Strong voice of civil liberties organisations against censorship in copyright framework

Don't censor the internetLicentie

Anyone following copyright debate may have an impression it is all about “money, money, money” (Abba). In COMMUNIA we believe that such an approach shows deep misunderstanding about the function of copyright. Copyright is just one angle of approaching more broader challenge, namely providing a just framework for to access to knowledge, information and culture. A well balanced copyright system is one of the fundamental underpinnings of a knowledge-based society.

Possibly the strongest challenge to such as system is are the proposals for forcing online platforms to filter all content uploaded by their users, put down in article 13 of the proposed Directive on copyright in the Digital Single Market. We have underlined many times before that proposed regulation will have a chilling effect on sharing content, access to information and the the ability to operate open platforms online.

Today, over 50 NGOs (including COMMUNIA) representing human rights and media freedom have send today an open letter to the European Commission President, the European Parliament and the Council asking them to delete the content filter mechanism. This letter comes ahead of a crucial vote in the European Parliament’s Civil Liberties committee, in which the MEPs tasked with upholding our fundamental freedoms will give their opinion on the upload filters that the Commission wants to introduce through article 13. The signatories of the letter, which include many prominent human rights organisations like the Freedom of the Press Foundation, Human Rights Watch and Reporters without Borders, believe that the mechanism introduced through article 13:

  • would violate the freedom of expression set out in the Charter of Fundamental Rights;
  • provokes such legal uncertainty that online services will have no other option than to monitor, filter and block EU citizens’ communications.; and,
  • includes obligations on internet companies that would be impossible to respect without the imposition of excessive restrictions on citizens’ fundamental rights.

If the European Union decides to approve the European Commission’s proposal, this would constitute an unprecedented step towards building an online censorship infrastructure. Similar filtering obligation have previously been rejected in the context of preventing terrorism and hate speech. Continue reading

EU Council: divided on more rights for press publishers, but backs censorship filters

Karikatuur van Franse censoren
A step towards mandatory upload filters
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Summer is definitely over in Brussels and in member states – everyone seems to be back to work, which means in our case back to the copyright discussion. Yesterday Statewatch published a first compromise proposal by the Estonian Presidency. The document refers only to parts of the Commission’s draft directive, namely Articles 1, 2, and 10 to 16. From the very beginning we have been involved in the discussions on ancillary copyright for press publishers (Art. 11) and the upload filter (Art. 13). On both of these issues the Estonian proposal contains two different approaches, each a fact which further highlights how divisive these provisions are among the member states on article 11. One of the versions somewhat improves the Commission’s proposal while the other one makes it much worse. On article 13 both versions would make the Commission’s already terrible proposal even worse.

Ancillary copyright for press publishers – to be or not to be?

On the issue of new rights for press publishers the Estonian compromise proposal does not really present a compromise. The two versions mark different sides of the spectrum. On the one hand a version that would enact a massive expansion of the rights of publishers that goes well beyond the Commission’s proposal that dealt with rights in digital uses of press publication only. On the other hand, we have a version that does not create new rights while still giving publishers tools to act against infringement.

The first option (which can probably be attributed to France) expands the original bad European Commission’s proposal if it comes to the scope of the ancillary copyright from digital publications to publications published in any media, including on paper (in the proposal the article would also apply to videos and photos). What is even worse, hyperlinking is explicitly included in the scope, as long as such links constitute a communication to the public (in the absence of clear guidance this would open a whole new can of worms). This version would be a clear win for big publishers, and a major restraint for free flaw of information online. Continue reading

Spain’s El Pais newspaper comes out strongly against ancillary copyright madness

Newspapers B&W
A way forward shall be based on cooperation
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One might think that the debate on the ancillary copyright for press publishers is over – both  JURI Rapporteur  MEP Therese Comodini Cachia and IMCO Rapporteur Catherine Stihler rejected the Commission’s proposal to  provide publishers with a competitive advantage by using copyright legislation. Unfortunately, even with such progressive voices, the misconceptions about the ancillary copyright were still visible even during last weeks  Legal Affairs Committee hearing , where MEPs seemed not to understand that aggregators help news outlets gain a larger audience. And the debate in media on this issue was never more heated and polarized.

Strong voice of El Pais

El País, the largest and internationally most renowned Spanish daily newspaper, has published an op-ed strongly criticizing the idea of introducing the ancillary copyright for press publishers:

But anybody who thinks that those rights can be turned into a fortress from which to impose obligatory and inalienable fees is mistaken. This is a model that has been shown to fail in Germany, in 2013, and in Spain in 2014. Then, efforts to impose an obligatory fee on Google for the use of links to news stories provoked a major fall in web traffic for the Axel Springer group and the closure of Google News in Spain.

What is crucial, El Pais understands the value of digital technologies for press publishers, while many others, especially big German publishers, threat internet as a threat for their business model.

Thanks to the new digital technologies, we are able to reach millions of people we would never have been able to using the old, traditional print methods, while at the same time offering our readers more and better stories in real time and in more attractive formats.

The business of selling only print newspapers is over and will not be back. What publishers should do is to  is adjust their business models to benefit from opportunities created by internet, and not asking for more (copy)rights without providing any evidence that more right actually help them (instead of just hurting others).  El Pais voice, coming from a country with first-hand experience of the ancillary copyright, is invaluable in this ongoing debate. Continue reading

MEP Stihler proposes the only solution for proposed press publishers right: delete

Destruction_of_General_Hood's_Ordnance_Train_-_NARA_-_533417
The best option is to delete article 11
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Rapporteur Catherine Stihler of the Committee on the Internal Market and Consumer Protection (IMCO) in her draft opinion on the proposed Copyright in the Digital Single Market Directive, suggests amendments that address many of the issues that we have identified with the proposal. Regarding ancillary copyright, she simply suggests that the best option is to the delete the article 11, which is what we have been advocating for.

The Rapporteur believes that the introduction of a press publishers right under Article 11 lacks sufficient justification. It is true that publishers may face challenges when enforcing licensed copyrights, but this issue should be addressed via an enforcement regulation. Simple changes made to Article 5 of the Enforcement Directive 2004/48/EC, making it also applicable to press publishers, will provide the necessary and appropriate means to solve this matter. The Rapporteur believes that there is no need to create a new right as publishers have the full right to opt-out of the ecosystem any time using simple technical means [emphasis added].

While recognizing the problems of the press publishers in digital era, we believe that all

of them can be addressed by establishing a rule  that press publishers are entitled to enforce the copyrights over the works  that are licensed to them. One way to do this would be by extending Art. 5 of the Enforcement Directive (2004/48/EC) to also apply to press publishers with regard to their licensed works or other subject matter. The other would be for publishers to review their business models and adjust them better to the digital reality. Continue reading

Limiting the snippet levy to commercial use is tangling up an already muddy issue

elsevier
Ancillary copyright: still bad policy
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The Rapporteur Marc Joulaud of the Committee on Culture and Education (CULT) recognises the problem with proposed article 11 regarding protection of press publications concerning digital uses – it can threaten hyperlinking and various ways users use content online. In Communia’s opinion the Commission’s proposal to introduce a right for press publishers is poorly aligned to the objective of modernising the EU copyright framework and adapting it to the challenges of a fast-evolving digital environment. In the light of the above we believe that the only solution is to remove the whole idea from the directive. This is not the approach shared by CULT – instead 3 problematic changes were proposed:

  1. the limitation of the ancillary copyright is only for commercial purposes,
  2. the confusing and vague attempt to carve out snippets, and
  3. the term of protection is to be 3 years, which is still too long for news.

Muddy area’s still unclear

Instead of solving the problem, the Rapporteur Marc Joulaud made everything even more tangled by adding to the proposed scheme the requirement that press publication must be used ‘for commercial purposes’. As we raised before in freedom of panorama discussion, implementing a distinction between commercial and non-commercial use, namely two very vague terms, is never a good idea. It will muddy any legal certainty for citizens engaged in sharing press publications.

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Commission’s proposal on new rights for press publishers: A terrible solution good for no one

Adreskaart voor boekhandel Scheltema en Holkema
won't help publishers, won't help users
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Today we are publishing the third in a series of position papers dealing with the various parts of the European Commission’s proposal for a Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market (see our other papers on the education exception, text and data mining). Today’s paper deals with the Commission’s proposal to introduce new rights in publications available to press publishers for control over the digital use of their content (you can download a pdf version of the paper here). From our perspective, this new right will not only fail to increase publisher revenues, but also decrease competition and innovation in the delivery of news, limit access to information, and create widespread negative repercussions for related stakeholders. For this reason we argue that Article 11 (“Protection of press publications concerning digital uses”) should be removed from the proposal.

Position paper: New Rights for Press Publishers

Copyright already provides rightsholders with a broad range of protections over their creative works, typically lasting for the life of the author plus 70 years. However, the European Commission has proposed new rights in publications available to press publishers for control over the digital use of their content. This new right has been called many things, including a publisher’s right, ancillary copyright, link tax, Google tax.

The Commission’s proposal to introduce a right for press publishers falls outside the EU mandate to establish a Digital Single Market. The case for EU intervention is weak, as it does not meet the requirements of subsidiarity and proportionality. If adopted, the new right for press publishers will decrease competition and innovation in the delivery of news, limit access to information, and create widespread negative repercussions for related stakeholders. Continue reading

Activists push for positive copyright changes at Mozfest

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We need everyone on board
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In Communia Association we are well aware of challenges which copyright reform brought for the whole movement of activists actively engaged in copyright debate. Currently we’re facing the Commission’s proposal that restricts access to information, internet freedoms and threaten digital economy. Moreover, the voice of civil society is not heard in Brussels. Therefore we also believe that one of the biggest challenges for the movement is to motivate everyone, who cares about sharing and creativity. Therefore we took part in Mozfest, the event connecting a global group of people working toward an open, innovative, and censorship-free web.

The most important for us was the opportunity to meet advocates interested in a variety of different areas, including open education, Wikimedians, and those dealing with network neutrality and online censorship. They all have reasons to be interested in the direction of the development of copyright law in Europe, and we did our best to get them them on board with copyright reform actions.

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‘School of Rock(ing) Copyright’ at the CC Europe meeting

School of Rock(ing) Copyright
Mobilising Copyright Reform Advocates
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This post was written by Natalia Mileszyk and Lisette Kalshoven, and also posted on the Creative Commons blog.

Last week at the Creative Commons Europe Meeting in Lisbon, COMMUNIA organised a “School of Rock(ing) Copyright” workshop. Creative Commons affiliates from Poland, the Netherlands, and Portugal joined efforts in sharing knowledge about the current European copyright reform. We examined the political process for updating the copyright rules, and asked for help from other CC Europe affiliates in advocating for positive copyright changes. We were pleased to have around 15 participants from as many EU countries attend the session. Since we’re at a crucial stage within the European legislative process, we were eager to discuss the ins and outs on how we can create a better copyright for Europe.

Why does the CC community care about copyright reform? We all stand for creativity, innovation, access to knowledge, and development. Copyright can both boost or limit these goals, so we are actively involved to make progressive changes to copyright to benefit users, education, and the commons.

What we presented at the workshop

At the ‘school’ we focused on four different areas that people need to know about when engaging in advocacy for copyright reform in Europe. First, we provided a quick overview on ‘Brussels’ and how the different institutions such as the European Commission and Parliament interact. Second, we explained how the legislative process works. The Commission proposal is out, but it’s far from the end of the process! Third, we shared tactics and tips for getting involved in advocacy activities. These often seem obvious, but are very important when interacting with politicians. For example: never ask for anything people can’t give you, and come to the table with clear, concise suggestions. Few politicians have the time to read a 200 page research report, no matter how riveting we think it is! The fourth and last part of our workshop dug into a few key topics within the current copyright reform proposal, including areas such as cultural heritage, education, and research. Continue reading

What does Anne Frank tell us about copyright reform?

Anne Frank campaign cover photo
#readannediary
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On April 26—World Intellectual Property Day—the original, Dutch-language version of The Diary of Anne Frank was published online at annefrank.centrumcyfrowe.pl. With the publication of the original version of the diary, we wanted to highlight the absurdly long copyright terms in the EU. In addition, we wanted to point out that, contrary to the general assumption, the duration of copyright is still not unified across the EU. This leads to the troubling practice of geo-blocking which creates artificial boundaries online. Our posting of the diary online attempts to show the complicated copyright framework for this and similar works, and champions freedom to access to cultural heritage works in the public domain for  creators as well as users. But our campaign appeared to convey an even stronger message.

The campaign raised various concerns with regard to copyright terms and access to culture. We’ve already examined the differences between the three versions of the diary, so we won’t go into that in depth here. Without a doubt, versions A and B did not enter into public domain in the Netherlands due to specific copyright regulations (This is due to a transitional rule in the Dutch copyright act which states that works posthumously published before 1995 will retain copyright — in this case large parts of the original writings will only expire in 2037).

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Don’t bury Chopin’s legacy under a mountain of IPRs

The only known photograph of the famous pianist and composer, taken by Louis Antoine Bisson, public domain.
limitation on public domain is improper?
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The article was written by Marcin Serafin, the head of public policy team in Centrum Cyfrowe

The Poles and French will probably fight for the next few centuries over whether Frederic (or Fryderyk) Chopin was of Polish or French nationality. Both nations view Chopin as a national treasure, and preserve his memory and heritage. And there is no doubt that in both countries copyrights to his work have expired. Contrary to the case of Little Prince, there is absolutely no doubt about this, as Chopin died almost 170 years ago. This is why we were shocked to learn that the National Institute of Fryderyk Chopin (NIFC) not only issued an ordinance protecting his name and public image, but also filed an application to register two trademarks with the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) for all possible classes of products and services using the word “Chopin”. With that, no more “Chopin Hotels”, “Chopin chocolates”, composition of flowers named “Chopin bouquet” or any other product without a license, is possible. 

First, let’s understand the facts. The EUIPO database holds 26 trademarks and 4 designs (some registered, some refused or rejected) with the “Chopin” element. Two of the trademarks have been filed on behalf of the NIFC for a wide variety of products and services. Also, NIFC has drafted a long list of terms and conditions users will need to agree to in order be able to use their Chopin trademark. Applications are reviewed by a board and if approve – the licensing fees are imposed. The board sets the rules to which a  license may be obtained for use of the trademark. There are 8 applicable licensed uses, including “music with patriotic messaging”, “European high culture”, “high esthetical value”, and “mastership or highest quality.”Continue reading