Our study “Educational Licences in Europe” is out now

Licence priority sounds even worse now

The European Union is coming closer to approving a mandatory educational exception that may address some of the limitations copyright law places on everyday educational activities. However, the current proposal for a Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market would allow licences that are easily available in the market to take precedence over the educational exception.

Our new report “Educational Licences in Europe“, covering the analysis of 10 agreements in Finland, France, and the United Kingdom, shows that educational licences contain terms and conditions disadvantageous to schools:Continue reading

Licenses: we are past copyright

The finish in the great match race [...] at Sheepshead Bay, N.Y., June 25th, 1890 between Salvator and Tenny / L.M.
Copyright exceptions should win this race

We have been arguing for quite sometime now that handing out the power to define the scope of users rights to right holders – in the form of license agreements that they can (almost unilateral) draft and frame as they wish – is bad. Really bad: licenses fragment the legal framework that mandatory exceptions try to harmonize; licenses contain abusive terms or impose obligations on users that are not foreseen in the laws; and licenses have a huge impact on national budgets.

Unfortunately, this message has not come through to all, or not everyone understands what we are saying, or worse right holders have done a nice job in convincing lawmakers that’s the right way to go.

Allowing licenses to override exceptions is the only treat that publishers want

The current copyright reform carried the promise of being a landmark in the history of the EU copyright law. Lawmakers would finally show they understand that copyright is not superior to any of the other fundamental rights that every constitutional law across Europe grants to their citizens, and would make things right. Sadly, however, the prospects of that being the case for education are now very low.

MEPs passed the last year negotiating the scope of the educational exception. On the one hand, those who side with schools, teachers and students, proposed amendments to eliminate some of the constraints that the educational exception contains. On the other hand, those who side with publishers have been pushing for more restrictions, in order to narrow down the scope of the proposed exception even further.

Not enough MEPs understood that the most problematic aspect of art. 4 is not the scope of the mandatory exception (n.º 1) but the fact that Member States may choose not to apply such mandatory exception if licenses covering those uses are easily available in the market (n.º 2).

It is our understanding that publishers could not care less about the scope of the educational exception, provided that they can rule out the application of said exception with their own license agreements. This is copyright “taking the back seat”, as Professor Niva Elkin-Koren would put it.Continue reading

Open Letter challenges Portuguese Government’s position on art. 13

Today, a group of Portuguese organizations, including an important innovation acceleration hub, software companies, free culture and users rights advocates, and the Portuguese association of librarians, archivists and documentalists, sent an open letter to the Portuguese Government asking to the Government to reconsider its position in relation to art. 13 (the proposal to require online platforms to filter all uploads by their users).

As we have noted before, Portugal is, along with France and Spain, one of the countries that supports the Commission’s plan to force online platforms to install upload filters that would prevent any uses of copyright protected not explicitly approved by rightsholders. Portugal has also been pushing forward amendments proposed by the French Government that would significantly change the way online platforms operate. Under the rules proposed by the French, operating open platforms would only be possible with permission from rights holders.

Portugal can still make it right!

The signatories of the letter acknowledge the negative impact that such proposals would have on the fundamental rights of the Portuguese citizens and on the booming Portuguese ecosystem of startups and entrepreneurs, which is as important to the Portuguese economy as the tourism industry. They, thus, ask to the Portuguese Government to depart from its initial position, which privileges the interests of a small class of commercial copyright holders, and to embrace the future of digital innovation instead.

This open letter is yet another reminder that copyright policy cannot be based on the interests of commercial rightsholders alone and a reminder that it is important to challenge the positions of national governments on this important issue (see this helpful overview by MEP Julia Reda for other governments that need to be reminded that we need copyright rules that embrace the future instead of the past).

The defense of education at the World Intellectual Property Organization

Fighting for minimum international standards!

As we reported last month, Communia attended the 35th session of WIPO’s Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights (SCCR), which took place from 13 – 17 November in Geneva. The SCCR has a mandate to discuss limitations and exceptions to copyright, including for educational purposes. While Communia supports efforts to reach minimum international standards of exceptions and limitations to copyright in all the different areas that are currently under discussion (libraries, museums, archives, persons with disabilities, and education), our role there is specifically to support the dialogue on educational exceptions.

Why is it important to have baseline international standards?  

First, it’s a question of educational equity. The different treatments of education by copyright laws all over the world result in huge discrepancies in the way education is provided, thus increasing the inequality in educational outcomes. Educators in countries with none or poorly designed education exceptions have to be extremely careful when selecting the teaching materials they will use in educational activities or they can risk civil and criminal action for copyright infringement. Meanwhile, in countries that have strong, well-drafted copyright exceptions, teachers have the freedom to choose and use whichever materials they feel are most adequate for their instructional activities.Continue reading

SCCR/35 Communia questions to Professor Daniel Seng


Today, at the 35th session of the WIPO Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights, Professor Daniel Seng presented his Updated Study and Additional Analysis of Study on Copyright Limitations and Exceptions for Educational (SCCR/35/5 REV).

Communia is a permanent observer of the Committee, and the following questions were made by me on its behalf:

Good morning, ladies and gentleman.

I’m speaking on behalf of COMMUNIA International Association on the Digital Public Domain.

We would like to thank the Secretariat for arranging for the update and expansion of the study on educational exceptions, and Professor Seng for conducting such study.

We have a few questions for Professor Seng regarding flexibilities, limitations and exceptions to TPM protection in the context of education.

According to your study, about 60% of WIPO Member States do not provide for flexibilities, limitations and exceptions to the protection of technological protection measures. Those findings are very concerning because, according to an impact assessment study conducted by the European Commission in 2016, technological restrictions are the most frequently encountered copyright-related obstacle by users of digital works in education: 31,2% of educators and 36,9% of learners stated that they “are not able to access, download, use or modify a digital work because of technological protection”.

When anti-circumvention laws were drafted at the international level, they were expected to protect TPMs insofar as they restricted acts not authorized by rightsholders. My first question to is if you think that this international legal framework permits users from circumventing technological measures when their aim is to exert their legal rights under the copyright exceptions, and if you believe that it would be appropriate for national laws to allow users to circumvent technological measures in order to exert their rights under educational exceptions?

My second question concerns Member States that do not allow circumvention. In the impact assessment study that I mentioned, mechanisms available to end-users to enforce their rights to use TPM-protected works, without circumventing the TPMs, were only identified in 8 EU countries, which means that 20 EU countries are doing nothing to ensure that their teachers and students can enjoy their rights under national copyright exceptions. Furthermore, even where such mechanisms exist, they can be very burdensome. In Germany, Spain and Sweden it is necessary to go to court to get access to the TPM-protected work. In France, Italy, and the United Kingdom, it is necessary to file a complaint with the relevant authorities or open a mediation procedure.

So, my second question to you is: what are the mechanisms available to teachers and students to enforce their rights to use TPM-protected works in those Member States that do not permit the circumvention of the TPMs?

Finally, I would like to know which country do you think has the most adequate provisions to ensure that beneficiaries of exceptions and limitations for educational purposes can legitimately access and use TPM-protected works?

SCCR/35 Communia statement on limitations and exceptions for education


In our capacity of permanent observers of the WIPO Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights, we are attending the 35th session of the Committee, which is taking place in Geneva from 13 to 17 November 2017.

The following is the statement made by Teresa Nobre on our behalf on agenda item 7: Limitations and exceptions for educational and research institutions and for persons with other disabilities.

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The European Parliament should be talking about DRM, right now!

Anti-circumvention laws have to be fixed!

The European Union is currently discussing a reform of its copyright system, including making mandatory certain copyright exceptions, in order to introduce a balance into the system. However, no one, except Julia Reda, is paying any attention to one of the biggest obstacles to the enforcement of copyright exceptions in the digital age: technological protection measures (TPM), including digital rights management (DRM). In this blogpost we will present the reasons why the European Parliament should not lose this opportunity to discuss a reform of the EU anti-circumvention rules.

No balance between anti-circumvention prohibitions and users rights

The InfoSoc Directive incorporates rules regarding the protection of TPM in articles 6 and 7, which do not adequately take into account users rights created by copyright exceptions and limitations. First, Member States are only obliged to guarantee that users can access and use a TPM-protected work in relation to a closed-list of “privileged exceptions”. Beneficiaries of the remaining exceptions are not able to exercise their rights when a work is protected by TPM. Second, only certain privileged users—those who already have legal access to the work—have the right to require the technical means to benefit from the selected exceptions. Finally, the rules that are aimed to protect users do not apply to on-demand online services.

According to the European Parliament’s 2015 impact assessment study, the EU anti-circumvention rules are intend to restrict the exercise of users rights under the exceptions: 

The very narrow scope of application of this mechanism evidences a clear intent of the InfoSoc Directive to restrict considerably the enforcement of copyright exceptions in light of their increased economic impact in the new electronic environment (cf. Recital 44). (pg. I-84)

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IMCO compromise on education could have aimed higher

Tuin met parterre met labyrint en op de achtergrond een poort
Don't leave educators with a licensing labyrinth!

As reported last week, the voting of the Internal Market Committee on the Draft Opinion on the proposed DSM Directive was full of plot twists, but none related to the issue of education. The Committee adopted its compromise amendment to article 4 and it was applauded by many, since this amendment offers a better solution to the obstacles faced by educators and learners across Europe than the Commission’s proposal. Yet, the educational exception resulting from this compromise is still not suitable to the modern needs of educators and learners across Europe.

Giving preference to new licenses is always a bad idea

The IMCO amended article 4(2) in order to give precedence only to extended collective licensing (ECL) schemes. This shows appreciation of the weak position of educational institutions to negotiate individual licenses, and thus represents a progress in relation to the Commission’s proposal. However, it’s not enough to guarantee that the new exception will not simply be replaced by ECL schemes all over Europe. 

The ECL schemes have been in existence in the Nordic countries for a long time now, and there’s a general understanding that they have to be protected in those countries. We cannot overemphasize the fact that the term “limitation” in article 4(1) encompasses compulsory or statutory licenses. On the other hand, works of authors that opt out from voluntary licenses will fall under the exception anyway. In other words, maintaining article 4(2) is not that relevant.

What policy makers that want to protect the public interest related to education should worry about is that ECL may be exported to countries with no tradition whatsoever of implementing such schemes. These are also countries which currently do not foresee any compensation for most or all of the uses made under their educational exceptions. They might be forced to introduced compensation, based on the proposed law.Continue reading

Copyright and Education in Europe: 15 everyday cases in 15 countries

Copyright and Education in Europe: 15 everyday cases in 15 countriesLicentie

Today we publish the findings of a new study carried out by Teresa Nobre that intends to demonstrate the impact exerted by narrow educational exceptions in everyday practices. She accomplishes this purpose by analysing 15 educational scenarios involving the use of protected materials under the copyright laws of 15 European countries: the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain and the United Kingdom.

Almost no case law was analysed, and uses permitted under licenses, namely extended collective licenses, are not indicated here. Thus, the study does not give a detailed picture of all the countries under analysis.

Materials available for educational uses

This study confirms what we have known for a long time: that not all copyrighted works are treated equally in the context of education. Some educational exceptions exclude the use of certain types of works (textbooks and academic books in France and Germany, dramatic works and cinematographic works in Denmark and Finland and musical scores in France and Spain). Other laws contain restrictions in relation to the extent or degree to which a work can be used for educational purposes, thus creating obstacles to the use of entire works, namely short works (e.g. individual articles, short videos and short poems) and images (e.g. artworks, photographs and other visual works).

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JURI rapporteur take on education is not in tune with everyday practices

Allegorie op het onderwijs
Education deserves more attention

For several months now, we have been arguing that ‘the devil is in the detail’ when it comes to the Commission’s education proposal. MEP Therese Comodini Cachia draft amendments to the proposed exception for digital and cross-border teaching activities, while introducing some improvements, do not meet the educational community expectations to see a better copyright reform. And, worst still, they represent a serious step back in relation to the existing EU acquis in the area of educational exceptions.

The licensing fight continues

We appreciate MEP Comodini efforts to mitigate the negative impact of article 4(2), which allows Member States to give precedence to licenses over the proposed exception. However, we believe she misses the opportunity of getting rid of the Commission’s infamous proposal, while still protecting the extended collective licensing (ECL) schemes that exist in the Nordic countries.

Under the Commission’s proposal, any licensing offer could rule out the application of the education exception, thus negating much of the substance and effectiveness of the exception. MEP Comodini seems to recognize that many educational institutions would be ill-placed to negotiate license terms or would be forced to accept the terms dictated by the licensor, and thus introduced some substantial changes to article 4(2). Under Ms. Comodini’s proposal, the unilateral and discretionary offer of the rightholder to conclude a licensing agreement is not sufficient to deny the educational establishment concerned the right to benefit from the educational exception. An existing contractual relation is needed to override the exception.Continue reading