Filtered Futures: a Conference to examine upload filters after the CJEU ruling on Art. 17

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The recent CJEU decision on Article 17 of the copyright directive has defined a framework for the use of automated content moderation. The Court considers filtering obligations compatible with the right to freedom of expression and information as long as they are limited to use cases that allow for a robust automated distinction between legal and illegal content. In the context of Article 17, upload filters may therefore only be used by online platforms to block manifest infringements of copyright law. The Court leaves it up to the Member States to ensure that legal uses remain unaffected by their national transpositions of Article 17.

The judgment raises a host of important questions for the enforcement of copyright law as well as for the compatibility of upload filters with fundamental rights even beyond copyright law. To discuss these consequences, together with Gesellschaft für Freiheitsrechte we are jointly organizing the “Filtered Futures” conference on Monday, September 19th 2022, in Berlin. 

We are inviting papers from all disciplines contributing to the conference theme. To present your work at Filtered Futures, please complete the submission form by July 10th, 2022. The form asks for a short abstract of your talk. All applicants will be notified by July 22th, 2022.

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Twenty copyright policy recommendations for the next decade

On Tuesday, the 31st of May 2022, COMMUNIA presented twenty new policy recommendations that will guide our association’s work for the next decade. We brought together fellow activists, academics, policy makers and other stakeholders from across the copyright policy spectrum in Brussels to celebrate the occasion. Our new policy recommendations build on the principles of the Public Domain Manifesto and replace the previous policy recommendations that have guided our work in the past decade (and which we have evaluated here). 

The event was kicked-off by COMMUNIA president Paul Keller, who in his opening remarks (reproduced in full at the end of this post) argued for the need to put discussion about copyright policy back on the agenda of the EU legislator: three years after the adoption of the DSM directive, it is clear that the EU copyright framework remains a fragmented mess that does not adequately address the needs of users and creators in an increasingly complex digital environment. Paul Keller stressed that COMMUNIA hopes that the new set of policy recommendations will contribute to an open and respectful debate with policy makers and stakeholders from across the copyright policy spectrum about how we can work towards a more just and open EU copyright system that embraces the opportunities offered by digital transformation for users and creators alike. 

In a first reaction, MEP Tiemo Wölken (S&D) welcomed COMMUNIA’s ambition and highlighted the importance of improving the EU copyright framework in the context of ambitions to strengthen the digital public sphere in Europe. See here for a recording of his intervention.

His intervention was followed by the presentation of the new policy recommendations by Paul Keller and Teresa Nobre. In her remarks, Teresa highlighted the evolution of the recommendations to more explicitly address the concerns of both users and creators (instead of users’ rights, the new recommendations focus on usage rights) and the increasing importance of (procedural) safeguards against copyright abuse. Paul and Teresa then walked the audience through the 20 individual recommendations:

The presentation of the recommendations was followed by a reaction from Prof. Séverine Dusollier, who echoed the overall need to reform the EU copyright framework and welcomed the level of ambition contained in the new recommendations. See here for a recording of her reaction.

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Join us for the launch of our new policy recommendations on 31st May in Brussels

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Join us on Tuesday the 31st of May at 1700h at Townhall Europe in Brussels for the launch of the new COMMUNIA policy recommendations followed by a networking reception. We will present the 20 policy recommendations which we have developed with input from leading academics and access to knowledge advocates over the past months and which will guide our work on a more open and just copyright framework for the decade to come. 

Our new policy recommendations address key policy opportunities for EU lawmakers to expand the Public Domain, increase access to and re-use of culture and knowledge and leverage the power of the digital transformation for society.  

The policy recommendations will supersede the 14 existing policy recommendations that have guided our work in the past decade and have made a real contribution to the evolution of the EU copyright framework. On the 31st we will discuss the new policy recommendations with lawmakers, activists and academics. For this, we will be joined by MEP Tiemo Wölken and Professor Severine Dusollier (SciencePo). 

After the launch of the recommendations (and of our new website), there will be a networking reception with the ability to exchange views with the COMMUNIA core team. 

The event is open to everyone subject to registration here. We kindly ask you to confirm your attendance by Friday, May 27th. In case the max. number of registrations is reached, participants will be confirmed on a first-registered, first-served basis.

We are looking forward to toasting to the next decade with you!

Save the date: COMMUNIA’s new policy recommendations to be launched on May 31st

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We are pleased to announce that we will launch the new COMMUNIA policy recommendations on Tuesday, May 31st, at 1700 CET, at Townhall Europe in Brussels.

Less than a year ago, we celebrated COMMUNIA’s 10th anniversary, assessing how its foundational 14 policy recommendations contributed to the expansion of the public domain during the 2011-2021 decade. At that time, we also announced that we would update our policy recommendations for the decade to come.

We have consulted with many copyright experts and key stakeholders over the past months to identify new priorities for the decade to come. That process has now come to an end and we are looking forward to presenting the results publicly, in an in-person event that will bring together EU policymakers and academics. The discussion will be followed by an apéro reception at the venue.

The event is open to everyone subject to registration here. We kindly ask you to confirm your attendance by Friday, May 27th. In case the max. number of registrations is reached, participants will be confirmed on a first-registered, first-served basis.

We are looking forward to toasting to the next decade with you!

COMMUNIA

COMMUNIA Salon on the CJEU decision on Article 17 and the future of upload filters in the EU

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On the 26th of April, the European Court of Justice will hand down its judgement in Case C-401/19 — the Polish challenge of the fundamental rights compliance of Article 17 of the Copyright in the Digital Single Market Directive, which was adopted nearly 3 years ago in April 2019.

On the 28th of April, from 1500h to 1630 CET, we are hosting a virtual COMMUNIA salon to discuss the implications of this highly anticipated judgement and what it means for the national implementations of Article 17. 

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Video recording of the COMMUNIA Salon on the Sui Generis Database Right in the Data Act

On Wednesday the 2nd of March we hosted a Salon on the treatment of the Sui Generis Database Right (SGDR) in the European Commission’s proposal for a Data Act.

Moderated by Paul Keller, the Salon started with Krzysztof Nichczynski (DG Connect, European Commission), who shared insights into the Commission’s thinking on the Sui Generis Database Right and on how it relates to the policy objectives related to increasing access to IoT data and Business to Government data sharing in the Public Interest. This was followed by a presentation by Martin Husovec (Assistant Professor of Law at LSE), who raised a number of concerns about the Commission’s approach and pointed out that there is a need for a more holistic approach to the Sui Generis Database Right. 

After this Felix Reda (former MEP & Project Lead control © at GFF) shed some light on the problematic nature of the Sui Generis Database Right by highlighting ongoing legal actions against open data activists in Germany that are facing civil and criminal liability for allegedly infringing the SGDR covering publicly produced geo-information. In the final Intervention Teresa Nobre (COMMUNIA) expressed our disappointment that the Commission has not conducted a more substantial review of the Database Directive and re-iterated COMMUNIA’s position: that the Sui Generis Database right should be repealed.

The discussion was followed by a Q&A session with the participants.

YouTube Copyright Transparency Report: Overblocking is real

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At least 2.2 million unjustified © actions
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For anyone interested in the discussions about automated content filtering, Christmas came early this week: On Monday YouTube published the first edition of its Copyright Transparency Report. The report that covers copyright enforcement actions on the platform for the period from January to June of this year provides much needed insights into how YouTube’s various copyright management systems function. In publishing this report YouTube is finally bringing some empirical evidence to the discussion about the automated content filtering that is being fuelled by the ongoing implementation of Article 17 of the Copyright in the Digital Single Market (CDSM) directive. In this context it is worth pointing out that the report published on Monday covers a period before the most national implementation of Article 17, which means that the numbers presented in the report reflect the status quo ante and can thus serve as a baseline for assessing the actual impact of Article 17 going forward.

Over-blocking is real

So what can we learn from this first copyright transparency report? The overall take-away is that automated content removal is a big numbers game. In total YouTube processed 729.3 million copyright actions in the first half of 2021 of which the vast majority (99%) were processed via Content ID (as opposed to other tools, such as Copyright Match Tool and the Webform). And while YouTube claims that ContentID is much more accurate and less prone to abuse than its other systems ContentID has still received 3.7 million disputes from uploaders claiming that the actions (these can be blocks/removals but also demonetisation actions) taken against them are unjustified. 60% of these disputes have ultimately been decided in favour of the uploaders, which means that in the first half of 2021 Content ID has generated at least a 2.2 million unjustified copyright actions against its users on behalf of rightholders—The real number is likely to be much higher since research into notice and take down systems suggests that only a small fraction of users whose lawful uploads are removed make use of a complaint procedure that is available to them. In other words, over-enforcement (both unjustified blocking and unjustified demonetisation) is a very real issue that affects the rights of a substantial number of uploaders on a regular basis.

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Our response to the new Austrian copyright implementation proposal

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One step forward two steps back
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When the Austrian government published its implementation proposal for Article 17 in December 2020 we called it “the most realistic implementation proposal yet“. On the 3rd of September the Austrian Ministry of Justice published a draft version of the implementation law covering all provisions of the CDSM directive, which includes revised provisions for implementing Article 17. And while this revised proposal maintains much of the approach contained in the previous draft, it contains some unfortunate regressions that undermine the user rights protections contained in the original draft. 

Earlier this week, together with epicenter.works, Gesellschaft für Freiheitsrechte, Wikimedia Austria, Creative Commons Austria and the Cultural Broadcasting Archive we have submitted extensive comments in response to the new implementation draft (PDF, in German) which we summarise below.

Article 17: A combination of the German implementation and the worst ideas from the Commission guidance

One of the strongest elements of the original implementation proposal was that it combined some of the approaches to safeguarding user rights and to preventing overblocking first put forward by the German Ministry of Justice in its implementation proposals with an attempt to stick as closely as possible to the text of the directive. Where the German implementation proposal (which in the meantime has become law) introduced the provisions implementing Article 17 in an entirely new act, the Austrian proposal includes them into the existing copyright act. The new proposal both maintains this approach and continues to follow the lead of the German legislator when it comes to the user rights safeguards. Unfortunately it combines this approach with introducing some of the worst elements of the Article 17 implementation guidance issued by the Commission earlier this year, the so-called “earmarking” provisions for commercially valuable works that allow right-holders to opt-out of most user rights protections. 

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A Proposal to leverage Article 17 to build a public repository of Public Domain and openly licensed works.

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Today Open Future and Gesellschaft für Freiheitsrechte are publishing a white-paper, authored by Felix Reda (GFF) and Paul Keller (Open Future/COMMUNIA) that proposes to build a public repository of Public Domain and openly licensed works. While the idea of creating repositories of Public Domain and openly licensed works is not new as such, the white paper proposes to use Article 17 of the EU copyright directive as leverage to create such a repository. Aside from its very problematic blocking and liability provisions, which we have criticized since the EU copyright directive’s inception, Article 17 also requires certain providers of online content sharing platforms to ensure that the copyright filters that they deploy “shall not result in the prevention of the availability of works or other subject matter uploaded by users, which do not infringe copyright and related rights”. This provision was added later in the negotiations to address widespread criticism from civil society and academia.

As a result these platforms need to prevent uploads containing Public Domain or openly licensed works from being blocked or removed as a result of copyright claims from (alleged) rightholders or face sanctions. For example, the German implementation of Article 17 explicitly requires that “after an abusive blocking request in respect of works in the public domain or works whose use by anyone is authorised free of charge, service providers must ensure, to the best of their ability […], that these works are not blocked again”.

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COMMUNIA at the CC Global Summit 2021

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This week will see the 2021 edition of the Creative Commons Global Summit 2021. This year’s CC summit celebrates the 20th anniversary of Creative Commons in an all virtual format that takes place over the whole week. As in previous years the CC summit . This is an invaluable chance for the Creative Commons community to meet , collaborate and exchange knowledge and to strengthen our activism for better copyright rules and open access to knowledge and culture.

As in previous years COMMUNIA will contribute to a number of sessions at the summit which has turned into one of the prime venues for driving the discussion about global copyright reform forwards. Below we have compiled a list of sessions that are particularly relevant to our area(s) of interest and that will see participation from COMMUNIA members: 

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