European Commission wants feedback on ancillary copyright and freedom of panorama

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Make your voice count
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We just got done submitting our response to the Commission’s public consultation on the enforcement of intellectual property rights. But there’s no rest for the weary. Next up is the consultation on the role of publishers in the copyright value chain and on the ‘panorama exception’.

COMMUNIA will be responding to this public consultation, and you can too! Answers to the Commission’s survey must be received by 15 June. You can find a helpful answering guide at http://youcan.fixcopyright.eu/ which covers both topics adressed by the consultation. The guide was created by Copyright 4 Creativity in order to mobilize the voice of creators, internet users, and the public in the EU copyright reform process.

Ancillary copyright

Regarding the role of publishers, the Commission wants to “gather views…on the impact that granting an EU neighbouring right to publishers could have on the publishing sector, on citizens and creative industries and as to whether the need (or not) for intervention is different in the press as compared to other publishing sectors.” This “neighbouring right” is also known as “publishers right” or “ancillary copyright”. It’s also been referred to as a “link tax” because it is intended to permit content publishers to charge search engines and other content aggregators for incorporating short snippets or even linking to news articles.

As we’ve written before, ancillary copyright is good for no one. Everyday internet users and consumers of news and articles would then have a harder time finding the news and information they were looking for, and would potentially face more constraints in quoting, linking to, aggregating, or otherwise using works protected by a new ancillary right for press publishers.

There is no decent business case for ancillary copyright either. Spain and Germany experimented with ancillary copyrights for press publishers, and both seem to have failed miserably. The Spanish law ended in Google News shuttering its operation there because it did not make (economic) sense  to have to pay license fees to news publishers for the for the use of snippets as part of a service which primary function is to drive traffic to them. By now the publishers have figured this out themselves as the amount of traffic they receive from Google News and other aggregators has dropped significantly. After the implementation of the new law, traffic to the publishers’ content decreased 6 to 14 percent. The same thing happened in Germany, except the German publishers saw what had happened in Spain and literally gave Google a free license to their content. And it’s not just the big news aggregators that are affected. In Spain, some smaller aggregators shut down entirely. Recently, a small business which curated links and news about Alzheimer’s disease that had to remodel their entire business because of the ancillary copyright law in Spain.

Last year the European Parliament rejected the introduction of an ancillary copyright amendment into the Reda  report, and earlier this year over 80 MEPs wrote a letter to the Commission opposing it.

Freedom of Panorama

The current consultation also asks for input to inform the Commission’s analysis regarding the ‘panorama exception’. Freedom of panorama refers to 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. We think that the freedom of panorama should be mandatory across the EU. The sharing of photos taken in public places is an example of an everyday activity that should not be regulated by copyright. This issue was also brought up in the discussion around the Reda report. An amendment was introduced to restrict freedom of panorama to only non-commercial uses, but a huge protest from citizens, photographers, and civil society organisations—including a Change.org petition that received over 500,000 signatures—helped remove the amendment from consideration.

It’s important that the Commission hear from the public about both of these topics. In the coming weeks, we will publish a series of blog posts about questions posed by this consultation. We hope that these posts will highlight what is at stake. Communia will also be responding to the public consultation process, and you can provide your feedback too. Again, responses to the Commission’s survey must be received by 15 June, and you can check out how to answer the questions with the guide at http://youcan.fixcopyright.eu/.

COMMUNIA response to IPRED consultation

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enforcement of copyright must not curb creativity
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Last week COMMUNIA submitted its response to the European Commission’s public consultation on the evaluation and modernisation of the legal framework for the enforcement of intellectual property rights (IPR).

We believe that the existing Directive fails to adequately address the varying types (and by extension, impact) of activities that would technically constitute copyright infringement. This is particularly worrying in the case of online infringement, where many violations occur due to unconscious actions by internet users who are not familiar with complex copyright rules. To be justly enforced, the rules should take into account the fact that there are many forms of incidental or relatively harmless forms of infringements today. The law should weigh the seriousness and impact of these minor infringements when deciding on enforcement measures and damages.

Excessive enforcement of copyright against everyday activities must not curb creativity, freedom of expression, and innovation.

From the perspective of internet users, there is no need to revise the Directive in order to strengthen its enforcement provisions. If anything is to be changed, it should be those provisions that support a better balance between the interests of consumers and the protection of the rights of content creators. The following changes should be considered:

 

  1. Ending both civil and criminal prosecutions of citizens for non-commercial file sharing, and withdrawing from prosecuting the creators of derivative works who produce non-commercial remixes. In addition, criminal penalties for violations of intellectual property rights by individuals should be minimized.
  2. Introducing mechanisms for safeguarding fair use and the public domain, including a ban on direct contractual restrictions on access and use of these materials, or of using digital rights management or other technical mechanisms to prevent citizens from exercising their rights under the law.
  3. Avoiding the situation where ISPs or hosting services are forced to filter content based on the orders imposed by civil courts attempting to enforce intellectual property rights, contrary to the provisions of Directive EC / 21/2000 (“the E-Commerce Directive”). There should not be any involvement of intermediaries other than the notice and takedown rules already in place under the E-Commerce Directive. As highlighted in our answers above, these rules already negatively impact internet users because they do not adequately provide users the ability to file counter notices. The ability of users to oppose and counter unjustified takedowns needs to be strengthened, and rights holders need to be required to take into account exceptions and limitations to copyright before filing notice and takedown requests.

We will continue to monitor the outcomes of this consultation. We’re curious to see how the Commission will take into account responses from end users who have contributed to the consultation via youcan.fixcopyright.eu.

The EU wants your perspective on “intellectual Property enforcement”

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The European Commission is currently holding a consultation on the 2004 directive on the enforcement of intellectual property rights in the online environment (the so called IPRED directive). As the name suggests, this directive deals with the enforcement of copyright – including issues such as injunctions against internet service providers, internet blocking, and warning letters to individuals accused of unauthorised peer-to-peer filesharing. These issues have been hugely controversial in the past and there is considerable pressure from rights-holders to further expand the way they can enforce rights.

This is of course only one side of the story, as we have seen over and over again how enforcement actions are abused, chill speech, and limit access to information. The consultation is of great importance not only to those interested in copyright, but to anyone using the internet. The consultation covers how private companies should (or not) be involved in law enforcement online – for example by removing content uploaded by a user that includes any copyrighted material.

It also covers the range of internet intermediaries that could or should be subject to legal obligations to undertake law enforcement activities. Imposing extra requirements on internet intermediaries limits them in the types of services that they can offer to users, and can make it more difficult for non-professional creators to find an audience for their creations and/or opinions.

It is important that the Commission hears from as many internet users and creators as possible. The consultation consists of 5 different lists of questions for different types of respondents. Our friends at EDRi have built an online tool for answering the Commission’s questions. EDRi also provides guidance and advice for potential responses from particular audiences, including citizens, consumers, and civil society organisations.

If you regularly create content that you share online (such as photos, videos, and writing) you can also consider answering the question aimed at rightsholders: it’s crucial to show the Commission that copyright (enforcement) rules cannot be based solely on the entrenched “needs” of large commercial rights holders. Instead, the rules must reflect the reality where countless numbers of internet users create (and wish to share) copyright-protected works on a regular basis.

You have until the 7th of April to submit your responses via the EDRi answering tool.

Challenges and problems of EU consultation on copyright

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The Commission should not impose its own objectives and agenda during the consultation period.
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This post was written by Agnieszka Vetulani-Cegiel. 

The European Commission is willing to cooperate with interested parties (i.e. civil society, interest groups, stakeholders, other entities). The open attitude of the Commission is demonstrated by the inclusion of these parties in the policy-making process, and in work on legal mechanisms. This situation is beneficial to both sides. For the interest groups, it is an opportunity to participate in the policy-making process and to influence EU policies through advocacy and lobbying. For the Commission, it is a way to learn about stakeholders’ views, to earn their support for its actions, and to obtain input to possible legislative proposals.

A big debate on the transparency of the EU policy-making process was triggered by the issuing of the White Paper on European Governance. As a result, since 2001, a range of standards and principles covering the transparency of the policy-making process—as well as relations with ‘interested parties’—has been adopted. Also, the Transparency Register, the Register of Expert Groups, and the Comitology Register were established.

The Commission recently issued a new document called the Better Regulation Guidelines. The Better Regulation initiative aims at making EU action more effective by ensuring that “policy is prepared, implemented and reviewed in an open, transparent manner, informed by the best available evidence and backed up by involving stakeholders”. The Guidelines cover the whole policy cycle: from policy design and preparation, to adoption, implementation (transposition, complementary non-regulatory actions), application (including enforcement), evaluation and revision, and include inter alia Guidelines on Stakeholder Consultation (Chapter VII).

The objective of the Stakeholder Guidelines is to complement and further define the scope of the General principles and minimum standards for consultation set in 2002. It is worth mentioning that a lot of attention has been paid to the mapping of different categories of stakeholders taking part in the EU consultation. It is stated, also, that “open, internet-based public consultation” is mandatory for initiatives with impact assessments, evaluations, fitness checks and Green Papers. The consultation needs to run for at least 12 weeks. Moreover, the Guidelines provide that stakeholders must be enabled to give feedback on the following aspects: roadmaps for evaluations and fitness checks (4 weeks), roadmaps, inception impact assessments (indication of time to be provided after publication), draft delegated acts (4 weeks), draft implementing acts (4 weeks), legislative or policy proposals adopted by the College and, where applicable, the accompanying impact assessments (8 weeks).Continue reading

Open Letter on the Commission’s flawed Online Platform Consultation

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Consulting without listening?
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Last week we have pointed out our concerns about a number of copyright related questions buried deep inside the EU commission’s ongoing consultation on the ‘Regulatory environment for platforms, online intermediaries, data and cloud computing and the collaborative economy‘. Our main points were that the consultation does not adequately address the effects of regulatory measures aimed at platforms on EU citizens and that the consultation is designed in such a way that it discourages end users from participating.

Today we have relayed these concerns in letters to First Vice President of the European Commission Frans Timmermans (who is in charge of the better regulation agenda) and Members of the European Parliament. These letters are supported by 29 organisations representing civil society, news publishers, consumers and the digital industry share their concerns regarding the European Commission’s approach in consulting on copyright matters. The letter makes it clear that we are not the only ones who consider the online platforms consultation to be flawed:

The Commission’s “Online Platforms consultation” includes some questions on copyright, which had not previously been the subject of consultation. However, critical questions dealing with the creation of new, controversial copyrights for publishers are only open to right holders to answer, denying European citizens and relevant stakeholders the right to be heard. Further, the Commission is set to adopt a Communication on Copyright on 9th December, which covers these issues, before the end of the consultation and a proper analysis of the contributions received. Continue reading

EU consultation on online platforms – your voice counts!

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Don't mess with the right to link!
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As part of its effort to build a digital single market and to modernise the European Copyright rules the European Commision is currently running an online consultation on the ‘Regulatory environment for platforms, online intermediaries, data and cloud computing and the collaborative economy‘. As the name suggests this consultation bundles an enormous amount of issues into a single consultation. This monster consultation consisting of at least 115 questions depending on which type of user you are, hides a number of questions that can have huge impact on the shape of the future EU copyright framework and determine how we share and collaborate online.

These questions relate to the regulatory framework for online platforms, a term that is defined so broadly by the consultation that covers wide swaths of the Internet:

“Online platform” refers to an undertaking operating in two (or multi)-sided markets, which uses the Internet to enable interactions between two or more distinct but interdependent groups of users so as to generate value for at least one of the groups.

In other words, the Commission asks questions about platforms and services like SoundCloud, Wikipedia, YouTube, Flickr, Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter and many others, that have become central in how European citizens communicate with each other and express themselves. Changing the regulatory framework that applies to these platforms will have far reaching consequences for all of us. In this light it is very disturbing that these questions are hidden in a consultation that appears to be designed to discourage responses from citizens. Continue reading

Communia response to Science 2.0 consultation

Today the European Commission concluded a consultation on ‘Science 2.0’: Science in Transition. The objective of the consultation is “to better understand the full societal potential of ‘Science 2.0’ as well as the desirability of any possible policy action.” Science 2.0 is defined as the “on-going evolution in the modus operandi of doing research and organising science.” COMMUNIA responded to the questionnaire because there were issues relevant to how scientific research and data could be made available under open licenses or as a part of the public domain. One question asks respondents to rank the specific areas in which they feel a need for policy intervention. We noted that a few opportunities for policy development are open access to publications and research data, and increased attention to policies that support text and data mining. From our submission:

Open access to publication and research data as either in the public domain or under an open license aligned with the Open Definition would help work towards the goals of Science 2.0. Such a policy would be especially important when public funds are expended for scientific research and publications. COMMUNIA policy recommendation #12 states, “all publicly funded research output and educational resources must be made available as open access materials.” Interest in text and data mining is increasing, and traditional gatekeepers of science scholarship (namely commercial publishers) are attempting to restrict this activity through the adoption of custom licenses and/or contractual terms. We think that text and data mining should be considered as outside of the scope of copyright protection, and instead should be considered as an extension of the right to read (see “Right to Read is the Right to Mine”). Text and data mining should not be treated with a contractual approach which would try to license for a fee this usage in addition to the right of access. Terms of use prohibiting the lawful right to perform data mining on a content accessed legitimately should be considered an abuse of exclusive rights.

Here’s our responses to the questionnaire. The Commission’s background paper on the Science 2.0 consultation is here.

EU copyright consultation: Rights Holders are from Mars, Users are from Venus

Last week the European Commission published its ‘Report on the responses to the Public Consultation on the Review of the EU Copyright Rules‘. This report summarizes the more than 11.000 responses that the Commission had received in reaction to the copyright consultation held between December 2013 and March of this year. While it is clear that a 100-page document cannot do justice to all of the responses (our own response measured in at 24 pages), the report is informative in a number of ways.

Maybe the most striking (although unsurprising) insight that can be gained from reading the report is that stakeholders are completely divided in their perception of how well EU copyright law meets the requirements of the digital environment: Citizens and institutional users think this is not the case while authors and other rightholders are convinced it does. Over at governance across borders Leonhard Dobusch has done an excellent job at illustrating this fact:

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Communia responds to EU consultation on new copyright rules

Communia has responded to Public Consultation on the review of the EU copyright rules that closes today. While we wait for the Commission to publish all the responses on its own website (given that we are hearing about more 10.000 responses so far this will likely be quite a challenge) we have uploaded our response here (pdf).

In our response we call for a radical overhaul of the European Copyright rules. In line with our 2011 policy recommendations we argue for a shortening of the copyright term, the introduction of a registration system, more harmonization of the limitations and exceptions (with the final goal of a single European copyright code), and a strengthening of user rights via a robust set of limitations and exceptions that ensure access to our shared knowledge and culture online. In addition to broadened or new exceptions for cultural heritage institutions, educators, researchers, people with disabilities and private individuals we also call for the introduction of more flexibility by adding an open norm to the list of existing exceptions.

We are very pleased to see that there has been a massive response from citizens and civil society organisations to this consultation. While the content of these responses is only known to the Commission at this point, the amount of responses clearly proves that the Commission’s strategy to limit the discussion about copyright policy to an intra-industry discussion about licenses is no longer sustainable. Europe needs a new set of copyright rules that embrace the opportunities created by the digital age, and this discussion needs to include citizens and civil society as important stakeholders. As far as Communia is concerned this discussion needs to focus on maximising the social and economic benefits of the internet instead of facilitating specific internet based business models.

Make your voice heard to fix copyright in the EU!

As we have mentioned here before, the European Commission has launched a consultation on the future of European copyright policy. The responses provided to the questionnaire must be submitted by 5 February 2014 and will be used as a justification for future policy proposals from the Commission. If citizens and professionals don’t make their voice heard the outcomes of the consultation will likely be used to further limit citizens’ rights to create, share and access culture and to further weaken the public domain.

Fix copyright – take part in the consultation

In order to prevent this from happening, COMMUNIA has joined forces with a range of other NGOs and professional associations to produce a tool that helps citizens and professionals to respond to the consultation in a way that promotes access to culture and a strengthening of the the public domain. The results of this collaboration can be found at youcan.fixcopyright.eu.

The tool lets you filter the 80 questions from the consultation document based on a number of different personas (we have compiled selections for online users, parents, teachers/academics/researchers, freelancers/entrepreneurs/businesspersons, librarians/cultural heritage professionals, bloggers/remixers, disabled users and rights holders). There is of course an option to answer all questions. The website also provides background information and advice on how to respond to the questions.

If you care about a copyright system that promotes innovation and access to culture in the digital environment and if you care about the public domain, you should respond to the consultation today! You may also want to ask friends and colleagues to do the same.

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