Repeal the sui generis database right

Tuin met parterre met labyrint en op de achtergrond een poort
the Directive no one asked for
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The European Commission has launched a public consultation on the application and impact of the Database Directive on legal protection of databases. The Directive offers copyright protection for original databases and creates a new right called the sui generis right to protect databases on which major investments have been made. In the light of this consultation Communia has published its view on the Database Directive in its 12th policy paper. You can read the entire policy paper here.

The Directive aimed to remove existing differences in the legal protection of databases by harmonising the rules that applied to copyright protection. In addition it wanted to safeguard interests of businesses and users alike, namely the investment of database makers, and ensure that the legitimate interests of users of information contained in databases were secured. Continue reading

Keeping an eye on the fine print: the UGC exception and the JURI committee

Stańczyk
an 'exception' without protection
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The copyright reform remains an exceptional opportunity to close the discrepancies between present-day practices and outdated law. One of the pressing issues is solving the legal uncertainty for users and creators online. Creating online is part of our digital culture and whether it is allowed or not, occurs everyday. There continues to be a lack of legal clarity on how to deal with user-generated content made for non-commercial purposes ranging from funny memes to elaborate works that critique and reflect on the society we live in.

The European Commission’s proposal for the Copyright Directive lacks a user-generated content exception. This is worrisome, because it does introduce an article that could possibly lead to filtering content generated by users even though much of that content does not harm rightsholders. The recent IMCO vote where an exception for user-generated content (UGC) was adopted is a positive step forward in getting a UGC exception in the final Copyright Directive. However, we can’t let our guard down yet. JURI, the most important committee, will vote on its amendments later this year and it yet has to prove it will follow the precedence set by IMCO.

Opposition to the UGC exception

JURI led by Comodini did not incorporate a UGC expectations in its draft opinion. It hereby deviates from the other draft opinions such as those from the IMCO and CULT committee. Therefore a UGC exception can only be included via the proposed amendments by the MEPs. There are several committee members who have proposed amendments for the JURI committee either along the lines of the one proposed by Marc Joulaud, the Rapporteur for the CULT committee, or the one by Catherine Stihler, the Rapporteur for the IMCO committee.

Even though this is encouraging, there is a specific reason for concern. One of the proposed amendments for the JURE committee concerning a UGC exception stands out, because it negates the positive effects of a possible UGC exception. Yes, you read that right. It’s done in a clever, but harmful way. Continue reading

Launched: rightcopyright.eu campaign for better education

Portret van Deborah Delano lezend, James Abbott McNeill Whistler, 1858
Raising our voice for education
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Today, COMMUNIA launches the rightcopyright.eu campaign, asking for support for a better copyright for education. Let’s raise our voices and spread the word about this petition so we can influence our legislators in creating better copyright laws for education.

Why we need your help

The European Commission has presented a new European copyright law (Draft Directive) to the European Parliament which very much impacts education. Unfortunately, the current proposal is very disappointing and does not facilitate education. Educators have embraced the modern possibilities, and so should copyright. Therefore, COMMUNIA has developed a campaign website rightcopyright.eu to collect petitions of educators throughout Europe to let the European Parliamentarians know we need a better copyright for education. The European parliament will vote on the proposal later this year, and can change, accept or reject it. We will present the outcomes of the petition in the European Parliament, clearly showing them the voice of the European citizens eager for a good-quality education, and a copyright that matches.

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Rapporteur Stihler wants to protect users from content filtering

Vue du théatre taillé dans le roc, près du jardins de la maison de plaisance d'Hellenbrunn (!) pris du dehors.
The filter must go, and so should article 13
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Catherine Stihler, Rapporteur of the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection (IMCO) released her draft opinion on the proposed Copyright in the Digital Single Market Directive. In this opinion, Stihler rightly states that article 13, which proposes to implement content filter mechanisms that would block some of users’ uploads, fails to achieve its purpose. She tries to make sure rightsholders and creators would receive a fair and balanced compensation for the exploitation of their work without negatively impacting the digital economy or internet freedoms of consumers. Acting on this, Stihler tries to fix article 13. However, we believe that the only appropriate response is to delete it altogether.

The filter must go

It is commendable that in her opinion MEP Stihler explicitly says that any attempt to address the value gap cannot be enforced if it has a negative impact on fundamental rights and internet freedoms of consumers. This is something the potential beneficiaries of the proposed article seem to ignore.

Explaining why the upload filter must be removed, MEP Stihler states that filter machines are not capable nor suitable to take into account user rights such as exceptions and limitations. This is something all the opponents of the upload filter, including COMMUNIA, have pointed out before. Therefore in her amendments she rightfully removes all references to the ‘effective’ recognition technologies, which would make the Directive text more technology neutral and future-proof. Continue reading

Rapporteur CULT preserves upload filters in draft opinion

Experiment met luchtledige bol, Valentine Green, after Joseph Wright of Derby, 1768
upload filters should be removed from the proposal
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Marc Joulaud, the rapporteur for the Culture and Education Committee of the European Parliament, points out in his draft opinion issued last week that the Commission’s copyright proposal ignores many of the most pressing concerns of internet users. At the same time, he fails to deliver adequate solutions to these problems. In this post we discuss his proposed amendments concerning the exception for user-generated content (UGC), and Article 13. The inclusion of a UGC exception is a step in the right direction. But the proposed amendments to Article 13, the section which introduces a filtering obligation for online platforms that allow users to upload content, make the already-harmful article even worse for users.

Adding a vague definition of ‘digital content platforms’

Joulaud recognizes that the scope of services potentially affected by Article 13 is quite unclear.

It is the Rapporteur’s opinion that the proposal does not define with enough precision the scope of services falling under the requirements of Article 13 of this Directive, creating legal uncertainty and a potential broader effect.

However, the solutions he proposes do not strengthen the legal certainty for those entities who might be covered under the article; they make it worse. Joulaud proposes a new definition of entities obliged to use upload filters called ‘digital content platforms’. This definition is aimed to center around the principle purpose of services instead of the activity of storing. The draft opinion is unclear regarding which information society service providers would count as ‘digital content platforms’, and it’s also uncertain whether these platforms would still receive the protection of the liability limitations of the eCommerce Directive. Just like the Commission’s proposal—which remains vague on how it will affect the safe harbor protection—Joulaud’s suggested amendment doesn’t provide any more clarity to the situation.

Upload filters don’t—and can’t—respect user rights

The most important flaw of the draft opinion is that even though Joulaud seems aware of the importance of user rights, he still tries to reconcile ‘effective’ content recognition technologies with user rights, including exceptions and limitations and freedom of expression. This is an impossible task. Continue reading

In defense of the everyday creator

A woman shouting into a man's ear-trumpet. Wood engraving.
Let's legalise everyday creations
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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. COMMUNIA is happy to participate in this initiative and ready to share his thoughts on the topic of today: “21st Century Creators”.

The principle of supporting 21st century creators is the idea that ‘copyright law should account for the interests of all creators, not just those backed by traditional copyright industries. YouTube creators, remixers, fan artists and independent musicians (among others) are all part of the community of creators that encourage cultural progress and innovation.’

Technological developments in the 21st century have opened many new possibilities for creators to create and distribute their works. With digital technologies and the web, it’s super easy to copy and share creativity. It’s also simple for users to take and share the work of others without their permission. And while some of this copying and sharing could likely be copyright infringement, there are other types of sharing that should be permitted. The problem is that our law are sometimes ill-equipped to make a distinction. For example, everyday harmless creations on the internet are an infringement of copyright, such as creating a funny meme based on a copyrighted work. We believe that these sort of everyday actions—including remixing or transforming existing works into new creativity—should be possible without breaking the lawContinue reading

Join us in the fight for good copyright for education

Johan de Witt 's nachts op straat aangevallen
Copyright should facilitate education
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COMMUNIA organised the first meeting of our new project ‘Copyright for Education’ at the beginning of December. We invited over a dozen stakeholders and experts from the education field, from organisations such as Wikimedia Deutschland and the Reading and Writing foundation. One of the essential questions of the meeting was how can we collaborate for a better copyright for education. We want the broad education sector to have a voice in the current copyright reform.

The transformation of education

Participants in our meeting discussed how technological developments have opened a lot of new opportunities for educators. It has become easier to share and collaborate with one another, even when you are miles apart – as proven by the European eTwinning project. Many organisations and schools are already working on transforming education in the digital age. They are adapting the mindset of Erasmus, the European exchange program that enables EU students to study abroad, to the way they share, teach and collaborate.

Yet copyright does not adapt quickly enough to keep up. Everyone at our workshop was able to share concrete examples of copyright problems in education from their own experience. For example, for many teachers it is unclear if and how they can share material as simple as a poem. They do not always know if they can link it in an email sent directly to their students or should put the link in the closed network of the school. We cannot simply attribute this to a lack of knowledge on copyright. Copyright should be clear and consistent, so that you do not have to be a copyright expert alongside being a teacher.Continue reading