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).

Educators ask for a better copyright

Educators ask for a better copyright
58 signatures for better copyright

Today COMMUNIA sent a joint letter to all MEPs working on copyright reform. The letter is an urgent request to improve the education exception in the proposal for a Directive on copyright in the Digital Single Market. It is supported by 53 organisations representing schools, libraries, universities and non-formal education, and also 5 individual educators and information specialists.

The future of education determines the future of society. In the letter we explain the changes needed to facilitate the use of copyrighted works in support of education. We listed four main problems with the Commission’s proposal:

#1: A limited exception instead of a mandatory one

The European Commission proposed a mandatory exception, which can be overridden by licenses. As a consequence educational exception will still be different in each Member State. Moreover, educators will need a help from a lawyer to understand what they are allowed to do.

#2 Remuneration should not be mandatory

Currently most Member States have exceptions for educational purposes that are completely or largely unremunerated. Mandatory payments will change the situation of those educators (or their institutions), which will have to start paying for materials they are now using for free.

#3: Excluding experts

The European Commission’s proposal does not include all important providers of education as only formal educational establishments are covered by the exception. We note that the European lifelong-learning model underlines the value of informal and non-formal education conducted in the workplace. All these are are excluded from the education exception.

#4: Closed-door policy

The European Commission’s proposal limits digital uses to secure institutional networks and to the premises of an educational establishment. As a consequence educators will not develop and conduct educational activities in other facilities such as libraries and museums, and they will not be able to use modern means of communication, such as emails and the cloud.

You can still endorse the letter by sending an email to You can read the full letter below or download the PDF.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?

Paradigm lost? How creativity is weaponized against us

Time Clipping Cupid's Wings
Does creative industry support creativity?

This post is based on the talk Anna gave during CopyCamp 2017 “Paradigm Lost? How Our Freedoms are Weaponized Against Us and What We Can Do About It”. A video of the talk is available here.

How do you lobby for a great copyright in the post-political world? With difficulty, since it is also a post-factual world: politicians seem to care more about marketing than evidence. Perhaps when the facts are not important we should then look for a better propaganda?

Copyright beyond the bubble

This “better propaganda” should not be populist or based on lies. Digital rights organizations need a better, compelling narrative to convince people to care more. We need to test new approaches because European citizens do not realize that they are bound by the copyright framework every time they access news, knowledge or entertainment on the internet.

We also need to find more compelling ways to talk about rights in the digital environment because these days everybody is a creator and the only difference is that some of us identify as such and many of us don’t. Those of us who don’t, also don’t think that our small acts of creativity such as memes or photos we post online are serious enough to give us this status, but this does not change the fact that we are indeed creators.

From creativity to celebrity

In both cases creativity is crucial for self-expression, and self-expression is key to one’s identity. Today all three: creativity, self-expression and identity become market commodities, increasingly so via social media. So what happens when they enter the market?

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A couple of ways EPP can go against their own line on copyright with article 13

The Rape of Europa
Copyright gone wrong

For those watching the copyright debate in the European Parliament it is no mystery that European People’s Party is the key power to influence the future of the Digital Single Market in this area. The largest Parliamentary group, whose representatives hold crucial positions on the dossier, has adopted a group line on copyright. While both the LIBE and JURI Committees debate their compromise under EPP rapporteurs, what could possibly go wrong?

The hard line and the blurred line

The Parliamentarians affiliated with EPP have not presented a unified line in the reform debate, especially if it comes to content filtering (article 13 of the proposal). Their positions across various committees have ranged from hardliners such as Angelika Niebler’s, supporters of closing the value gap like Axel Voss, the current rapporteur at JURI, through the balanced position of Therese Comodini, Voss’ predecessor; to rapporteur Michał Boni’s decent draft report at LIBE or Róża Thun’s proposal for deletion tabled at IMCO.

In these circumstances EPP’s attempt to create a common ground is understandable – it is a way to preserve group unity. On the other hand, the exercise can only prove effective if it shaves off the extremist positions: of making the EC proposal even more troublesome for platforms and users as well as of deleting the article.

Positions of the political groups in JURI with respect to selected elements of the DSM directive proposal [Source].

The EPP group line adopted in July 2017 tries to reconcile a need to close the perceived value gap with some arguments protecting fundamental rights. The vision for EPP’s ideal article 13 is to ensure platforms enter into licensing agreements with rightholders to secure a better revenue for the latter.

Harming e-commerce, taking it easy on the filtering?

Similarly to the governments of France, Portugal and Spain, EPP is determined to change the interpretation of safe harbour that shields hosting providers and online platforms from liability for infringements committed by their users. In their words: Continue reading

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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Keeping an eye on the fine print: the UGC exception and the JURI committee

an 'exception' without protection

The copyright reform remains an exceptional opportunity to close the discrepancies between present-day practices and outdated law. One of the pressing issues is solving the legal uncertainty for users and creators online. Creating online is part of our digital culture and whether it is allowed or not, occurs everyday. There continues to be a lack of legal clarity on how to deal with user-generated content made for non-commercial purposes ranging from funny memes to elaborate works that critique and reflect on the society we live in.

The European Commission’s proposal for the Copyright Directive lacks a user-generated content exception. This is worrisome, because it does introduce an article that could possibly lead to filtering content generated by users even though much of that content does not harm rightsholders. The recent IMCO vote where an exception for user-generated content (UGC) was adopted is a positive step forward in getting a UGC exception in the final Copyright Directive. However, we can’t let our guard down yet. JURI, the most important committee, will vote on its amendments later this year and it yet has to prove it will follow the precedence set by IMCO.

Opposition to the UGC exception

JURI led by Comodini did not incorporate a UGC expectations in its draft opinion. It hereby deviates from the other draft opinions such as those from the IMCO and CULT committee. Therefore a UGC exception can only be included via the proposed amendments by the MEPs. There are several committee members who have proposed amendments for the JURI committee either along the lines of the one proposed by Marc Joulaud, the Rapporteur for the CULT committee, or the one by Catherine Stihler, the Rapporteur for the IMCO committee.

Even though this is encouraging, there is a specific reason for concern. One of the proposed amendments for the JURE committee concerning a UGC exception stands out, because it negates the positive effects of a possible UGC exception. Yes, you read that right. It’s done in a clever, but harmful way. Continue reading

Last EP Committee opinion on copyright reform balances civil liberties with political reality

Sad political reality wins

We were hoping that the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) rapporteur Michal Boni would make use of the Committee mandate to suggest deletion of entire article 13 from the proposed Directive on Copyright in Digital Single Market. That didn’t happen. The justification of the report reflects a hope that the idea to regulate agreements between platforms and rightholders can be sustained while respecting fundamental rights of users. But do the LIBE amendments meet that goal?

Looking beyond technology

The very good news is that Rapporteur Boni proposes to remove content recognition and all references to the use of technology as a default option from the directive. MEP Boni also explicitly says in his report that the implementation of the agreements should not impose any general monitoring obligations.

Here the report builds nicely on theapproach paved by the JURI’s rapporteur MEP Comodini in her report. The removal of references to technology opens the path to looking for a variety of solutions in negotiating the division of revenues between service providers and rightholders. No doubt that technologies will be employed to verify if content is uploaded legally. But the EU copyright legislation should not require a direct connection between the business discussion on who the revenue should go to and the surveillance of users uploading stuff on a platform. Continue reading

Romanian Parliament to European Commission: Copyright reform does more harm than good

The parliament of birds
Entire © reform proposal should be rejected

While the European Parliament is in the middle of its discussions about the European Commission’s proposal for a Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market, similar discussions are taking place in a number of Member State parliaments. The results of these conversations will influence the position that Member States take in the discussions in the Council.

A particularly interesting discussion has been unfolding over the past month in the Romanian Parliament, where on the 15th of March the IT&C Committee of the Chamber of Deputies organized a debate on the proposed directive, in order to collect the views of different stakeholders. After the event, the IT&C Committee produced an opinion addressed to the European Affairs Committee of the Chamber of Deputies, which is the group responsible for drafting the final report of the Parliament on the package proposal. The members of the IT&C Committee unanimously voted against the European Commission’s proposal and advised to withdraw it in its entirety.

While this is not a heavyweight vote and as such not likely to be taken over as the Romanian Government’s position, it represents the first entirely negative advice issued by national policy makers in a Member State. It is therefore interesting to take a closer look at the arguments for rejection. 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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