New study: ever more complex copyright is holding back creators

Creative Jail
Copyright must not become a creative jail

One of the biggest shortcomings of the discussion on copyright is that most of it seems stuck in a fairly outdated creators vs users dichotomy. Copyright laws around the world are generally structured in such a way that they grant exclusive rights to creators and try to balance these with a limited set of rights for users (in the form of exceptions or limitations to copyright). Based on this design it is widely assumed that more (or stronger) exclusive rights benefit creators and that more (or broader) exceptions to copyright benefit users.

This conception is problematic on a number of levels. For one it is clear that creators benefit from user rights that ensure that users have a basic level of access to culture through educational systems and via public institutions such as museums and libraries. On the other hand users benefit from the exclusive rights granted to creators as they incentivise the very production of culture and knowledge that they want to access.

A more fundamental challenge to this general understanding of copyright is posed by the fact that the roles of users and creators are not mutually exclusive,  but overlapping. Many creators are also users of copyrighted materials and the other way around. The technological development of the past two decades has contributed to this blurring of the boundaries between creators and users. Digital technologies greatly facilitate both the creative re-use of existing works and the distribution of the resulting new works. This development has resulted in the emergence of the (somewhat nonsensical) category of “user generated content” and concepts like the “prosumer“.

These concepts deal with users becoming creators, and there are relatively straightforward answers to the challenges posed, such as the need to introduce an exception for user generated content in the EU copyright framework that we have been advocating for. But there is another more interesting side of the coin: creators becoming users. While it is true that creators have always appropriated the works of those authors who came before them, these dynamics have been turbocharged by the digital revolution. Creators have entire libraries of content at their fingertips, and the tools to manipulate, incorporate and build on existing works are becoming increasingly sophisticated. These are exciting times to be a creator, but this new reality also brings creators into contact with the limitations to their creative freedom imposed by copyright law. Continue reading

Mercosur-EU Free Trade Agreement: a bad deal for the public domain

Handel en koopvaardij
Stop the secret erosion of the Public Domain

Contrary to what the negotiating parties expected (and what many civil societies organizations feared), the Mercosur-EU Free Trade Agreement (FTA) was not signed during the World Trade Organization (WTO) Ministerial Conference that took place at the beginning of December in Buenos Aires. Thus, the signing of the FTA that has been negotiated for almost twenty years was postponed once again. Over this time the negotiations were frozen during the era of the leftist governments in South America, but regained speed after the arrival of neoliberal governments to Brazil and Argentina.

Like many other multilateral agreements that have been negotiated in recent years (TPP, TTIP, etc.), the Mercosur-EU FTA covers a large number of areas (not all strictly related to trade) ranging from the exchange of goods to capital movements, phytosanitary measures, electronic commerce and intellectual property (IP). The area of ​​negotiation related to IP is extremely broad, including patents, trademarks, geographical indications and copyright, among other topics.

From TRIPS to TRIPS Plus

In most of the issues related to IP, the Mercosur-EU FTA goes beyond the international obligations imposed on the countries in 1994 with the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) in the context of the creation of the World Trade Organization. TRIPS established a minimum regulatory floor on IP that forced a large number of countries, including those of the Mercosur, to modify their laws, establishing restrictions on the circulation of knowledge and negatively affecting the public domain. In the field of copyright, TRIPS established a minimum copyright term of the author’s life plus 50 years, meaning that countries like Uruguay, which at that time had a term of only 40 years, was a major change. TRIPS also forced the countries to establish criminal penalties for IP infringements conducted on a commercial scale, as well as to protect software using the same regulatory framework as that applied to literary works. While some of these measures were already established in the Berne Convention and other treaties administered by the World Intellectual Property Organization, TRIPS stipulated economic sanctions for countries that did not comply with the obligations, which resulted in rapid adaptation to a new regulatory framework. Continue reading

The Estonian Presidency’s new (and optional) TDM exception: small potatoes

Man bekijkt een schilderij door een vergrootglas, Honoré Daumier, 1847
The reform needs major fixes, not minor tweaks

Ahead of this week’s EU Council meetings of the Working Party on Intellectual Property (Copyright), the Austrian government has helpfully shared the Estonian Presidency’s revised compromise proposal on Articles 3 and 6 (including relevant recitals).

We’ve been following TDM with interest since the European Commission published its proposal on copyright in the Digital Single Market. Even though the Commission’s exception for TDM would be mandatory, we criticised their plan as not going far enough, as it would limit the beneficiaries of the exception only to research organisations, and only for purposes of scientific research.

The Estonian revisions leaves intact the Commission’s obligatory TDM exception that would apply to research organisations for purposes of scientific research. And, as expected, it continues to recommend that the beneficiaries originally contemplated by the Commission be expanded to include cultural heritage institutions. But the most significant change offered in this updated compromise proposal is an additional and optional exception in Article 3:

(5) Member States may provide for an exception or a limitation […] for temporary reproductions and extractions of works and other subject-matter that form an integral part of the process of text and data mining, provided that the works and other subject-matter are accessed lawfully and that the use of the works or other subject-matter for text and data mining is not expressly reserved by the rightholder.

This additional exception would apply to beneficiaries other than research organisations, and for uses other than scientific research. But those acts would be limited in that they only would cover temporary reproductions and extractions, and only if the rightsholder does not prohibit it. Continue reading

UK government report: The right to read should be the right to mine

De zanderij
AI development requires permissive TDM rules

Last month the British government published an independent report on Growing the artificial intelligence industry in the UK. The review, conducted by Professor Dame Wendy Hall and Jérôme Pesenti, discusses the potential for how artificial intelligence (AI) “can bring major social and economic benefits to the UK,” highlighting that AI could contribute an additional £630bn to the UK economy by 2035.

The report makes several recommendations that could be explored to support the continued development and adoption of AI in the UK, including improving access to data, training experts, and increasing demand for AI applications. Of particular interest to us are two specific recommendations:

“To improve the availability of data for developing AI systems, Government should ensure that public funding for research explicitly ensures publication of underlying data in machine-readable formats with clear rights information, and open wherever possible.


“To support text and data mining as a standard and essential tool for research, the UK should move towards establishing by default that for published research the right to read is also the right to mine data, where that does not result in products that substitute for the original works. Government should include potential uses of data for AI when assessing how to support for text and data mining.

It is clearly beneficial that governments require that the outputs of publicly funded research and data be made widely available in open technical formats that are consumable by computers. If the data is not made available in machine-readable formats, it will be impossible to efficiently conduct text and data mining across a large corpus of works. It’s also good that the report recommends that the UK push for an environment where “the right to read is the right to mine”—meaning that legal access to the underlying text or data should be sufficient for the user to conduct any further research techniques (such as TDM) and that no additional legal permissions or licenses should be  required in order to do so. Continue reading

Leading Academics: Article 13 is incompatible with EU law and must be deleted

Anatomische les van professor Paaw
There is no place for upload filters in EU law!

Last week (the same day that we published an updated version of our position paper on article 13) our friends at copybuzz pointed to a paper by The Max Planck Institute for Innovation and Competition on article 13, published in response to a set of questions raised by six EU member states over the summer. As we have reported here, the questions related to the relationship between the measures proposed in article 13 and recital 38 of the Commission’s proposal and the existing EU legal framework (the E-Commerce Directive, the InfoSoc Directive and the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU).

The questions posed by the member states already implied that article 13 and recital 38 would violate a number of legal concepts established by existing legislation. The answers provided by the Max Planck Institute confirm this. As the paper, authored by Prof. Dr. Reto Hilty and Dr. Valentina Moscon points out, there are serious problems with all 4 aspects of the proposal that have given rise to the member state’s queries. Based on their analysis the Hilty and Moscon come to the same conclusion as we did in our own position paper:

Therefore, it is inadvisable to adopt Article 13 of the proposed Directive and its respective Recitals, 38 and 39. (page 2)

This opinion is based on an analysis that finds that the Commission’s proposal would create legal uncertainty, would risk conflicting with the user rights (exceptions and limitations) granted by the InfoSoc Directive, would be inconsistent with the E-Commerce Directive, and could enable abusive behaviour that threatens fundamental human rights, such as the freedom of expression and information.

A scathing takedown of the Commission’s Proposal

All in all, the responses to the questions posed by the six member states read as a scathing takedown of the Commission’s Proposal. Continue reading

Member States to Commission: We don’t trust your claims that censorship filters are in line with EU law

A woman shouting into a man's ear-trumpet. Wood engraving.
Are upload filters even legal?

Hot on the heels of last week’s leak of a (rather depressing) Estonian council compromise proposal that contained two bad proposals for the upload filter comes another leak of a council document. Apparently not all EU Member States are convinced that the Commission’s plans to require online platforms to filter all user uploads is such a good idea! Statewatch has just published a document containing written questions from the governments of Belgium, the Czech Republic, Finland, Hungary, Ireland and the Netherlands to the council legal service regarding article 13 and recital 38.

These questions clearly show that these Member States have serious doubts about the Commission’s repeated assurances that the proposed censorship filters would not affect users’ fundamental rights, do not change the liability exemption of the e-commerce directive, do not constitute a general monitoring obligation and do not change the definition of what it means to make copyrighted works available online.

All of these questions may sound like technical details but they are not. Instead they are at the heart of the discussion about article 13 of the commission’s proposal. Since the commission presented the proposal, a broad coalition of civil society, technology companies and academics has pointed out the problematic relationship between the commission’s proposal and fundamental rights and the principles established by the e-commerce directive.

Member States have serious doubts about legality of upload filters

The music industry organisations are the driving force behind the attempt to censor user uploads and regain control over the ability of millions of online creators to express themselves online. Together with the Commission they have flat out denied that the proposed in article 13 and recital 38 would change existing EU law. The fact that the six member states have formally asked the legal service of the Council (which is independent of the Commission) shows that they are not buying into this narrative. 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).

Continue reading

European Parliament opinion slams European Commission for unbalanced copyright proposal

Spotprent op het bedrog van de firma C. de Bruyn & Zonen
Users rights need to be part of the balance!

Earlier today Marc Joulaud, the CULT rapporteur for the proposed Copyright in the Digital Single Market directive, published his draft opinion on the proposed directive. Joulands draft opinion is the first of many similar documents dealing with the Commission’s proposal that will emerge from the European Parliament in the next weeks and while it will likely undergo significant changes it is a really promising start of the parliamentary process.

The draft opinion contains 85 amendments to the text of the Commission’s proposal that deal with all aspects of the directive. Over the next few days we will provide more detailed analysis of his proposals for a number of the issues that COMMUNIA has been focussing on such as the proposed exceptions for TDM and education, the new right for press publishers and the content filtering obligation for user uploaded content.

Users’ rights need to be a part of the debate

While we certainly do not agree with all of his positions, Joulaud’s draft opinion deserves to be praised. In line with our own analysis of the Commission’s proposal, Joulaud observes that the proposed directive is out of balance as it ignores many of the most pressing concerns of internet users:

It is the Rapporteur’s view that the proposal does not acknowledge the position consumers, as service users, now occupy in the digital environment. No longer playing a mere passive role, they have become active contributors and are now both a source and recipient of content in the digital ecosystem. […] digital practices of users do not benefit from legal certainty under the current copyright rules, in particular the exceptions and limitations, and therefore require a specific approach, a fourth pillar within this Directive.

Continue reading

Commission’s proposal on Text and Data mining: a strategic mistake

De zanderij
The right to read is the right to mine

Today we are publishing the second in a series of position papers dealing with the various parts of the European Commission’s proposal for a Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market (see our first paper on the education exception here). Today’s paper deals with the Commission’s proposal to introduce a mandatory exception that would allow research organisations to conduct Text and Data mining for scientific research purposes (you can download a pdf version of the paper here). From our perspective this exception is much too narrowly defined and has the potential to stifle the potential of Text and Data mining as a key enabler of social and scientific progress in Europe. For this reason our paper argues for expanding the proposed exception to allow Text and Data Mining by anyone for any purpose.

Position paper: Copyright Reform to Facilitate Research and Innovation

Text and data mining (TDM) is “any automated analytical technique aiming to analyse text and data in digital form in order to generate information such as patterns, trends and correlations.” There is huge potential for text and data mining—in terms of scientific advancement and discovery, civic engagement, and economic activity and innovation within the Digital Single Market.

The European Commission recognizes that researchers encounter legal uncertainty about whether—and how—they may engage in text and data mining, and are concerned that publishers’ contractual agreements may exclude TDM activities. In addition, the Commission observes that the optional nature of existing exceptions could negatively impact the functioning of the internal market.

To rectify this situation the Commission proposes changes to existing rules “to ensure that researchers can carry out text and data mining of content they have lawful access to in full legal certainty, including across borders.” Continue reading

Commission proposes to limit text and data mining in Europe

De zanderij
The right to read should be the right to mine!

We’re continuing to analyse the prospective changes to EU copyright law described in both the leaked impact assessment, and last weeks week’s leaked draft for a Directive on copyright in the Digital Single Market. In this post we take a closer look at the proposed exception for text and data mining (TDM).

The Commission recognises the incredible potential in text and data mining, writing that “TDM can be a powerful scientific research tool to analyse big corpuses of text and data such as scientific publications or research datasets.” They also note that researchers would be more likely to engage in text and data mining if it was not for the legal uncertainty that exists as a result of the current copyright rules. The draft Directive notes that there are parts of existing EU law that already would cover some TDM activities, except for the fact that these exceptions are “optional and not fully adapted to the current use of technologies in scientific research.” So, in order to overcome this legal uncertainty, the draft directive provides for a mandatory exception for uses of text and data mining technologies in the field of scientific research.

In article 3 the Directive stipulates that member states shall provide for an exception to the exclusive rights granted in the Copyright and Database Directives and the new publishers’ right proposed further down in the Copyright in the Digital Single Market Directive…

…for reproductions and extractions made by research organizations in order to carry out text and data mining of works or other subject-matter to which they have lawful access for the purposes of scientific research. […] Any contractual provision contrary to the exception […] shall be unenforeceable.

There are a few good things about this approach. First of all, making the Directive mandatory will ensure that the exception applies uniformly across all EU members states. We also welcome the explicit clarification that the rights granted under the exception cannot be contracted away.

In addition, it is a step in the right direction that the proposed exception would now apply to all acts undertaken “for the purpose of scientific research” whereas earlier statements by the Commission hinted at an exception that would only apply to non-commercial research purposes. Unfortunately these steps do not fix the fatal flaw of the approach proposed by the Commission:Continue reading