There are many controversial things about current european copyright reform. We mainly hear about the fear of censorship of user-generated content or attempt to introduce something called ‘link tax’ to ensure press publishers right to control over the digital use of their content. But education? There are not many people, who will disagree that what Europe needs right now is a modern education system enhancing creativity, innovation and economic growth. Not to mention the importance of lifelong learning and the need of improving the quality and efficiency of education. Still repeated demand for digital skills and competences sounds like a cliche. You can find all of it well written down in EU documents and programs concerning education and training. So, there is one important question – why, when dealing with copyright issues, all these great ideas about the importance of education get forgotten?
The last weekend of October in London, Mozilla organised Mozfest, its annual festival for the open internet movement. Mozilla wants to enable communities to contribute to making the internet a healthy place. The festival serves as a platform where civil society organisations, artists, journalists, copyright experts and other creators can come together to share and discuss the issues close to their hearts.
At Mozfest, COMMUNIA organised two session on copyright issues. We wanted to explain the role it plays online, but also to reimagine copyright that could support, and not hinder, new forms of creativity.
Between 18-20 September we travelled to Ljubljana to attend the 2nd World Open Educational Resources Congress, organized by UNESCO. Our aim was to raise awareness about educational exceptions as complementary means for achieving the goals of Open Education.
Unfortunately, the new Ljubljana OER Action Plan, adopted by UNESCO members at the Congress, does not include actions related to copyright reform. We will continue working with the UNESCO OER policy community to change this.
Educational exceptions, and other issues related to how copyright law regulates education, have traditionally not been considered by the OER stakeholders. The Paris OER Declaration, which was the result of the first UNESCO OER Congress in 2012, failed to see educational exceptions as means of facilitating use and reuse of resources in education.
Our session, titled “Right Copyright for Education Worldwide” aimed to raise awareness about the importance of copyright law, and encourage OER stakeholders to get involved in copyright reform processes around the world. The session was organized in co-operation with the Slovenian Intellectual Property Institute.
Last Wednesday, June 21st, COMMUNIA organised an event in the European Parliament, hosted by MEP Marietje Schaake (ALDE) on copyright reform for education. We wanted to share one important voice often overlooked in the copyright reform, that of the educator. What is the type of copyright exception that we need to support 21st century education? We heard from practitioners, experts and policymakers during the event.
After an introduction by Marietje Schaake and moderator Lisette Kalshoven, we officially presented the results of the RIGHTCOPYRIGHT campaign to MEP Schaake. As Alek Tarkowski noted:
“In the copyright reform debate, we tend to see copyright as a core issue. For educators, copyright is a tool – or a barrier – to attaining educational goals. We should not forget this.”
Over 4800 people have supported the petition for a better copyright reform for education to date, and we hope MEP’s will listen to their demands.
What we can’t let educators share
Next we heard from Hans deFour, founder of KlasCement a very successful online educational resources platform in Belgium. More than 70.000 educators from Flanders are members, which means almost 50% of educators in primary, secondary and special education. Continue reading
Now that most of the committees have published their draft opinions on the Commission’s Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market, it’s time to hear their members presenting their initial views. JURI hosted a meeting on 22 March where MEPs voiced a range of opinions on various aspects of the copyright reform proposal. The divide between the MEPs seems to run deeper than mere disagreements on definitions; instead, they underscore a fundamental schism in the MEPs’ understanding of the world we live in.
Some MEPs reacted to the copyright reform proposal using a 20th century ordering of the world, where mass-scale creative industries emerged and eventually were consolidated. For MEPS such as Jean-Marie Cavada (ALDE, France) or Angelika Niebler (EPP, Germany) the world has not changed all that much in terms of where important stuff happens. Cavada and Niebler think publishers and other rightsholders produce all the real value, while the internet and new sharing technologies is like a portable TV that that main purpose of is to constantly rip them off.
Seeing the world like that, it’s no wonder that they mostly approve of the European Commission’s original proposal, and oppose reforms that champion users’ rights, which for the most part they see as legitimizing tech-enabled theft. There is no coincidence that many of those creative industry backers are from France and Germany, countries that built their considerable entertainment industries well before the digital era.
The bi-annual meeting of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights (SCCR) took place last week in Geneva. Teresa Nobre and Alek Tarkowski participated in the meeting on behalf of Communia, which has observer status. We were particularly interested in the debate on exceptions for education.
As Communia, we have until now focused our policy work on the European Union (albeit we were present at WIPO, as observers, briefly for debates on the public domain in 2012). We decided to start attending SCCR meetings in order to address the issue of good copyright for education also at global level. We hope that we can contribute to set out a global education exception.
In Geneva, we joined a broad coalition of civil society organizations and groups, and representatives of public interest institutions such as libraries or archives that have been participating in these meetings. Our particular focus is on education, an issue that until now has not been strongly represented by civil society observers at WIPO. We are hoping to change this situation. Delia Browne, who represented Creative Commons as a representative of Creative Commons Australia, joined us at the meeting.
The issue of exceptions and limitations to copyright has been on the WIPO agenda for years. In 2013, the Marrakesh Treaty was signed, requiring all WIPO members to provide a domestic copyright exception that allows the creation of accessible versions of books and other copyrighted works for visually impaired persons. The exception secured by the treaty is an important win, and a clear evidence that a global copyright standard that supports public interest can be established through the WIPO process.Continue reading
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.
In the copyright reform process, according to MEP Therese Comodini Cachia, the European Parliament is not looking for polarized stakeholder opinions. Instead, it is looking for data and evidence. On September 8 in Brussels we delivered on the latter by showing there is still a chance to unlock the copyright for users. As to what MEPs don’t need, polarization may be difficult to avoid as long as legitimate users’ interests are considered to harm traditional copyright revenue streams.
Our event “Copyright reform – unlocking copyright for users?”—which we organized together with EDRi and hosted by MEPs Comodini Cachia (EPP) and Carlos Zorrinho (S&D)—gathered a full house in the European Parliament on a sunny afternoon. Representatives of digital rights’ organizations, creative industries, publishers, collecting societies, and artists were eager to talk about the future of copyright in the light of the imminent publication of the Commission’s copyright reform proposals.
Complain, and then move forward
From the perspective of COMMUNIA and EDRi the leaked drafts of the Commission’s proposal presents a grim picture, where all ambitious attempts to adjust copyright to the challenges of the digital economy were replaced by a focus on propping up existing revenue streams. If the leaked proposals are measured against EDRi’s list of copyfails, almost none of the points identified as necessary to address are covered by the draft legislation. Those that are addressed are only superficial fixes to the existing state of affairs. The leaked proposal is like the new ACTA, as EDRi’s Diego Naranjo put it. Continue reading
Last January, COMMUNIA invited creators to share thoughts about their relationship with the public domain. They spoke at the Public Domain Day 2016 event we organised in the European Parliament, hosted by MEP Julia Reda. We learned from their experiences that copyright can be perceived as a hurdle for creators, that sharing your work into the public domain can make businesses grow, and that the reuse of materials of which the copyrights have expired can lead to beautiful new things happening.
Sebastiaan ter Burg made a great video about this event. Watch and learn how a stronger public domain can foster culture and innovation in Europe:
2016 promises to be a crucial year with regard to the future of the public domain. Later this year the European Commission will—for the first time in over 15 years—propose changes to the EU copyright rules. This provides the opportunity to adopt policies that will strengthen the public domain. You can read more here on how COMMUNIA thinks that can be done.
How to secure user rights in education? This was the question we asked during a policy debate organised by Communia and hosted by MEP Michał Boni in the European Parliament on the 17th of November. Panelists, politicians and stakeholders participating in this debate discussed two approaches: the creation and use of Open Educational Resources (OER), and a progressive copyright reform for education.
While these issues are usually presented separately, as Communia we see them as two aspects of a single effort to ensure user rights in education. This two-path approach has been acknowledged at least since 2013, when the Creative Commons community argued that the movement behind open licensing policies needs to be involved in the copyright reform debate as well. Today in Europe, we are facing both developments related to OER policies (related to the Opening Up Education initiative, launched in 2013), and a copyright reform process in which education has been highlighted by the EC to be one of key areas for modernisation of copyright.Continue reading