EU Parliament Vote: An Unprecedented Copyright Giveaway

Caïn venant de tuer son frère Abel, by Henry Vidal
European Parliament sells out user rights
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There is no way around it, the outcome of today’s vote on the copyright directive in the European Parliament is a big loss for user rights and the open internet. MEPs have decidedly sided with the demands of the creative industries to hand them more control over how we access, use and share copyrighted works. Out of the seven issues that we listed this morning the European parliament voted against our position every single time.

Taken together the positions adopted by the European Parliament this morning amount to an unprecedented expansion of exclusive rights for a  small subset of already-powerful interests:

  • Under Article 13, rightsholders would get more control over how copyrighted works can be shared on online platforms. It will allow them to force platforms to filter content in ways that will negatively impact users rights.
  • Under Article 11 press publishers would get an entirely new right that will allow them to control how we access and reference press publications.
  • Under Article 3 rightsholders would get the right to prevent anyone other than scientific researchers from using computers to analyse information contained in legally accessible works.
  • Under the new Article 12a sports events organizers would become copyright holders allowing them to prohibit anyone from sharing photos or other recordings of sports events.
  • Finally under the new Article 13b image search engines would need to obtain licenses for even the smallest preview images that they display as search results.

There are a few bright spots in the report adopted today, such as a slightly beefed up education exception and better mechanisms allowing cultural heritage institutions to provide access to out of commerce works, but on balance the result of today’s vote amounts to a substantial weakening of the public domain.

In having chosen the side of the content industries MEPs have turned their back on the potential of an open internet to foster research, access to information and as a driver of creative innovation. This happens against the backdrop of serious concerns from academics that these new rights may be ineffective and will possibly even entrench the dominant position of the dominant platforms providers.

With today’s adoption of the report the path is now clear for negotiations (the so called “trilogue“) between the Parliament, the Council and the Commission (see this helpful infographic for an overview of the remaining steps). Given that on most issues the positions of the three legislators are very similar, this process, which will be guided by the Austrian Presidency, will likely be relatively swift. Once these trilogue negotiations are complete, the resulting text will once more be voted in the European Parliament. This vote, which will likely take place at the end of this year or early next year will be the last possibility to prevent (or at least limit) the effects of today’s land grab by rightsholders. Stay tuned for a more extensive analysis over the next few days.

MEPs Can Still Salvage the Copyright Directive in Today’s Vote

European Parliament (before the internet)
Seven issues where MEPs can #fixcopyright
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On the 5th of July a large majority of the Members of the European Parliament voted against fast-tracking the report of its JURI committee on the Copyright in the Digital Single Market directive so that the full parliament could discuss the contents of the report and make adjustments to a number of controversial provisions. This discussion has taken place over the last few weeks and tomorrow marks the day when the European Parliament will take a final vote on the report.

On the table are a wide range of proposals to amend three of the most controversial parts of the proposed directive, as well as a number of attempts to address omissions in the original text. However, large parts of the JURI text, such as the exceptions dealing with education and access to cultural heritage, have been left untouched and will not be affected by Wednesday’s vote.

EU lawmakers will have the opportunity to agree on some meaningful improvements to the proposed directive which would then become part of the Parliament’s position for the upcoming trilogue negotiation with the European Commission and the Member States. An improved Parliament position is badly needed since the European Commission’s original plan was terribly disappointing and the Member States have adopted a position that is even worse on crucial parts of the proposed directive. In order to keep open the possibility that the EU copyright reform process will result in real improvements to the EU copyright system MEPs must:

  • Text and data mining: Vote for an expanded version of the exception for text and data mining in Article which would allow anyone to text and data mine all legally accessible copyright protected works. This would be guaranteed by a set of amendments tabled by a cross-party coalition called the Digital Agenda Intergroup. Not adopting their amendments would mean that Europe will shut itself off from an essential tool for scientific, societal and economic progress.
  • Press publishers right: Delete the unnecessary and counterproductive Article 11, but it deletion is not possible, limit the most negative effects by refusing to grant press publishers additional rights that will hinder access to knowledge. This would be guaranteed by sets of amendments proposed by the Digital Agenda Intergroup and by the Greens/EFA political group.
  • Upload filters: Ensure that the attempts to address an imaginary value gap driven by the music industry by introducing mandatory upload filters do not damage the open nature of the internet and limit the freedom of (creative) expression online. In addition to deletion of Article 13 the damage can be limited by adopting amendments proposed by the Internal Market and Consumer Protection committee or the Digital Agenda Intergroup.
  • User-generated content: Vote in favor of the new amendments that clarify that users may engage with copyrighted works through remixes, memes and other types of user-generated content (UGC). Support for UGC was indicated in the JURI recitals, but left out of the article text. There are amendments tabled the Digital Agenda Intergroup as well as several MEPs including Cavada, Reda, Adinolfi, and Maštálka.
  • Freedom of Panorama: Vote in favor of new amendments that clarify the ability for European citizens to take and share photography of artworks and architecture in public spaces (freedom of panorama). There are amendments tabled by the Digital Agenda Intergroup as well as MEPs Maštálka and Reda.
  • New rights for sports broadcasters and image search: Vote against the additional copyright protection gifted to sports events organisers snuck into the JURI report, as well as the addition of a licensing requirement for image search engines. Neither of these amendments were debated nor received a sufficient level of scrutiny by the Parliament, and both would result in substantial expansions of the scope of copyright that must be opposed given the absence of any evidence supporting such measures.
  • Support for the public domain: Vote in favor of the amendments that add a positive definition of the public domain to the EU copyright framework. Copyright law takes a big part of its legitimacy from the fact that it creates temporary exclusive rights and this fundamental principle deserves explicit recognition in EU law. MEPs should support the amendments introduced by MEP Adinolfi.

Act now: Tell your MEPs that copyright reform must facilitate access to knowledge!

Save Your Internet Action Week bannerLicentie

It is less than a week before the decisive vote on the proposed Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market. In the past few weeks MEPs have tried and failed to come up with a compromise position on the most controversial element of the directive proposal, the upload filters for online platforms that would be mandated by Article 13. As a result all options ranging from filtering obligations that would cripple online platforms to the deletion of Article 13 remain on the table for next week’s vote. On a positive note, MEP Dutch Marietje Schaake has tabled positive amendments to Article 3, which bring the exception as close as possible to the rule “The right to read is the right to mine”.

Article 13 still spells trouble for the knowledge community

We have been univocal in our conviction that the upload filters mandated by Article 13 are a terrible idea. They would limit the freedom of expression of European internet users and creators, and allow big corporate rightsholders to establish themselves as gatekeepers of cultural expression that would limit cultural diversity online. We are also concerned about the effects that filtering requirements would have on access to knowledge.

While most of the proposals on the table explicitly exclude open knowledge repositories like Wikipedia, open access publication platforms and free software repositories from the filtering obligations (and liability risks) established by Article 13, this does not guarantee that the directive will not limit access to knowledge and culture and damage the public domain. Exempting these service may protect them from the immediate negative effects of the Directive, but but it would not take away legal uncertainties for innovators in this space.. This is why projects from Wikipedia to GitHub to the library and research community still oppose Article 13. Just yesterday, Jimmy Wales, a Wikipedia co-founder, warned again that “foolish, detrimental changes to the law could make it really hard for future platforms to allow people the freedom to create.”

Jimmy Wales listening to MEP Voss

Jimmy Wales in discussion with MEP Axel Voss in the European Parliament (Sebastiaan ter BurgCC-BY)

The decentralised nature of the internet has enabled a radical opening up of knowledge and a culture of sharing that has reduced the ability of commercial intermediaries to control and limit access to knowledge for profit making purposes. Continue reading

Latest Article 13 compromise by MEP Voss is the worst one yet

De verzoeking van Adam en Eva in het paradijs,
Yet another poisoned "compromise" proposal
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In less than two weeks the European Parliament will vote on its position on the Copyright in the Digital Single Market directive. After the resounding rejection of the JURI mandate on the 5th of July, MEPs are searching for compromises that will allow the European Parliament to enter into negotiations with the Commission and the Member States. A key to finding such a compromise will be a new version of Article 13 that reflects the broad opposition against the upload filters that led to the rejection of the JURI mandate in July.

Last week Friday MEP Axel Voss presented his proposal for a new compromise on Article 13. According to Voss the new version answers to the demands voiced by critics of the original JURI text (and he expects those critics to support his new version):

Unfortunately this does not mean that MEP Voss has suddenly taken the concerns raised by users, academics, civil liberties organisations and many others into account. Instead he is proposing a version of Article 13 that would be even worse than everything that has been on the table so far. His newest “compromise” proposal consist of a simplified version of Article 13 that would make all online platforms that allow users to upload content (other than a select few) directly liable for copyright infringements committed by their users:

(1) Without prejudice to Article 3(1) and (2) of Directive 2001/29/EC, online content sharing service providers perform an act of communication to the public.

As a result open platforms would need to obtain licenses for all copyrighted content that could possibly be uploaded to such platforms, which is of course impossible since not all copyrighted content is available for licensing. In practice this will mean that platforms need to filter out all copyrighted works for which they do not have a license. Contrary to what Axel Voss wants us to believe, his latest proposal would mandate upload filtering on an unprecedented scale (see the flowchart below for a more detailed analysis). Continue reading

Copyright action week: Join us to #saveyourinternet

Save Your Internet Action Week bannerLicentie

Summer is definitely over (sorry to write this) and copyright reform is back as one of the most controversial issues on the Brussels policy agenda. It is expected that the European Parliament will finally decide on the position on the proposed Copyright in the Digital Single Market Directive on September, 12th. Right now things are not looking good: instead of a much needed update of the copyright framework that would enable new uses driven by technological innovation, policy makers in Brussels are working towards new restrictions that would would limit how information and creativity can be shared and enjoyed online.

To prevent this from happening we are joining forces with a broad coalition of civil society organisations, academics, libraries and free software developers to advocate for sensible rules that do not limit access to knowledge, freedom of expression and innovation online. A balanced approach on copyright reform matters for all of us and we urge you to join us in convincing MEPs that they must not damage the internet in order to serve the interests of rightsholders. Please join us in contacting your MEPs via saveyourinternet.eu  

Copyright action week

Throughout the coming days (up until the 11th which is the day before the vote in the European Parliament) various groups and initiatives will highlight the negative impact of the Article 13 (upload filters) on a broad range of issues. These include human and digital rights, academic research , access to knowledge, online creation and fan art and many other everyday online activities. Continue reading

European Parliament to vote on copyright reform mandate this week – who’s voice will matter?

European Parliament (before the internet)
Can the EU Parliament #saveyourinternet?
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As the members of the European Parliament make their way to Strasbourg for the final plenary before the summer break, here is a reminder of what is at stake when they will vote on the JURI report on the proposed copyright directive this Thursday. Formally they will be voting to approve (or reject) the negotiation mandate the JURI members had given themselves on the 20th of June which, allows MEP Voss to start negotiating the final text of the directive with the Member States and the European Commission. As we wrote earlier the negotiation mandate is highly problematic as it embraces both the publishers right (“link tax”) and a requirement for open platforms to filter all user uploads (“censorship filters”). Both of these articles, which are pushed for by large rightsholders to give them more control over the content that they distribute, undermine important principles of the Internet and will cause significant damage to the much wider online environment.

In other words, the question that MEPs will have to decide this week, is if we accept the fact that fundamental principles of the Internet get thrown overboard at the request of particular industries who stand to benefit from such a move, even if it is clear that everybody else will be worse off as a result. Over the past weeks it has become clear that people are not happy with this prospect. MEPs have been overwhelmed with angry mails from Internet users, online creators have warned about the end of certain forms of creativity, people have taken to the streets in more than 30 places across Europe and more than 145 civil society organisations once again confirmed their opposition to the proposed measures.

In the light of these massive protests, the music industry which is the driving force behind the Article 13 upload filters is in damage control mode trying to downplay the effects of the measures it is calling for. Their fairly ridiculous attempt to position article 13 as “pro memes and mashups” was quickly debunked on social media and by European copyright scholars. The fact that scholarly opinion on the proposed changes, which largely overlaps with the perception by users, has been completely ignored by the members of the JURI committee is one of the driving forces behind the attempt to stop the JURI negotiation mandate this week.

So who is in favour of the measures approved by JURI and who is against them? Who should European lawmakers listen to when it comes to deciding on changes to the copyright regime that will have far-reaching effects for users, creators and businesses alike?

In favor of the JURI mandate: The position adopted by the Legal Affairs committee is supported by pretty much any organisation representing rightsholders and professional creators that is active in Brussels.

Against the JURI mandate: On the other side of the Debate we find the Civil Liberties and Consumer Protection committee of the European Parliament (both of which had adopted a more reasonable version of Article 13), more than 50 civil liberties organisations, organisations representing technology startups and software developers who all stand to lose from the proposed measures. Equally important are the warning voices coming from academics at Europe’s leading IP research centers, a group of the original architects of the Internet, the United Nation’s special rapporteur on the freedom of expression. Other critical voices come from creators, the Wikipedia community and hundreds of thousands of Internet users who have been contacting their MEPs via saveyourinternet.eu (and other platforms).

Most of these voices have been ignored by the debate in the JURI committee which has shown a particular disregard for independent expertise throughout the process. It is now up to all members of the European Parliament to decide if the Parliament should enter into negotiations with the Member States and the Commission based on the narrow view taken by the members of the JURI committee or on a view that takes these voices into account.

Fair and flexible: what we can learn from Canadian copyright law

Spotprent op het bedrog van de firma C. de Bruyn & Zonen
The "fair dealing" exception
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With the EU and other states looking to modernise copyright law for the digital era, education exceptions in copyright law are a hot topic. Particularly, the second paragraph of Article 4 of the proposed directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market that gives room to educational licenses is being contested by educators, learners, and educational organisations. Canadian copyright law includes the doctrine of “fair dealing” — a unique version of a common exception. The European approach sees legal concepts determined by rightsholders through license agreements. Anxious to protect their position of power, representatives of rightsholders in Europe have often pointed at the Canadian exception as a dangerous example that has negatively impacted the educational publishing industry in Canada. These statements do not hold any merit. The Canadian doctrine offers both a solution to the legal question of how copyright exceptions can be drafted to the benefit of education and should inspire countries around the world who want to improve education exceptions. Continue reading

JURI vote results: a better educational exception with a poisoned pill within

European Parliament (before the internet)
Not over yet
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This morning the Legal Affairs Committee of the European Parliament (JURI) voted on the report on the proposed Copyright in the Digital Single Market Directive. You can read a broader analysis here.

JURI gave educators across the EU a gift in the shape of an improved educational exception – with a poison pill inside. The Compromise Amendment (CAM6) proposed by Rapporteur Voss was accepted. We are happy that the Commission’s flawed proposal for an exception that secures digital uses for education purposes has been fixed. Educators are given clarity about uses in digital environments, and the scope of the exception has been increased beyond educational establishments and their premises. There is also improved text that makes a contractual override of the exception impossible.

Yet, the poison pill remains: the Commission’s proposal in article 4(2) to give priority to licenses over the exception was adopted. We managed to secure improvement in the phrasing of this license priority: the licenses have to be tailored to the needs and specificities of the educational establishments. Nevertheless, a Member State can decide to switch off the exception, provided that a licensing scheme is in place in a given country. This means that over the coming years we could benefit from a new exception only to see it disappear – which would leave educators depending on remunerated licensing schemes.

Problems with license priority go beyond education

Licensing priority spells problems, not just for educators. It creates a precedent for overrides to any public interest copyright law exceptions. As such, it is a great victory for rightsholders. This reminds us of the “Licenses of Europe” process, in which the Commission and rightsholders tried to convince everyone that licensing is a much better tool for securing user rights than exceptions to copyright. While they failed to do so then, they seem to have won some ground in the copyright directive.

This dangerous precedent for users’ rights is even more alarming when we consider that it goes against the CJEU ruling on the issue of license priority. The Court of Justice of the European Union knew that giving priority to license offers was indefensible, as it would negate much of the substance and effectiveness of the exception or limitation and it would deny the user the right to benefit from the exception. Thus, the Court decided that the 3-step test did not require them to allow rightsholders to unilaterally force users to stop relying on the copyright exception when those rightsholders offered to conclude a licensing agreement with them. This decision represented a major win for users’ rights, and more so because in the US users may not be able to rely on fair use when reasonable licensing options are available.

If we round up today’s vote for education we are happy about the improvements to the exception but mourn what could have been and fear the consequences of this license priority. The fight is not over yet. There will possibly – likely – be a plenary vote in the Parliament where this article, as well as the other disappointing results on articles 11 & 13, could still be challenged.

Legal affairs committee sells out user rights to big content & big tech.

Nederlaag van de titanen
but you can still #SaveYourInternet
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This morning the Legal Affairs Committee of the European Parliament voted on the report on the proposed Copyright in the Digital Single Market Directive. The results are in and they are not pretty: MEPs have adopted Article 13 which would force open platforms operating in Europe to install upload filters. They have also adopted the controversial press publishers right (art 11). As a bonus to rightsholders they granted more rights to “sports event organisers” and adopted a provision intended to force image search engines to pay for displaying thumbnail images as search results.

This amounts to a massive power grab by rightsholders who will enjoy much more control over how we use the Internet to communicate, share, create and inform ourselves. It is a big step away from an open Internet towards an Internet that functions as a distribution channel for mainstream culture. It is a huge loss for European cultural diversity and the freedom of expression online.

It is telling that the MEPs in the JURI committee have also voted against all attempts to give users more rights. Proposals to introduce EU wide freedom of panorama and to allow the use of protected works in User Generated Content (both of which would merely bring the law in line with reality) were voted down. The MEPs adopted a number of small improvements for users in the fields of education, access to cultural heritage and with regards to Text and Data Mining but most of these come with significant drawbacks.

The education exception contains a license priority clause that allows rightsholders to turn off the exception and dictate problematic licensing terms to educational users, which creates a dangerous precedent for users’ rights and goes against the CJEU ruling on this issue.

The Text and Data Mining (TDM) exception is limited to scientific research purposes only. The expansion that would open TDM to everyone for every purpose (which is crucial for the development of technologies such as artificial intelligence in the EU) is merely optional and will not apply across the EU as a whole.

Taken as a whole, the JURI committee’s vote shows an utter disregard for the rights of citizens in the digital environment. It is telling that both the Civil Liberties and the Consumer Protection committees have prepared much more balanced reports that have been completely ignored by the members of the Legal Affairs committee. This shows that lawmakers still treat the rights and interests of citizens and creators as spare change in the the fight between big content and big tech.

Today’s round has clearly gone to ‘big content’ in spite of warnings from pretty much anyone other than the rightsholders that this outcome will have disastrous consequences for the open Internet and our freedom of speech. Citizens’ freedom of expression should not be the function of an arrangement between rightsholders and big technology companies. It is a right that needs to be defended on its own merits and it is extremely worrisome that EU lawmakers have effectively decided to give big technology companies – that are based outside of the EU –  the responsibility to decide how European citizens can express themselves online.

We will continue to fight for the rights of users and creators and to oppose the censorship machine. The first step will be to convince enough MEPs that a decision to sell out citizens rights to big content and big tech merits a decision by the whole European Parliament:

Three things the European Parliament needs to do to #fixcopyright tomorrow

European Parliament (before the internet)
Tell your MEP to #fixcopyright tomorrow!
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Tomorrow the Legal Affairs Committee of the European Parliament (JURI) will finally vote on the proposed Copyright in the Digital Single Market proposal. The outcome of this vote will define the European Parliament’s negotiation position as it enters into trilogue negotiations with the European Commission and the Council. Although more than a thousand amendments have been proposed, it is clear that the European Parliament has missed the chance to demand a forward-looking copyright reform that empowers Internet users and creators and improves access to culture and information. With an eye on tomorrow’s votes, these are the three immediate challenges facing the members of the JURI committee:

#1 Save the Internet

For more than a year the discussion in the European Parliament has narrowed down on a number of key topics. The most attention has gone to those areas where the ideas introduced by the European Commission have the potential to break the open Internet and limit freedom of expression and  the free access to information. Both Articles 11 and 13 remain hotly contested to this very moment and it is important that you continue to tell the members of the JURI committee to Save Your Internet by voting against the compromise proposals proposed by the Rapporteur, Axel Voss, and support the alternative compromises proposed by the Greens instead.

#2 Expand user rights and protect the Public Domain

On a more positive note there are a number of issues where the JURI MEPs can make a positive difference. The Commission’s proposal was a huge disappointment with regard to empowering users and protecting the Public Domain but members of Parliament have worked hard to put proposals up for vote that would correct this. During tomorrow’s vote the JURI MEPs should vote for the alternative compromise amendments that would introduce Europe-wide exceptions allowing anyone to take and share pictures of artworks located in public spaces (the so-called freedom of panorama) and to use pre-existing works in remixes and other forms of “user generated content”. In addition, MEPs should vote in favor of the compromise amendments on articles 7-9 that strengthen the proposed mechanism that would allow cultural heritage institutions to make available out of commerce works. Lastly, the compromise amendment for article 5 contains a recognition of the principle that reproductions of works in the public domain should stay in the public domain.

#3 Fix the most glaring flaws of the Commission proposal

Finally, there are a number of issues where the Commission’s proposal was severely lacking and where the members of Parliament have not managed to put forward a response that fixes these flaws. As proposed by the European Commission, both the exception for Text and data Mining and the exception for education were at best mixed blessings and, unfortunately, the Parliament has not found a way to fully address their shortcomings.

The proposed optional exception for TDM that applies only if the right has not been reserved does not constitute more than a band-aid on the gaping wound caused by the Commission’s proposal for an limited exception (that, in effect, prevents anyone except researchers from engaging in Text and data mining). Given that there are no more substantial solutions on the table we still encourage MEPs to vote for the compromise amendments on articles 3 and 3a even though we are convinced that the only sensible option is to embrace “the right to read is the right to mine” approach.  

With regards to the education exception, the European Parliament’s compromise amendment fails to address the core shortcoming of the Commission’s proposal. The new mandatory exception should improve the very fragmented existing legal framework in the EU and benefit learners and educators alike. Unfortunately, the compromise amendment up for vote tomorrow leaves intact the licensing override that will negate the purpose of having a mandatory exception. We will continue to advocate for limiting reliance on licensing as a method to ensure access to educational materials. It has become clear from our own research that licenses do not benefit education. They impose burdensome obligations on schools and include unfair or even abusive terms.

Time is running out to tell the MEPs in JURI to act. Tell them to back stronger exceptions, safeguard the public domain and save the Internet via saveyourinternet.eu or changecopyright.org now!