11 (press publishers rights). Article 13 remains the main sticking point, preventing the member states from agreeing on a negotiation mandate.

So what’s the status with regards to these 3 articles and where do the member states stand on them?

Article 13: Continued divisions over the scope of #censorshipfilters

In spite of the significant doubts that many member states expressed last year regarding measures targeting open online platforms contained in Article 13, the article has survived the subsequent rounds of discussions in the Council nearly intact. This seems mainly due to a pivot by the German government which is now backing censorship filters – even though the coalition agreement that underpins the current government is highly critical of such measures.

While there is agreement in principle, the Member States are still spit on the scope of the article. The maximalist axis of France, Spain, Portugal and Italy is backing a broad implementation of the article, while most other member states (including Germany) seem to be favouring a narrowing down of the scope of the services that would be required to filter. Lack of consensus on the scope of Article 13 seems to be the main obstacle that prevents the Bulgarian presidency from closing the file.

Article 11 map (April 2018)
Member States (in red) supporting the introduction of censorship filters for online platforms (own research)

As we have argued before, rushing Article 13 across the finish line carries substantial risks to the European internet economy and to our freedom of creative expression. Continue reading

Now even the rightsholders agree: Article 13 is dangerous and (and should be deleted)

Aanval van de Giganten op de godenwereld
Article 13 will hurt both users and creators
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Now that the Bulgarian Council presidency seems to have decided that it is time to wrap up the discussions on the DSM proposal and push for a political decision on a negotiation mandate, people are getting nervous. Late last week a whole assortment of organisations representing rights holders from the AV industry (organised in the creativity works! coalition) have sent a letter to Member State ministers and representatives, outlining their concerns with the latest Bulgarian compromise text. The document mainly focuses on Article 13, and what they have to say about that article is rather interesting (and surprisingly in line with positions that we have been arguing all along).

The overriding concern expressed by the rightsholders in their letter is that some of the more recent changes introduced in the council would turn Article 13 from a magic weapon against a few online platforms into a mechanism that threatens to further empower these very platforms in a way that does not benefit rights holders. In response to this, Creativity Works! (CW!) argues for further strengthening some of the most problematic aspects of Article 13.

We have long argued that Article 13 seems to be designed to benefit the big dominant online platforms, as it will entrench their market position. For smaller companies compliance with the filtering obligations will be difficult and costly while the main targets of Article 13 already have filtering systems in place (such as YouTube’s Content ID), and it is a welcome sign to see rights holders waking up to this reality.

For us it has been clear from the start that Article 13 will not achieve its stated goals. Instead the filtering obligations will cause tremendous harm to the freedom of expression and to open platforms that operate in fields that have nothing to do with the distribution of entertainment products. For this reason we think that the only responsible way to deal with Article 13 is to delete it and start over with a discussion about how we can best ensure that creators can be fairly compensated for their work. (Note that in this discussion most of the members of CW! are likely to be part of the problem rather than the solution as CW! has very little representation from actual creators.)

And while CW! is not joining us in our call to delete Article 13, their letter does illustrate our argument that adjusting general concepts of copyright law in order to address the concerns of specific groups of stakeholders is utterly irresponsible in the light of the big (and often unintended) consequences such an intervention can have.

Case in point: the re-definition of right of communication to the public. We and others critical of Article 13 have long argued that Article 13 would expand the right of communication to the public. Within the Commission’s proposal this aspect of Article 13 was hidden away in a recital, but over the successive drafts it has become more explicit. This seems to have led to the sudden realisation by rights holders that such a re-definition of this important right can also negatively affect them. In their letter they wrote on the last Bulgarian compromise proposal:

It would limit the scope of the right of communication to the public by incompletely applying Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) case law and setting into stone in Article 13 only certain criteria developed by the Court. This approach would roll-back the CJEU’s case law, which has repeatedly confirmed that a broad interpretation of the right of communication to the public (CTTP) is necessary to achieve the main objective of the Copyright Directive, which is to establish a high level of protection for authors and rights holders. CW! recalls that the exclusive right of communication to the public, including the making available right, as enshrined in EU law (and further clarified by the Court), has emerged as the bedrock for the financing, licencing and protection of content, as well as its ultimate delivery to consumers in the online environment. The Court has also emphasised, in its recent judgments, that in order to determine whether there has been a CTTP, several complementary criteria must be taken into account, which are not autonomous, but are interdependent. Any proposals that entail a selective application of the Court’s jurisprudence, or that imply a narrowing of the scope of the right of CTTP, would be contrary to the protection required by current EU and international law.

While we do not agree that the current draft would limit the scope of the CTTP right, this passage illustrates the dangers of carelessly fiddling around with core legal concepts that underpin the EU copyright framework. Continue reading

Balancing Education and Copyright – reflections after Conference on Copyright in Higher Education and Research

MEP Axel Voss, rapporteur of the draft Directive on copyright in the Digital Single Market, did not expect this dossier to be so controversial. And issues relating to the educational sector are not an exception. With these words, the Eurodeputy began his speech at last week’s high-level conference, “A better copyright for quality higher education and research in Europe and beyond”. The conference was organized jointly in Brussels by the European Trade Union Committee for Education (ETUCE), the European Federation of Education Employers (EFEE) and COMMUNIA Association. The event was for us an opportunity to meet educational stakeholders – including members of our Copyright for Education network, as well as representatives of publishers and CMOs.


Teresa Nobre (Communia Association) and MEP Axel Voss (EPP, Germany), photo Education International, CC BY NC

Licenses are not a solution for education

If we were to choose one thing that worries us the most in the ongoing copyright reform as it relates to education, it would certainly be the possibility of license override. According to the current proposal for the  Directive on copyright in Digital Single Market, licences that are easily available in the market can take precedence over the mandatory educational exception.

While this might seem like a way to adjust copyright to national specificity, licensing mechanism will spell new barriers and costs for educational systems across Europe. For countries where educational licenses have not been available to date, this means that there is a possibility that schools will have to pay for materials that have been available to them for free. But educational licenses are not just a matter of money. Continue reading

Vox Scientia is strong – but the current copyright reform will block the free circulation of knowledge

The ongoing and neverending EU copyright reform is often depicted in the way that the main issues are money, value distribution, and how to protect existing business models. These are of course valid concerns, but they shape the whole discussion in very narrowly-framed way. The most important question is how copyright reform will influence various groups of stakeholders, not only when it comes to businesses that want to make money, but also for the individuals and organisations that both need access to information and content, and who also wish to create and share.  And when it comes to science and knowledge sharing (not only in academia, but generally innovation) the answer is very clear – the proposal presented by the European Commission will block the free circulation of knowledge.

Vox Scientia is a group of organisations (including Communia) and individual educators, researchers, librarians, cultural heritage professionals, and students who are standing up and aiming to be the ‘Voice of Knowledge’ – ‘Vox scientia’ – in this debate. The parties engaged believe in a world where all people are able to freely exchange ideas, create, learn, and contribute to the global knowledge commons. The aim of the initiative is to mobilize people to stand up against dangerous and restrictive copyright  solutions backed by the European Commision. Continue reading

Proposed Council compromise on TDM: still not good enough

De zanderij
The right to read must be the right to mine!
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We’ve already written about how the Bulgarian compromise proposal for both Article 13 and Article 11 are too broken to fix. Their proposal for Article 3 (Text and Data Mining) does little to alter the major problems standing in the way of a progressive exception for text and data mining.

We’ve continued to follow Article 3 since the European Commission published its proposal on copyright in the Digital Single Market. Even though the Commission’s exception for TDM would be mandatory, we criticised their plan as not going far enough, as it would limit the beneficiaries of the exception only to research organisations, and only for purposes of scientific research.

TDM in the Bulgarian presidency proposal

The Bulgarian proposal is nearly identical to the changes already offered by the earlier Estonian plan. It leaves intact the Commission’s obligatory TDM exception that would apply to research organisations (including cultural heritage institutions) for purposes of scientific research. The Bulgarian proposal similarly introduces an additional and optional exception in Article 3 for temporary reproductions and extractions. This additional exception would apply to beneficiaries other than research organisations, and for uses other than scientific research. But those acts would be limited in that they only would cover temporary reproductions and extractions, and only if the rightsholder does not prohibit it.

In our earlier blog post we wondered whether the existing (and mandatory) exception in the InfoSoc and Database Directives on temporary reproductions arguably already covers the temporary reproductions for text and data mining purposes. In any case, this additional and merely optional exception, for acts that might already be covered under existing law, which can easily be neutralised if rights holders don’t want it, is a weak compromise. It doesn’t address the main concerns we’ve had with Article 3 since the beginning. It also fails to bring much needed harmonization and will instead further the already existing fragmentation of users rights in EU. Continue reading

Communia at the CC Summit18

Children of the Sea
Gathering of the Open Community
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The Creative Commons Global Summit is each year one of the key events for the open community. Next week, we are packing our bags and joining over 500 open activists and copyright reform advocates in Toronto. Communia has been founded largely by Creative Commons activists, who wanted to support the Public Domain and do something about European copyright reform. We share with CC the values of the (digital) commons and strive for a more equitable, accessible, and innovative world where creativity can blossom.

The Summit is for us first of all an opportunity to plan collaboration with other activists for the coming year. This year, the Summit program has a strong focus on copyright reform and we are excited to build together the Creative Commons Copyright Reform Platform. We will also contribute to discussion about global copyright reform, copyright and education, copyright and cultural heritage and users’ rights.

You can track all our sessions in the Summit’s Sched system. And follow us on Twitter for live updates from the event.

Continue reading

MEP Voss doubles down on worst elements of Article 11

Karikatuur van Franse censoren
New right threatens free access to information
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We just got done criticising how Bulgaria’s weak consolidated presidency compromise handles Article 11 of the proposed Copyright in the Digital Single Market (DSM) directive. The Bulgarian plan doubles down on the Commission’s original bad idea and ignores most of the positive protections offered by some members of parliament.

But we shouldn’t have been surprised when MEP Axel Voss came out with an even worse plan for the press publishers right. This week MEP Voss released his proposal for a compromise on Article 11, and the changes he is proposing are even more radical and more broken than anything we’ve seen thus far.

Expanding the scope to cover facts

First, Voss proposes to expand the scope of beneficiaries of Article 11 from to cover not only press publishers, but also news agencies (who aggressively lobbied for being included in the scope of Article 11 late last year). But in doing so, he introduces the risk of inappropriately granting copyright – like protection to facts and compilations of basic information. This is a dangerous extension of the scope of exclusive rights that would endanger the right of access to information. It is especially appalling since even the founders of the “modern” European copyright system wisely choose to make sure that news of the day and facts cannot be exclusively claimed: The 1986 Berne convention explicitly states that copyright shall “not apply to news of the day or to miscellaneous facts having the character of mere items of press information”.

Mandatory remuneration

Perhaps the most extreme change is that press publishers and news agencies would be granted (or saddled with?) an “inalienable right to obtain an fair and proportionate remuneration for such uses.” What does this mean? It means that publishers would be required to demand payment from news aggregators and other users. Continue reading

Article 11: still too broken to fix

Parisiens en train d'etudier la question turque
More rights won't save quality journalism
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This week the Bulgarian presidency released their consolidated presidency compromise proposal for a directive on copyright in the digital single market. Instead of taking a proactive approach to fix some of the worst elements of the Commission’s beleaguered proposal, their plan backtracks on many of the most controversial aspects, which only seems to throw the public further under the proverbial bus. As we discussed recently, Article 13 is beyond repair and should be deleted.

The same goes with Article 11— the provision that would create new rights in press publications and allow press publishers to control digital uses of even the smallest snippets of their content. We’ve advocated that the press publishers right should be removed from the proposed directive. Not only is the mechanism ill-suited to address the challenges in supporting quality journalism, it would have the effect of decreasing competition and innovation in the delivery of news, limit access to information, and create widespread negative repercussions for related stakeholders.

Instead, the Bulgarian “compromise” doubles down on the Commission’s original idea and ignoring most of the positive protections offered by some members of Parliament and the earlier Estonian draft. Continue reading