A Vision for a Shared Digital Europe

Rape of Europa
Towards a European digital space
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Today our friends at Centrum Cyfrowe, the Commons Network and publicspace.online are launching a new vision for digital policy making in Europe: This Vision for a Shared Digital Europe lays the foundation for a new frame for digital policy making in the EU. It proposes an overarching policy framework that brings together varied issues and policy arenas, including copyright reform, platform regulation, privacy, data-protection and data governance, antitrust, media regulation or innovation policy. In announcing this Vision they write:

Digitalisation has led much of our interaction, communication and economic activity to take place through data or over online intermediaries. What kind of space should this digital sphere be? We believe that seeing this space as a market place only does not do it justice. This space is in effect our society – a society that is experiencing a digital transformation. Therefore we cannot accept the digital sphere as a place where only market dynamics rule. Society is more than an interaction between market players, and people are more than entrepreneurs or consumers.

As supporters of the European project, we believe that Europe needs to establish its own rules for the digital space, which embody our values: strong public institutions, democratic governance, sovereignty of communities and people, diversity of European cultures, equality and justice. A space that is common to all of us, but at the same time diverse and decentralised.

Over the past five months we have worked with a broad group stakeholders on developing a frame that can replace the existing Digital Single Market frame that dominates discussions about digital policy making in the EU. We propose a new, society-centric vision that is intended to guide policymakers and civil society organisations involved with digital policymaking in the direction of a more equitable and democratic digital environment, where basic liberties and rights are protected, where strong public institutions function in the public interest, and where people have a say in how their digital environment functions – a Shared Digital Europe. Continue reading

EU copyright should protect photography in public spaces

Ivens & Co. Fotoartikelen. Amsterdam Spuistraat 216 Nijmegen, Groningen
photography is overlooked in the proposal
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Today we are publishing the fourth 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 papers on the education exception, text and data mining exception, and press publisher’s right). Today’s paper deals with the Commission’s handling of what is commonly known as “Freedom of Panorama”—the legal right to take and share photos, video, and images of architecture, sculptures and other works which are permanently located in a public place (you can download a pdf version of the paper here). From our perspective this issue was not adequately addressed in the Commission’s proposal, and we ask the European Parliament to introduce a broad, EU-wide Freedom of Panorama right that applies to both commercial and noncommercial uses of all works permanently located in public spaces.

Position paper: Copyright Reform to Protect the Rights of Photographers and Painters

Public spaces in our cities and countrysides are a functional part of the commons, the places accessible to all members of society. These belong to the public and are not owned privately. The right to take and re-use pictures of our public spaces is critical for the arts, preservation of culture, and education. It is also highly relevant to freedom of expression. It forms the foundation upon which many European photographers, painters, and visual artists create art and earn a living.

The European Commission ran a consultation on this right, known commonly as “Freedom of Panorama”. The results of the consultation confirm that consumers, institutional users, service providers, professional photographers, and architects believe that making this right mandatory across the EU will have a positive impact on their activities.

In its communication published alongside the EU copyright reform proposal, the European Commission “confirms the relevance of this exception” and “strongly recommends that all Member States implement this exception.” Both Vice-President Ansip and Commissioner Oettinger have since publicly confirmed that there is a majority in the Council for such a mandatory right. Continue reading

Doubling the size of the useable public domain

Shepherdess with a Flock of Sheep
The commons continues to grow
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On Tuesday Creative Commons released its 2015 State of the Commons report. The annual report showcases data and trends about the growth and diversity of the commons.

Creative Commons—which is a founding member of COMMUNIA— reported a major milestone this year: over 1.1 billion CC licensed photos, videos, audio tracks, educational materials, research articles, 3D models and more have now been contributed to the shared global commons. More people and institutions than ever before make use of CC’s tools to free up rights-protected content for everybody to re-use.

In addition, CC noted a huge increase in the number of works shared in the public domain using the CC0 Public Domain Dedication and out-of-copyright works marked with the Public Domain Mark. According to the data, the total number of public domain works using these tools in 2014 was about 17.5 million. That number jumped to nearly 35 million in 2015. This means that the size of the CC-marked public domain nearly doubled over the last year. This is in part due to the tools being more widely and adopted by platforms like Europeana and Flickr. Providing clear information about the public domain status of works is crucial so that subsequent creators know they can use those works without any restriction. Continue reading

Did Spain just declare war on the commons?

Two weeks ago the lower chamber of the Spanish parliament approved a number of changes to Spain’s Intellectual Property Law that directly threaten the ability of Spanish internet users to contribute to the commons. The law introduces a number of modifications to copyright law that expand the scope of exclusive rights over areas that were previously outside of the exclusive rights of copyright holders at the expense of users rights and the public domain.

The main reason for this law seems to be the desire of Spanish newspaper publishers to get a legally guaranteed income stream from news aggregation sites. What is happening in Spain is a modification of the (largely failed) attempt by German news publishers to make news aggregators (such as Google News) pay for using small parts of news articles that they link to.

Compared to the German attempt, the Spanish approach is more elaborate, and more dangerous. While the German legislators simply created an ancillary right for press publishers and left it up to the publishers whether and how to enforce, waive or license the right, the Spanish law (English translation of the relevant bits here) approaches it from the user side of the equation:

Here, the law creates a right for ‘electronic content aggregation providers’ to use ‘non-significant fragments of aggregated content which are disclosed in periodic publications or on websites which are regularly updated’ without the permission of the rights holder. However such uses require payment of a ‘fair remuneration’ to the rights holder (via a collecting society). This is a right that content providers already have and can choose to license or waive assuming the non-significant fragments are copyrightable and absent an applicable exception or limitation.  What this new legislation does is eliminate the ability of providers to choose how to exercise this right, and impose a mandatory royalty on reusers even for content that has been made available under a public license such as Creative Commons or that is otherwise available under an exception to copyright or in the public domain.Continue reading