Open letter on Article 17: Is the Commission about to abandon its commitment to protect fundamental rights?

Rinaldo Abandons Armida
Has the CJEU just called the Commissions bluff?
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Civil society groups have placed a lot of hope in the European Commission to limit the dangers to fundamental rights caused by upload filters through the Commission’s Article 17 guidance, which is supposed to help member states implement Article 17 of the DSM directive in a fundamental rights-preserving manner. But with less than two months to go before the implementation deadline, the guidance is still nowhere to be seen. In an open letter published today, twenty user rights organisations are therefore calling on the Commission not to undermine elements of the guidance that would protect users’ fundamental rights by limiting the use of automated upload filters to manifestly infringing content.

Late last week, the CJEU unexpectedly postponed the Advocate General opinion in the Polish case challenging the fundamental rights compliance of Article 17 of the DSM directive by almost three months. Knowing that the upcoming Commission guidance was discussed extensively at the CJEU hearing on the Polish case in November, the postponement could very well mean that the Advocate General wants to see the document before issuing an opinion.

While the Commission has been hinting at the imminent release of the guidance for a few months now, the timing indicates that the Commission precisely wanted to avoid giving the Advocate General time to study the guidance. This does not bode well for the fundamental rights safeguards the Commission is planning to present. Signals are mounting that the delays are the result of intense behind-the-scenes political wrangling aimed at undermining the user rights safeguards to be included in the guidance. 

That’s why, together with 20 other users’ rights organisations who have participated in the EU stakeholder dialogue on the implementation of Article 17, we have sent an open letter to the Commission, raising our concerns about the handling of the final phase of this process. The letter urges the Commission “not to weaken its guidance through open ended exception clauses that seem to benefit particular rightsholders at the expense of users’ fundamental rights” and stresses that “strong ex-ante fundamental rights protections are necessary to meet the obligation of result to protect users’ fundamental rights.” 

The letter further highlights the fact that, by issuing guidance that substantially diverges from the position taken before the CJEU, the Commission would indicate that it is ultimately lacking the political will to ensure that the required fundamental rights protections will be included in national implementations of the directive.

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Video Recording of COMMUNIA Salon on the German proposal to implement Article 17

On Thursday we held the second COMMUNIA Salon in 2021. This time we discussed the German governments’ proposal for implementing the controversial Article 17 of the CDSM Directive. Taking place less than three months before the implementation deadline for the directive, this edition zoomed in on one of the most advanced legislative efforts to implement the directive (the Netherlands, which adopted their implementation law at the end of last year is the only Member State that is further along in the legislative process). The discussion was kicked off by a presentation by Dr Thomas Ewert and Dr Martin Bittner from the German Federal Ministry for Justice and Consumer Protection, who have been responsible for drafting the legislation. Their introduction presentation, focusing on the legislative history of the draft and its core mechanism, can be found between 02:30 and 28:50 in the video recording: 

One highlight of the presentation was the revelation that the Ministry has also filed an amendment to its own proposal, that expands the transparency provisions contained in the proposal. The proposed amendment would allow access to “data on the use of procedures for the automated and non-automated recognition and blocking of content to authorised parties” for scientific research purposes. In the light of our repeated calls for more transparency when it comes to the use of automated content recognition, this is a small but significant improvement of the proposal. 

The initial presentation was followed by perspectives from Marco Pancini (YouTube), Xavier Blanc (AEPO-ARTIS) and Julia Reda (GFF) who highlighted different aspects of the legislative proposal. Speaking from the perspective of large pan European platforms Marco Pancini expressed concerns about the variation of legislative approaches in the Member States with Germany marking one end of the spectrum. According to him this will lead to fragmentation of the digital single market and create substantial compliance burdens for all types of platforms.

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COMMUNIA salon on the German proposal to implement Article 17

COMMUNIA Salon: The German proposal to implement Article 17 revisedLicentie

On Wednesday, the 17th of March, we will be organising the next edition of our virtual COMMUNIA Salon. This time we will  take another look at the  German implementation proposal for Article 17 of the DSM directive: On the 3rd of February the German government formally adopted its implementation proposal which is now headed for a first reading in the German parliament (Bundestag) later this month. We will examine how the proposal differs from the original implementation proposal that we discussed in July of last year, and what we can learn from the German approach to implementing Article 17. 

For this edition of the COMMUNIA Salon we will be joined by Dr. Martin Bittner und Dr. Thomas Ewert of the German Ministry for Justice and Consumer Protection (BMJV) who will present the implementation proposal. We will have reaction from Julia Reda (Project lead control © at GFF and former MEP), Marco Pancini (Youtube) and (Xavier Blanc (AEPO-ARTIS). The presentations will be followed by an informal question and answer session and concluding remarks by Paul Keller (COMMUNIA/Open Future). The Salon will be moderated by Teresa Nobre. 

The German proposal has been adopted at an interesting time. While the Commission is finalising its implementation guidance, the German proposal shows what the user rights-preserving implementation foreseen by the Commission in its draft guidance could look like in practice. The proposed German implementation of Article 17 contains specific mechanisms designed to ensure that platforms comply with the requirement in Article 17 that legal uploads must not be blocked. While the proposal is not without flaws, it can nevertheless serve as an example for other Member States looking for a way to implement Article 17 in a user rights-preserving way

As always, the COMMUNIA Salon is open for everyone to attend and will be held on Zoom. Join us on Wednesday, the 17th of March, at 1530 CET, by registering here. Registered participants will receive login information ahead of the event.

France once more fails to demonstrate support for its interpretation of Article 17

Paye qui Tombe
Ex-post redress is still not good enough
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Last week the French Ministry of Culture held a virtual event to present the second report on content recognition tools on digital sharing platforms commissioned by the Conseil Supérieur de la Propriété Littéraire et Artistique (High Council for literary and artistic property – CSPLA). The new CSPLA report, authored by Jean-Philippe Mochon (who had also authored the previous report on content recognition tools), focuses on “proposals for the implementation of Article 17 of the EU copyright directive”. The report consists of three parts: 

The first part contains a “review of existing best practices” of the use of content recognition tools. Here, the authors argue that such tools “must be given their rightful place in the implementation of Article 17 of the Directive”. The second part of the report focuses on the “balance between the fundamental rights set out in Article 17”. The third and concluding part of the report contains a number of recommendations for implementing Article 17 in France (and beyond). 

The central argument that is woven throughout the CSPLA report is that automated content recognition technologies already play an important role in managing copyright on digital sharing platforms, that Article 17 provides for sufficient fundamental rights protection through the complaint and redress mechanism alone, and that temporary restrictions on freedom of expression are considered acceptable to achieve the goal of stronger protection of intellectual property rights. A more detailed critique of some of the core arguments contained in the middle part can be found in this post on the Kluwer Copyright Blog

To mark the occasion of the publication of the CSPLA report, the French permanent representation in Brussels hosted a (virtual) event that was clearly intended to demonstrate additional support for the French position in the discussion about the implementation of Article 17. 

For the presentation of the report the organizers had invited the authors of the report and three external speakers, representing the European co-legislators: MEP Axel Voss (the European Parliament’s rapporteur for the DSM directive), Marco Giorello (the head of the Copyright Unit of the European Commission) and Ricardo Castanheira (representing the Portugese Council Presidency). If the organizers of the event had hoped that these speakers would express support for the French position in the Article 17 implementation discussion, then they must have been quite disappointed: None of the three respondents came forward with unqualified support for French interpretation of Article 17. As expected, Marco Giorello made it clear once more that the Commission does not agree with the French position that there is no need for ex-ante user rights safeguards in national implementations of Article 17:

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COMMUNIA salon on the role of ex-ante user rights safeguards in implementing Article 17

the role of ex-ante user rights safeguardsLicentie

On the 26th of January at 1530 (CET) we are hosting the first COMMUNIA salon of 2021. This edition will focus on the most controversial question of the discussions surrounding the implementation of Article 17: the need to introduce ex-ante user rights safeguards in national implementations of the directive, to ensure that legitimate uses of third party works cannot be automatically blocked. 

In the discussions over the past year the need for ex-ante user right protections has become apparent. In its targeted consultation, the Commission has made it clear “that it is not enough […] to only restore legitimate content ex post” and, in the CJEU hearing in Case C-401/19, the Commission and the Council have argued that the requirement not to prevent the availability of legitimate uploads takes precedence over the requirement to make best efforts to prevent the availability of works that rightsholders want to keep off a platform. 

By now three Member States have made implementation proposals that include such ex-ante safeguards. Germany and Austria have put forward draft laws that introduce “minor use” thresholds and allow users to pre-flag legitimate uploads. Finland has proposed a “blocking mechanism” that would require rightsholders to review uploads containing their works before they can issue a blocking request. 

During the upcoming COMMUNIA salon, we will be discussing these proposals with Julia Reda (former MEP and project lead at GFF), Viveca Still (Senior Copyright Advisor, Ministry of Culture, Finland), Marco Giorello (Head of Copyright Unit, European Commission) and Tobias Holzmüller (General Counsel, GEMA). The Salon will be moderated by Alek Tarkowski (COMMUNIA/Open Future). 

The presentations will be followed by an informal question and answer session and concluding remarks by Paul Keller (COMMUNIA/Open Future).

This event is open for everyone to attend and will be held on Zoom. In order to ensure smooth participation we request participants to register beforehand. Registered participants will receive login information ahead of the event.

DSM Directive implementation update: more proposals to protect users’ rights

Gennaro
Five months to go ...
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The implementation deadline for the Copyright in the Digital Single Market is a mere five months ahead of us. On the 7th of June, the EU Member States are expected to have implemented the 2019 update of the EU copyright rules. With less than half a year to go, it is looking increasingly unlikely that more than a small handful of Member States will manage to implement the new provisions by the deadline. In this post, we are taking stock of the implementation process focussing on what has changed since our update from a month ago

While the past month included the holiday break, there have still been some significant developments. This included the first member state to have completed the implementation process (the Netherlands) and the first Member state to throw in the towel and officially announce that the implementation process will only be concluded after the implementation deadline (Denmark). But before we look at these developments in more detail, let’s first have a look at the discussions surrounding the implementation of Article 17.

There has been no further progress on the Commission’s Article 17 implementation guidance. Originally expected to be presented in the second half of 2020, there is no sign of them yet. So far the Commission has not even managed to publish the responses to the consultation that was concluded in September 2020.

More Member States commit to protecting users’ rights.

With no clear timeline for the Commission guidelines, more and more Member States have given up waiting and are presenting their implementation ideas for Article 17. In early December the Austrian Ministry of Justice circulated a first proposal for implementing Article 17 among stakeholders for feedback (see our joint response with epicenter.works and SaveTheInternet Austria here). This proposal takes up a number of key elements of the previous German proposals (direct remuneration right for creators, the ability to pre-flag uploads as legitimate, a threshold that protects minor uses from automated blocking, and the ability for users’ organizations to act against structural overblocking) and fits them into a more traditional approach: Where the German legislator proposes to implement the Article 17 provisions in a separate law, the Austrian proposal would integrate the provisions into the body of the existing copyright act. 

In Germany, the discussion about the implementation proposal is still ongoing: Seemingly in response to pressure from the rightsholders and platforms (channeled via other ministries controlled by the CDU) the Ministry of Justice has retracted one of the most controversial elements of its implementation proposal: A new leaked version of the proposal (dated 22 November) is missing the controversial “de minimis” exception that would have legalized uses of works shorter than 20 seconds of audio or video or 1000 characters of text. However, the same thresholds are now part of a new mechanism that protects “presumably legitimate uses” as long as they do not exceed 50% of an original work and combine the matched work with other material. While much weaker than a standalone exception, this mechanism would still ensure that many forms of user-uploaded creative expression could not be automatically blocked. 

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Communia fights for more room for right to research in international copyright law

Optocht van professoren
Promoting access to knowledge for all
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Access to knowledge is essential to ensure inclusivity and equality of our societies, particularly in the digital age. Researchers and the institutions that serve them are struggling to perform their activities at a distance, due to outdated copyright frameworks that do not properly balance all the rights that are deemed fundamental to our societies. It is time to abandon the rhetoric that copyright exceptions that support access to knowledge activities will harm authors and the industries that depend on them. 

For the next three years, Communia will be working on a project to study and promote changes in international copyright law to ensure equity in the production of and access to research. Our aim is to promote effective change in the political discourse towards the adoption of an international legal framework that protects legitimate access to knowledge.

We will work with a broad range of partners representing researchers and the institutions that serve them, including our Communia members Creative Commons and Wikimedia Deutschland. Our activities will include producing research, provide training to a global network of change makers, and connect a global expert network to a global community of researchers, libraries, museums, archives, and digital rights activists active in international copyright policy making.

The project will be run by the American University Washington College of Law (AUWCL), through its Program on Information Justice and Intellectual Property (PIJIP), and will benefit from a grant from Arcadia, a charitable fund of Lisbet Rausing and Peter Baldwin.

Read more about the project here.

How Hungary has quick-fix implemented Article 5 of the DSM directive

Jakobs ladder
Taking care of what matters the most
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This blogpost is part of a series of blogposts where we track how EU Member States are adapting their national laws to the requirements of Article 5 of the Copyright in the Digital Single Market Directive (DSM directive), which sets new minimum standards for the digital and cross-border use of copyright materials in education. So far we have published analysis of the Dutch and the German proposals. Today, we provide an overview of the Hungarian new education exception by Mónika Trombitás Andersson. This overview focusses on the substance of the new exception; for critical perspective on the legislative procedure see here.

Fast implementation of the new exception to permit remote teaching during COVID-19

Just as in several other EU Member States, in Hungary as well the stakeholder consultations regarding the implementation of the DSM Directive are still ongoing. Yet, the provisions set out in Article 5, namely those concerning the use of works in digital and cross-border teaching activities, have already been implemented and the relevant amendments to the Hungarian Copyright Act (No. LXXVI of 1999) came into effect on 18th July 2020. The reason? Urgent need for modern copyright rules enabling schools to swiftly transition into distance education during the COVID-19 pandemic and distribute learning material digitally.Continue reading

DSM Directive implementation update: six months to go and no end in sight

December
MS still tying to make sense out of Art 17
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According to Article 26 of the Copyright in the Digital Single Market Directive, Member States have until the 7th of June 2021 to implement the provisions of the Directive into their national laws. This leaves member states exactly 6 months to implement the directive and so it is time to take stock of the implementation status in various Member States. 

So far not a single EU Member State has fully implemented the provisions of the Directive and only two Member States have implemented parts of it (In 2019 France implemented the new press publishers’ right and in June of this year Hungary implemented the exception for online educational use). In most of the EU Member States implementing legislation still needs to be introduced into parliament. In the meantime, the European Commission is still working on the implementation guidance for Article 17 that it is required to publish, and the Polish government’s request to annul parts of Article 17 is still under deliberation in the Court of Justice of the European Union (the Advocate General will publish its opinion on the 22nd of April 2021 less than two months before the end of the implementation deadline). All in all it looks increasingly unlikely that most Member States will implement the Directive in time. So let’s take a more detailed look at where the implementation process stands in key Member States. 

Commission’s Guidance

The European Commission closed its targeted consultation on the implementation guidance in September and is currently working on a final version of its guidance that is not expected to be adopted before early next year. The Commission has made it clear that it does not expect key elements of the guidance to substantially change from its earlier draft, which is designed to limit the use of automated filters and requires that user uploads remain available while they are under dispute It seems that the Commission is unwilling to bow to the considerable pressure from some Member States and from rightholders to change key elements of the draft guidance. Continue reading

Implementation update: French Parliament gives carte blanche, while the Netherlands correct course.

Le Francois L'Hollandois
Dutch parliament strengthens user rights
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Back in January of this year, we noted how both the Netherlands and France (at that point the only Member States that had presented proposals to implement Article 17) had proposed selective implementations of Article 17 that ignored crucial user rights safeguards. A lot has happened since January, but yesterday both Member States took further steps in their national implementations. And this time the two Member States are moving in opposite directions: 

While the Dutch government has reacted to criticism from civil society and members of Parliament by fixing some of the most obvious shortcomings of its implementation law, the 2nd chamber of the French Parliament has adopted a law that gives the French government the power to implement Article 17 (and the rest of the provisions of the DSM directive) however it sees fit. 

Netherlands: a course correction

Back in July of 2019, the Netherlands were the first country to propose an implementation law of the DSM directive. Somewhat surprisingly (the Netherlands had been one of the most vocal opponents of Article 17 in the Council) the proposed implementation law did not make any efforts to protect user rights and omitted most of the user rights safeguards contained in the final version of Article 17. After the proposal was sent to Parliament in June this year, together with Bits of Freedom and others we pointed out these shortcomings to the members of the legal affairs committee. Yesterday, in response to questions from members of the legal affairs committee, the government conceded that its original implementation proposal was incomplete and added the missing user rights safeguards to the proposal for an implementation law. Continue reading