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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SCCR/42: COMMUNIA statement on limitations and exceptions for education and research

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We are attending the 42nd session of the WIPO Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights (SCCR) in Geneva. Today, the Committee is discussing the issue of limitations and exceptions for educational and research institutions and for persons with other disabilities (Agenda Item 8) and the following statement was delivered on behalf of COMMUNIA:

Dear Delegates,

It will not be easy to convince your families, friends, neighbours that policymakers from across the world should spend time discussing how to improve copyright exceptions.

There is absolutely no doubt that the restrictions copyright laws pose on access to knowledge and information condition the right to education and the right to research, and that educational and research exceptions would benefit society as a whole. That is what will determine whether teachers can show a short news report during live-streamed online classes, whether researchers can conduct medical research or track desinformation online.

Yet, the fact that copyright laws are hard to understand will be an obstacle to reforming copyright laws at national level. Therefore, when Global North delegations claim that each one of you can go back to your countries and introduce exceptions that work for education and research in the 21st Century, we say: that is easier said than done.

Indeed, if you look at the national exceptions for education and research in the European Union, before the recent EU-wide copyright reform, you will see that not even the EU Member States were investing time in solving these issues if they had not been forced to do so through a binding regional instrument.

It should also be said that the fact that copyright exceptions are now outdated only in the Global South does not make this issue less problematic for the Global North. Institutions in Europe and North America engage in cross-border education and research activities outside of their regions on a regular basis. Think about EU distance education programmes attended by students located in Latin America or international research programmes involving North American and Asian researchers. It is clear that the lack of the same minimum set of rights across the world prevents these cross-border activities from taking place, affecting both the North and the South.

We understand that this Committee is not ready to make a decision on how to positively affect copyright frameworks to actually protect the right to education and research. At the same time, this Committee has been discussing this agenda item for nearly 15 years.

We believe that it is fair to say that the work undertaken by the Committee so far has not had much impact on the copyright provisions that frame how educators and researchers can have access to knowledge and information. The African Group proposal could change the course of action to make the work of the Committee more useful. We, thus, urge this Committee to use its best efforts to reach an agreement on how to move forward towards more positive and impactful outcomes.

Thank you.

SCCR/42: COMMUNIA statement on the protection of broadcasting organizations

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In our capacity as permanent observers of the WIPO Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights (SCCR), we are attending the 42nd session of the Committee, which is taking place in a hybrid format of in-person and online participation from 9 to 13 May 2022, in Geneva. 

Today, the Committee is discussing the protection of broadcasting organizations and the following statement was delivered on behalf of COMMUNIA on this agenda item (Agenda Item 6):

Much of the content that broadcasters transmit plays an essential informational, cultural and educational role in our society. Radio and television programs and archives are fundamental to have access to knowledge and information. They are sources of scientific research and are also used as educational materials. We recall that radio and TV-based remote learning have re-emerged in the past years, in response to the pandemic.

Therefore it is essential that educators and researchers have broad and immediate access to broadcast content.

Although the scope of the draft treaty has been reduced, the need for robust limitations and exceptions remains, when legal protection of broadcasters is shaped in the form of exclusive rights.

The problem is that the draft text only says that countries “may” extend the same exceptions that exist for copyright, but, obviously, countries can choose not to do this.

This is more restrictive than the Berne Convention, which has mandatory exceptions for news of the day and quotations, and permissive exceptions for educational and other uses. This may lead to the surprising result that broadcasts are subjected to fewer exceptions than the underlying copyrighted works.

A treaty that creates an additional layer of rights needs to also mandate the corresponding exceptions. Otherwise it ignores the societal and cultural needs related with access and reuse of broadcasts, failing the society as whole.

COMMUNIA condemns rejection of Wikimedia chapters as observers at WIPO SCCR

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Yesterday, China blocked the ad-hoc accreditation of Wikimedia chapters of France, Germany, Italy, Mexico, Sweden, and Switzerland as official observers to the Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights (SCCR) of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). Previously, China had rejected the Wikimedia’s Foundation application to observer status to this UN agency.

WIPO SCCR discussions where norm setting in copyright is concerned are of utmost importance to access to knowledge organizations, and observer status is a necessary condition for the six Wikimedia chapters to participate in such discussions. Not admitting the chapters as observers is unacceptable and runs counter to established practice and criteria for admission of observers at WIPO.

China opposed the applications, suggesting that they are subsidiaries of Wikimedia Foundation, whose projects violate the ‘One China’ Policy. China’s position was implicitly supported by Bolivia, Iran, Nicaragua, Russia, Venezuela, which stressed the need for consensus to approve the chapters’ applications.

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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

How to promote research and education at the global level? Takeaways from our panel discussion

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COMMUNIA and Wikimedia Deutschland held a panel discussion on February 15th to discuss whether the new mandatory exceptions in the EU Copyright Directive could serve as a model to solve some of the most pressing international-level problems around education and research.

The event started with Marco Giorello, the Head of the Copyright Unit at DG CONNECT of the European Commission, explaining the reasons for introducing mandatory exceptions for education and research purposes at the EU level (from min. 8:55 to min. 20:50). Marco pointed out that both research and education were at the forefront of the Commissions’ discussions on the modernization of the copyright system. The need for introducing mandatory exceptions for those activities became apparent after conducting a study of the national implementations of the optional EU-level education and research exceptions. Not all Member States had implemented the exceptions of the InfoSoc Directive. Those who had implemented them had done it in a very different way, and in a number of cases the national exceptions were clearly not applicable to digital and online uses.

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Save the Date: The New EU Copyright Exceptions – A Model for the World?

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Could the new mandatory exceptions in the EU Copyright Directive serve as a model to solve some of the most pressing international-level problems around education and research?

Join us on February 15th at 15:00 CET in an online panel discussion co-hosted by COMMUNIA, Wikimedia Deutschland, and the Right to Research in International Copyright Law project* to discuss this question.

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Civil society organisations urge WIPO Member States to admit Wikimedia as an observer

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Today, 55 civil society organizations, including COMMUNIA, sent a letter to the Member States of the World Intellectual Property Organization to express their concerns with regard to the outcome of the sixty-second series of meetings of the Assemblies of the Member States of the World Intellectual Property Organization, not to admit the Wikimedia Foundation as an observer to that organization.

The signatories of the letter recall that the WIPO discussions, where norm setting in copyright is concerned, are of utmost important to access to knowledge organisations:

“Given the key role of WIPO in shaping normative and practical work around copyright that impacts how researchers, educators and the public at large access and use knowledge, not admitting the Foundation as an observer would be unacceptable and it would run counter with the established practice on criteria for admission of observers at WIPO.”

This is the second time the application of the Wikimedia Foundation for observer status at WIPO was not approved. China was again the only country to reject the Foundation’s application, suggesting that the Wikimedia Foundation was spreading misinformation via the Wikimedia Taiwan chapter. The United States expressed their support for the Foundation’s application, calling for a transparent process, accessible for civil society organizations. The regional coordinator for Group B (the group of industrialized countries at WIPO, which includes many European Union member states) followed suit, underlining that the Foundation’ application had complied with the admission criteria.

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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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SCCR/41: COMMUNIA Statement on Limitations and Exceptions

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This week COMMUNIA is attending the 41st session of the WIPO Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights (SCCR), in its observer capacity.

This is the second time the Committee meets since the beginning of the pandemic. In November last year, we urged the Committee to take appropriate action to respond to the massive disruption to education, research and other public interest activities caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. However, no Delegations put forward any proposal, and we left the SCCR disappointed at WIPO’s inaction in the face of this global crisis. 

Today, most Delegations expressed their agreement to a proposal to hold a number of regional consultations “to further develop the understanding of the situation of the cultural and educational and research institutions at the local level, especially in light of the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on them”. Furthermore, a proposal by the Asia-Pacific Group, to hold an informational session at the next SCCR on the impact of COVID-19 on all the beneficiaries of the copyright system, was also well received.

Global South countries insisted, nevertheless, that the next steps for the agenda items on limitations and exceptions to copyright should not be limited to those consultations and information sessions. Many Delegations recalled the 2012 mandate to work towards “an appropriate international legal instrument”, and urged the Committee to set a work plan to fulfill the mandate.

The following is the statement made on behalf of COMMUNIA on the agenda item on limitations and exceptions for educational and research institutions and for persons with other disabilities (Agenda Item 7):

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