How additional rights for publishers will hurt education and access to culture

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No additional copyrights for publishers!
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The Commission’s public consultation on the role of publishers in the copyright value chain and on the ‘panorama exception’ is addressed at a broad range of stakeholders, which includes both ‘Libraries/Cultural heritage institutions’ and ‘Educational or research institutions’. In this second post of our series on the consultation, we highlight what the introduction of an additional right for publishers would mean for the education and cultural heritage sectors. We encourage organisations and professionals from these sectors to make their views known to the Commission. [If you have not read our introductory post that deals with the more general problems of granting additional rights to publishers you may want to read that first.]

What additional rights for publishers mean for cultural heritage institutions…

Cultural Heritage Institutions struggle with making their collections available online. While large parts of their collections are not commercially available anymore, or were never in commercial circulation to  begin with, most materials from the 20th and 21st century are still covered by copyright and neighbouring rights. In order to make their collections available online institutions have to obtain permission from rightsholders to do so (they need to ‘clear the rights’). For out of commerce works this is an extremely time consuming and expensive process. Most institutions cannot afford large scale rights clearance and as a result there are very few works from the 20th century available via the websites of cultural heritage institutions (‘the 20th century black hole‘).

Granting additional (copy)rights to publishers will make rights clearance even more difficult.  Institutions need to clear multiple types of rights that rest with different rights holders, and that have different durations. The existing EU copyright framework is already incredibly complex (see this poster for an illustration) and adding more complexity to this situation will make rights clearance an even more daunting task for cultural heritage institutions.

Introducing an additional copyright for publishers will make it even harder for Cultural Heritage Institutions to get collections that include published texts available online. Instead of adding such a right, the Commission should harmonize and shorten the existing terms of copyright protection and expand the existing exception for cultural heritage institutions to allow them to make out of commerce works in their collections available online.

… and for education

The situation is not much better for the educational sector. The main problem for educational institutions, educators and students is that copyright laws across Europe do not always exempt all relevant educational activities that involve use of copyrighted materials. As we pointed out before, the exceptions to copyright for education and research are often outdated, failing to cover new digital and online uses, as well as more traditional activities, such as producing a teacher’s compilation of educational materials. Those exceptions are also complex and fragmented across the EU. This makes it difficult for educators and students to use and to determine how they can use copyright protected materials as part of educational activities. It leaves a vast potential of online learning unrealized (you can see our series of blogposts on the issue on our Copyright Untangled).

What we need is a broader educational exception and clarity for educators and students. What we do not need is a new right for publishers, adding an extra layer of complexity to the existing system. Given that the additional rights for publishers are clearly intended to apply to the use of snippets and links, a so-called Link tax, they have the potential to create a lot of uncertainty around these basic concepts of online communication and information exchange.

In fact, more than uncertainty, a new neighbouring right has the potential to create real limitations to the current educational activities. For instance, as part of their educational activities, schools and teachers have to prepare compilations of materials for educational purposes. Those compilations are often made through the use of links to all types of online resources, including resources produced by the press. Educational repositories, blogs run by teachers, online encyclopedias and dictionaries, all collect and share links to third parties’ resources, and some even contain small snippets of text written by those third parties. If  a publisher’s right is created, we can see it becoming a serious obstacle to those ways of sharing knowledge and providing access to education.

Moreover, considering that in the EU we do not yet have an harmonized treatment of education as an exception or limitation to copyright, we can foresee even more cross-border problems in the educational arena.

Europe needs an education system that encourages users to engage confidently with information and culture that they encounter online. Erecting additional barriers that hinder access to culture and knowledge will not contribute to this goal. Instead of adding additional rights for publishers the Commission should focus on harmonizing and simplifying the exceptions for education and research to ensure that anyone can use the full potential of the internet as an educational tool.

Make your voice heard

If you are part of the educational or cultural heritage sector we encourage you to make your voice heard and let the Commission know why introducing new rights for publishers is a terrible idea that will damage the Europeana education and cultural heritage sectors. You can respond directly to the consultation on the Commission’s site, or through an easy tool on youcan.fixcopyright.eu.

We will continue this series next week by highlighting the effects an additional right for publishers will have on end users and creators.

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