The Netherlands leads way with implementation of the new educational exception

Dutch Ship
Simple implementation, without the license override mechanism
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Just one month after the new Copyright in the Digital Single Market Directive went into force, the Dutch government has shared their proposal for its implementation, through an amendment of their existing copyright law. The proposal is currently in a public consultation phase.

We would like to provide here an overview of the Dutch proposal to implement locally the new EU educational exception (article 5 in the final version of the Directive). This is the beginning of our effort to track how countries across Europe will implement, over the coming two years, this mandatory exception to copyright for educational purposes.

We are in particular interested in three issues that have been our concern during the legislative debate on this exception:

  • Are Member States introducing the controversial article 5(2), through which they have the option to make the exception no longer applicable and available to educational establishments if “suitable licenses are easily available on the market (what we call the issue of “license priority”);
  • What is the scope of the exception:
    • How are educational institutions and staff defined?
    • Will the educational community be able to rely on email, cloud services and other password-protected environments, or will these not be considered “secured electronic environments” under the exception?
    • Will Member States define a priori the extent to which a work can be used, leading to different quantity limits in different countries, or will they let practice and courts (relying on the three-step test) define what is balanced in a given situation?

Choices made on these issues will determine, how broadly – or narrowly – can the exception be depended on. Taken together, they will also create either a harmonized or fragmented legal landscape for teachers and learners across the Union.

  • Are Member States changing remuneration rules for educational uses? Currently, 17 Member States do not remunerate most or all of the used permitted under their existing education exceptions – will this change with the new exception?

The Dutch proposal is a simple amendment that adds two paragraphs to the existing educational exception (article 16 of the Dutch Copyright Law). In relation to our issues of particular concern, we note that the Dutch government:

  • decided not to use the article 5(2) backdoor to hack the new educational exception and make it partially or fully not applicable in the Netherlands, which we applaud (because we believe – along with the CJUE – that users should have the right to benefit from the copyright exceptions that were created for their benefit at all times, and not only when there are no market options for them to get a license for those minimum uses that are protected by the exception);
  • could do more to provide as broad a scope for the exception as possible, within the boundaries set by the Directive;
  • has proposed not to change its approach to remuneration – use of content under the exception requires fair compensation (art. 16.1.5°).

Additionally, the proposal includes an explicit provision against contractual override (art. 16.6), which implements another important element of the new EU educational exception.

We will be working with our Dutch partners in the consultation phase, both to provide feedback on the government’s proposal, and to monitor other responses to the proposal. The consultations are open until 2 September 2019.

Implementing the Copyright Directive: Protecting the Public Domain with Article 14

The Doctor's Dream
Ending the appropriation of Public Domain works
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Article 14 – Works of visual art in the public domain – is one of the very few unambiguously good provisions of the new EU copyright directive. The article is intended to ensure that (digital) reproductions of public domain works cannot be protected by exclusive rights, and as a result, taken out of the public domain. This legislative intervention comes in response to the relatively widespread practice of museums in claiming exclusive rights of digital reproductions of public domain works that they have in their collections and which they make available to the public. In practice this has already led to Spanish Museums claiming copyright over paintings by Dutch masters who have been dead for 350 years, and German museums suing Wikipedia for hosting reproductions of public domain works as part of Wikimedia Commons

What is in the public domain in analogue form is [not always] in the public domain in digital form

While at first glance it seems counterintuitive that a museum should be able to control the rights for artworks of long dead artists, such claims do have a basis in existing law. In general, for a work to be protected under copyright it needs to show “the author’s own intellectual creation.” However, there is another category of copyright-like rights (also called “related rights”) that exist in a number of EU Member States. These related rights schemes grant exclusive rights to the creators of photographic works that do not meet the originality criterion necessary to receive copyright protection (See this 2015 study by Thomas Margoni for more details). Related rights arise even when a reproduction is nothing more than an exact photographic copy of a work. Where copyright protects original artworks, these related rights protect simple copies. 

As museums have started to make works in their collections available online, the practice of relying on related rights to restrict the re-use of non-original reproductions of public domain works has become controversial. Both the Public Domain Manifesto and the Europeana Public Domain Charter demanded that what is in the public domain in analogue form must stay in the public domain in digital form (as does our own policy recommendation #5). While the overall majority of museums have always acted in the spirit of expanding the public domain, and have made reproductions of public domain works available without any restrictions on re-use, a small number of museums from Member States that allow the protection of non-original reproductions of public domain works continue to claim rights over such reproductions. Continue reading

Open Letter: Implementation Guidance on Article 17 Must Include Public Interest Stakeholders

De briefschrijfsterLicentie

On Friday the Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market was published in the Official Journal of the European Union, formally kicking off the implementation phase in which the Directive will be transposed into the national laws of the EU Member States. EU Member States will have until 7 June 2021 to adopt the provisions laid down in the directive into their respective copyright laws.

Today Communia and over 40 organisations sent an open letter to the European Commission calling for an inclusive stakeholder dialogue that incorporates the views of human rights, digital rights, and access to knowledge organisations. The letter was organised by the Civil Liberties Union for Europe (Liberties). It focuses on Article 17 (formerly Article 13), the sweeping provision that alters the liability regime for online platforms by requiring licenses for all user generated uploads, and would lead to platforms having to install content filters lest they become liable for copyright infringement for works that aren’t able to be licensed. The adoption of Article 17 will put fundamental freedoms at risk and set a dangerous precedent for user rights, so it’s absolutely critical that in the implementation the article is transposed with care to protect freedom of expression. From our open letter:

Broad and inclusive participation is crucial for ensuring that the national implementations of Article 17 and the day-to-day cooperation between online content-sharing service providers and rightholders respects the Charter of Fundamental Rights by safeguarding citizens’ and creators’ freedom of expression and information, whilst also protecting their privacy. These should be the guiding principles for a harmonized implementation of Article 17 throughout the Digital Single Market.

Over the entirety of the 30-month reform process, Communia has been advocating for changes to improve the situation for users rights and produce a more balanced copyright system. Article 17 sets platforms up for failure because it is impossible to meet the obligations they have under the mitigation measures and to safeguard user rights at the same time. That’s why it’s important that the stakeholder dialogue and consultations on implementation listen closely to the input from human rights, digital rights, and knowledge communities in order to protect user rights and freedom of expression.

DSM directive adopted – implementation in Member States can still make a difference

Portret van Johann Lutz
Two year implementation period starts now
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Earlier this week, after almost exactly 30 months of legislative wrangling, the EU Member States approved the final compromise of the Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market. It’s the same text that was approved by the European Parliament at the end of March. This means that the Directive will become law as soon as it is published in the Official Journal of the European Union. Judged against our own ideas about a modern EU copyright framework that facilitates access to cultural and information, strengthens user rights and reduces unnecessary copyright infringement, the outcome of EU copyright reform process is a big disappointment. The directive expands the scope of copyright and instead of harmonising copyright rules across the EU member states, it contains measures that will further fragment and complicate the EU copyright framework. Instead of strengthening public interest exceptions to copyright, the directive relies on voluntary licensing by rightholders, giving them the ability to block users’ access.

As a result the final directive does not live up to the “Digital Single Market” label that it carries in its title. The adopted text does very little to harmonise an already complex set of rules among the Member States. Instead, the directive creates additional rules to the system that have been designed to further the (perceived) interests for specific classes of rightholders—most notably the music industry and press publishers. Once the directive has been implemented in the Member States, the EU copyright system will likely be more complex, and thus more difficult and costly to navigate for users and European businesses.

In this regard the provisions of Article 17 (formerly Article 13) remain the most problematic in the entire directive. The article is a legislative monstrosity that will most likely achieve the opposite of what it was intended to accomplish. Instead of establishing clear rules that require commercial content sharing platforms to adequately remunerate the creators of the works that they distribute, it will impose substantial regulatory burdens and create legal uncertainties for years to come. The most likely benefactors of this outcome will be large rightholders and the incumbent dominant platforms. The existing intermediaries within the creative value chain will have the means to navigate the uncertainties and conclude complex licensing arrangements, but users and independent creators at the edges of these value chains will suffer the consequences: They will be presented with fewer distribution platforms to choose from, and they will have less freedom of creative expression.

Implementation can make a difference

With the directive formally adopted by both the Parliament and Council, the fight for a better EU copyright enters into a new phase. The EU Member States will soon have two years to implement the rules established by the directive into their national copyright laws. While such implementations will have to include all the problematic aspects of the directive, there is some room for meaningful improvements, and some measures can be taken to mitigate the worst provisions of the directive. Continue reading