Video recording of the COMMUNIA salon on 18 June 2020

Last week on Thursday we held the second virtual edition of our COMMUNIA Salon. This edition focussed on the role of flexible exceptions in the context of Article 17 of the Copyright in the Digital Single Market Directive and the role that a broad interpretation of the concept of pastiche can play in preserving users’ freedom of creative expression. If you have missed the event you can watch a recording of the presentations and the subsequent discussion here:

The salon was kicked off by Teresa Nobre who discussed the importance of flexible copyright exceptions and highlighted the recent developments in the jurisprudence of the CJEU that has gradually started to recognise exceptions as expressions of certain fundamental rights. In the following presentation Paul Keller discussed the tension between mandatory exceptions and de-facto mandatory filters in Article 17 and highlighted that the provisions dealing with exceptions remain at the center of the discussion in the Commission’s stakeholder dialogue on the implementation of Article 17.

In the second part of the event Prof. Martin Senftleben talked about Article 17, Pastiche and Money for Creators. As part of his presentation Prof. Senftleben reminded the audience about the original objective of Article 17 to make large online platforms pay for so-called “user generated content” in order to improve the income position of creators and other rightholders. According to Prof. Senftleben, the licensing based approach introduced by Article 17 will fail to achieve this objective since it inherently favours large rightholders who have the means to negotiate with large platforms. Article 17 as such does not ensure that individual creators benefit from any additional revenues secured by creative industry intermediaries. Continue reading

How Filters fail (to meet the requirements of the DSM directive)

Sakkamettant l'eau au sir (filtre)
Three common failure modes of upload filters
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Article 17 of the DSM directive establishes that Online Content Sharing Service Providers (OCSSPs) are liable for copyright infringing uploads by their users unless they either obtain a license for the use of such content, or take a number of measures designed to prevent the availability of such content on their platforms. While the directive never explicitly talks about filters or automated content recognition (ACR) systems, it is assumed by all sides of the debate that, in order to meet this obligation, platforms have little choice but to implement ACR-based filtering systems that will scan all user uploads and block or remove uploads that contain works that have been flagged by their rightholders.

This de-facto requirement to implement upload filters is – by far – the most controversial aspect of the entire copyright directive and it continues to dominate the discussions about the implementation of Article 17 into national legislation.

In this context, it is important to remember that the use of such filters is not new and that their functioning can already be observed in practice. What is new, however, is the de-facto requirement for OCSSPs to implement filters as well as a number of requirements that OCSSPs need to meet to ensure that any measures (including filters) implemented by them are not infringing on the rights of users. This includes the requirement that any such measures “shall not result in the prevention of the availability of works or other subject matter uploaded by users, which do not infringe copyright and related rights, including where such works or other subject matter are covered by an exception or limitation“.

In other words, one of the most important contributions of the DSM directive is that, for the first time, it establishes conditions that need to be met by automated upload filters.

As we have argued many times before, these conditions present a very high hurdle for any technological solution to clear. The fact that upload filters are incapable of determining if a particular use of a copyrighted work is infringing or not has been established beyond any doubt. But that does not mean that the failure to assess the context is the only way that filters based on automated content recognition fail to meet the requirements established by the directive. In total there are at least three distinct ways how filters fail.

In the remainder of this post we will discuss these three failure modes based on examples collected by Techdirt in the course of a single week: removals caused by incorrect rights information, removals caused by the inability to recognise legitimate uses, and removals caused by the inability to accurately identify works.

Incorrect rights information

Incorrect rights information is probably the most common and best documented cause for the unjustified removal (or demonetisation) of works on YouTube.

ACR systems execute actions specified by whoever is recognised as the owner of a work. For the purposes of the ACR systems, the owner of a work is whoever claims to be the owner of the work and, unless there are conflicting ownership claims, there is no way to check the accuracy of such claims as there are no authoritative databases of ownership rights. As a result it is possible to claim ownership in public domain works (which no-one owns), in works that have been freely or widely licensed by their owners, or for any copyrighted work that has not already been claimed by someone else. Continue reading

COMMUNIA Salon 2020/2: protecting freedom of expression via the pastiche exception

COMMUNIA Salon 2020/2: Protecting freedom of expression via the pastiche exceptionLicentie

After the success of our first virtual COMMUNIA salon last month we will be holding a follow-up event on Thursday, the 18th of June, from 1530 to 1700h CET. This time we will be focussing on the role of the now mandatory exceptions and limitations for quotation, criticism, review, caricature, parody and pastiche in the context of the implementation of Article 17 of the DSM directive. We will pay special attention to the role of the pastiche exception and examine how a broad conception of pastiche can provide a legal basis for a wide range of transformative uses of protected works on online platforms.

In the context of the discussion on the implementation of Article 17, scholars have argued that the concept of pastiche (“a musical, literary, or artistic composition made up of selections from different works“) provides a legal basis for safeguarding transformative uses that are commonly referred to as User Generated Content. During the upcoming COMMUNIA salon we will explore this possibility and discuss how Member States can best make use of the room provided by the pastiche exception when implementing Article 17 of the DSM directive.

After introductory presentations by Teresa Nobre (on the importance of flexible exceptions to copyright) and Paul Keller (on the tension between filtering obligations and the obligation to safeguard users rights in the context of Article 17), we will be joined by Professor Martin Senftleben from the Institute for Information Law, who will focus on the role of the pastiche exception. Prof. Senftleben has recently published a paper on the role of the pastiche exception in the context of institutionalised algorithmic enforcement and is one of the co-authors of the European Copyright Society’s comment on Article 17 of the DSM directive, which recommends “cultivating the concept of pastiche” to ensure that Article 17 does not limit freedom of expression.

The presentations will be followed by an informal question and answer session.

This event is open for everyone to attend and will be held on Zoom. In order to ensure smooth participation we request participants to register beforehand. Registered participants will receive login information ahead of the event.

Video recording from last weeks COMMUNIA salon

Last week Monday, on the first anniversary of the entry into force of the Copyright in the DSM Directive, we held the first virtual edition of our COMMUNIA Salon. During the event we presented an overview of the implementation status in the EU member states, zoomed in (sic!) on various legislative proposals to implement Articles 15 and 17 of the Directive and discussed ways to challenge parts of the Directive via the legal system. If you have missed the event you can watch a recording of the presentations and the subsequent discussion here: 

The event was kicked off by Teresa Nobre who launched the COMMUNIA implementation tracker and presented an overview of the implementation in the EU member states. While France has already implemented the press publishers right, the majority of EU member states are still in various stages of consultation. One year after the entry into force of the Directive, only Belgium, Croatia, France, Germany, Hungary and the Netherlands have put forward legislative proposals. Continue reading

Our DSM Directive Implementation Tracker is out

The finish in the great match race [...] at Sheepshead Bay, N.Y., June 25th, 1890 between Salvator and Tenny / L.M.Licentie

Today we are launching our new DSM Directive Implementation Tracker.

These tracking pages aim to provide information on the status of the implementation of the new Copyright Directive in all EU Member States. The information contained in each country page was collected by local organisations and individuals in each country and/or from public sources.

This tracker is part of a wider implementation project of COMMUNIA and its members Centrum Cyfrowe and Wikimedia, which includes a range of activities (including our DSM Directive Implementation Guidelines) to make sure that local communities in as many Member States as possible are aware of their national legislative processes and participate in those processes.  

What is the current status of the implementation?

One year after the entry into force of the DSM Directive, the implementation picture is very varied. So far only one member state (France) has adopted one element of the Directive (the new press publishers right) into national law.

There are currently two member states with implementation law proposals tabled in their national parliaments. In France a proposal implementing articles 17 – 22 of the Directive has cleared committee and is awaiting first reading in plenary. In the Netherlands a proposal implementing the entire Directive has just been introduced into parliament and is awaiting reading in the legal affairs committee.Continue reading

A better way to implement Article 17? New German proposal to avoid overblocking

Jakobs ladder
A step-by-step concept against overblocking
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Back in April 2019, at the occasion of the final vote on the DSM Directive in the Council, the German Federal Government issued a statement, announcing that it intended to implement Article 17 with a focus on “preventing ‘upload filters’ wherever possible, ensuring freedom of expression and safeguarding user rights”. While the German Government has yet to produce an implementation proposal for Article 17, we may now have gotten a first insight in what such an implementation might look like. Late last month, the Kölner Forschungsstelle für Medienrecht at the University of Applied Sciences in Cologne, published a step-by-step concept for implementing Article 17 of the DSM Directive (“Stufenkonzept gegen Overblocking durch Uploadfilter“). 

The paper authored by Prof. Dr. Rolf Schwartmann and Prof. Dr. Christian-Henner Hentsch consists of an implementation proposal in the form of concrete legislative language. The objective of the authors seems to be to stay as close as possible to the objectives formulated in the German statement to the Council. What makes this proposal remarkable is that it is the first proposal (although not an official one) for implementing the Article 17 of the new Copyright Directive that does not consist of more or less literal transposition of Article 17 into national law (as it is the case in the French, Dutch and Belgian legislative proposals). In order to achieve the stated objective of preventing over-blocking by upload filters, the concept proposes a combination of Article 17 with Article 12 of the DSM Directive (which provides Member States the option to introduce Extended Collective Licenses). 

The implementation proposal contains modifications of three different acts: the Copyright Act (Urheberrechtsgesetz – UrhG), the Tele Media Act (Telemediengesetz – TMG) and the Collective Management Organisations Act (Verwertungsgesellschaftengesetz – VGG). Specifically the authors propose the following modifications: 

In the Copyright Act, they propose to add a new section to the article (§ 19a UrhG) that defines the act of communication to the public. The purpose of this addition is to include acts of giving the public access to copyright-protected user uploaded works by Online Content Service Providers (OCSSPs) in the definition of the existing making available to the public right. This establishes that, in principle, OCSSPs need authorisation from rightholders for such acts. The added section also includes the definition of OCSSPs, which is a literal transposition of the definition used in the DSM directive. 

The second addition to the Copyright Act is a new exception covering uses for the purpose of caricature, parody or pastiche by users of OCSSPs (§ 51a UrhG). Notably, this exception only applies in the context of sharing works via OCSSPs (which is highly unusual as copyright exceptions are usually not limited to specific services) and is conditional on remuneration to rightholders via collective management organisations. Continue reading

Article 17 Stakeholder dialogue: COMMUNIA input paper

A woman shouting into a man's ear-trumpet
Our principles for the the Commission guidelines
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Given the ongoing health emergency, the European Commission’s stakeholder dialogue on the implementation of Article 17 of the Copyright Directive is currently suspended. The 7th meeting of the stakeholder dialogue, which was originally scheduled for Monday of this week and where the Commission was expected to “share initial views on the content of the guidelines”, has been cancelled and it is currently unclear how and when the stakeholder dialogue will be resumed. In the meanwhile, the European Commission is continuing its work on the guidelines.

While we are waiting for news on the future of the stakeholder dialogue we have produced an input paper for the Commission (pdf) that summarises our observations from the stakeholder dialogue so far and formulates a number of principles that the Commission should take into account when drafting its guidelines. In line with our initial principles, the input paper focuses on licensing, transparency and procedural safeguards for users’ rights. The paper builds on the model that we had presented during the last meeting of the stakeholder dialogue

Specifically, we are asking the Commission to include the following in the Article 17 implementation guidelines: 

  • Recommend to national lawmakers to fully explore all legal mechanisms (including collective licensing with extended effect, mandatory collective management schemes and other non-voluntary licensing schemes) for granting OCSSPs authorisation to have in their platforms copyright-protected works and other subject matter uploaded by their users.
  • Require that all ownership claims made in the context of the measures required by Article 17 must be made fully transparent to allow public scrutiny and prevent unjustified removals or blocking by rightholders claiming ownership of works that they do not own.
  • Require that OCSSPs publish statistical information on the number of removal/blocking actions as well as the number of complaints and the resolution of complaints arising as the result of such actions.
  • Requires that in cases other than obvious infringement and in order to prevent automated measures from affecting lawful uses, users must have the ability to override all automated actions before the blocking/removal takes effect.
  • Require that in case of obvious (“prima facie”) infringement uploaded content can be automatically blocked/removed under the condition that uploaders have the ability to easily and effectively challenge such blocks/removals.
  • Require that users must be able to rely on all existing exceptions as grounds for challenging removal/blocking actions and must be able to dispute the ownership claims on which an action is based.

Continue reading

Research Librarians: New TDM exception can be undermined by technical blocking from publishers

De zanderij
Protect TDM from adverse effects of TPMs
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Today the Association of European Research Libraries (LIBER) issued a warning that the new Text and Data Mining (TDM) exceptions contained in the DSM directive can easily be undermined by technical blocking from publishers. LIBER has come to this conclusion based on the results of a survey on content blocking, carried out by LIBER’s Copyright & Legal Matters Working Group and the UK Libraries and Archives Copyright Alliance (LACA). The submissions to the survey so far confirm fears that Technical Protection Measures (TPM) can be abused by rightholders to limit the usefulness of the exceptions contained in the directive. 

Article 3 of the directive allows reproductions in the context of text and data mining for the purposes of scientific research made by research organisations and cultural heritage institutions. While the article allows rightholders to take measures to ensure the security and integrity of the networks, it does not allow them to prevent researchers from exercising their rights under the exception. It also requires rightholders to remove any TPMs that prevent researchers from exercising their rights but does not specify how quickly this has to happen. 

The survey conducted by LIBER shows that in practice it is difficult for researchers to get rightholders to remove TPMs or other access and use restrictions to content that research institutions have licensed. And in cases where such limitations are eventually removed the process is often long and resource intensive. All of this does not only frustrate efforts to text and data mining by individual researchers, but can also have negative consequences for entire institutions. 

The submissions shared with us by libraries and researchers from a mix of countries (some with TDM exceptions already and some without) show that:

  • Researchers are blocked from accessing many types of content. Journal articles were the most common type of content mentioned (44%) but eBooks, websites, databases and newspapers were also cited.
  • Content blocking takes, on average, nearly a month to resolve. Respondents reported that it took between 24 hours and 2-1/2 months to resolve the content blocking issue, with the mean time being 24 days. A fifth of survey respondents said they were only partially able to resolve the issue and 11% said it was never resolved.
  • Sanctions impact whole communities, not just individual researchers. Actions taken by publishers included 1) suspension of campus-wide access to paid for electronic subscriptions 2) threats to cut off access to content unless TDM was stopped 3) technically limiting downloads to one document only 4) a request for additional payments and 5) the introduction of captcha technology to frustrate data mining

The findings reported by LIBER are extremely relevant in the context of the ongoing implementations of the DSM directive in the EU member states. As we have noted in our implementation guide for articles 3 & 4 of the directive Member states should include in their national laws provisions requiring rightholders to remove TPMs and resolve lock-outs within a maximum period of 72 hours once reported.

In order to better make the case why such a requirement must be included in national implementations LIBER is continuing to collect evidence of abusive practices. If you work for an academic research institutions that has ran into similar issues in the past you can still contribute your experience to LIBER: 

If you or your organisation have ever been blocked from accessing a publisher’s servers for reasons you believe are related to data mining, fill out the survey. The survey can be answered anonymously and will remain open indefinitely. You can also send information on this issue to liberlegalworkinggroup@gmail.com”.

Germany sets bad example with the proposed implementation of the new education exception

De verzoeking van Adam en Eva in het paradijs,
A dangerous precedent for user rights
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A few weeks ago, the German government shared its proposal for the implementation of some of the provisions of the new Copyright in the Digital Single Market Directive, including the new EU education exception (Article 5 in the final version of the Directive).

Similarly to what we did with the Dutch proposal, we will provide here an overview of the German proposal to implement locally the new exception. This is part of our effort to track how countries across Europe implement this mandatory exception to copyright for educational purposes.

What changes are introduced to the existing legal framework in Germany?

Germany proposes to implement the new educational exception through an amendment to the existing education exception in Section 60a of the Act on Copyright and Related Rights (see English version here). 

The current exception covers all relevant, digital and non-digital, educational activities undertaken by educational establishments for non-commercial purposes. The exception is technologically neutral and allows the educational establishment’s teachers and students to hold activities in any venues. However, it sets quantity limitations (save for illustrations, isolated articles from the same professional or scientific journal, small-scale works or out-of-commerce works, which can be used in their entirety, the exception only allows the use of up to 15% of a work) and it excludes specific uses of certain types of materials from the scope of the exception, most notably materials exclusively intended for teaching in schools and sheet music. Furthermore, most uses are subject to the payment of compensation to the rightholders.

Under the new proposal, the scope of the education exception would be practically the same. The main difference is that the exclusion of specific uses of certain types of materials would be conditioned to the existence of licenses (easily available in the market and covering the needs and specificities of educational establishments) authorizing those uses. In other words, if such licenses do not exist, then those uses can be made under the exception. 

What is the main flaw of Germany’s proposal?

The main flaw of the proposed education exception is to give preference to licensing offers over the educational exception, with respect to specific uses of certain types of materials, taking away the educators and the learners right to make those uses under the exception as soon as copyright owners start selling licences for said uses.Continue reading

Article 17 stakeholder dialogue (day 6): Hitting a brick wall

A woman shouting into a man's ear-trumpetLicentie

This week saw the sixth meeting of the EU stakeholder dialogue on the implementation of Article 17 of the new copyright directive. This meeting was the first one where the question of how to reconcile the protection of user rights’ with automated filters based on technology that cannot assess the legality of the use of copyrighted works was explicitly on the agenda. From the perspective of the users’ organisations participating in the stakeholder dialogue this is the main question that the stakeholder dialogue (and the guidelines that the Commission will have to issue afterwards) needs to address. 

Unfortunately, Monday’s meeting did not result in a productive discussion about how to protect users’ rights. Proposals made by COMMUNIA and Studio71 on how to strike a balance between the rights of users and the interests of creators and other rightholders were largely ignored by a coalition of major rightholders from both the music and the audio-visual sectors. Working in concert, the representatives of the Hollywood studios (MPA), film producers (FIAFP), commercial television channels (ACT), major record labels (IFPI) and music publishers (ICMP) disputed the fact that there is a tension between protecting users rights and automated blocking, restated their conviction that Article 17 is only about empowering them versus the platforms, and suggested that users should simply trust that rightholders will not block free speech or other legitimate uses. In doing so they have made it clear that they want their interests to prevail at all cost, that users should not be trusted and that for them user rights are something that should exist at their discretion. 

This outcome leaves the European Commission in the difficult position to make sense of the input gathered throughout the previous six meetings and to outline a way forwards. Fortunately it seemed that the Commission is not willing to succumb to the unconstructive behaviour exhibited by rightholders and will take serious its task of finding a balance between users rights and the interests of different types of rightholders. 

A proposals for protecting users’ rights

So how could such a balance look like and what is at stake? One of the key insights that emerged from the previous rounds of the stakeholder dialogue is that even the most advanced content recognition technology is incapable of understanding the context in which works are used. This means that technology alone cannot make the determination if a use is lawful or not. Article 17 requires platforms to take measures to prevent the availability of content that rightholders want to keep off the sharing platforms and, at the same time, to ensure that legitimate uses (such as quotations or parodies) are not affected. This means that no matter how good it is at recognising content, ACR alone cannot meet the requirements of the directive. Continue reading