Education: the 5 Most Unfair Licence Conditions

A woman shouting into a man's ear-trumpet. Wood engraving.
Last call to avoid falling into a black hole!
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We recently released our new report “Educational Licences in Europe”, where we analyzed 10 collective agreements in Finland, France, and the United Kingdom. This study shows that educational licences for using copyrighted content in schools include many terms and conditions that restrict users’ rights and that are unfair or unreasonable.

While the small number of agreements analyzed in the study does not allow us to make any safe conclusions with respect to the different licensing schemes, we could not avoid noticing that (some of) the most unfair terms identified in this study are contained in the British licences. And that is interesting to highlight because licences prevail over the teaching exception only in two EU countries: United Kingdom and Ireland (source: IA on the modernization of copyright rules). 

One possible explanation for this apparent correlation is that the UK legal framework prevents licensees from refusing licences that contain terms and conditions that will act against their best interests. Educational establishments, or governmental institutions acting on their behalf, are “forced” to accept any licence that is easily available in the market, if they want to continue making the uses that were protected by such exceptions, and that become suddenly covered by the licences. In this context, right holders are “free” to almost unilaterally reshape the terms and conditions of educational uses made under their licences.

If this is not enough to cause concern among lawmakers, here are the 5 most questionable terms and conditions identified in the agreements analyzed in our study:

1. Licensor can inspect materials, secured networks and storage platforms used by schools, without being required to keep the information obtained confidential

Does not prevent licensors from disclosing and making commercial uses of sensitive information, such as data related with the performance of students

2. Licensor can enter a school’s premises at any time, provided it gives reasonable notice, to ensure compliance with the licence and inspect procedures

It can disrupt the normal operation of schools

3. Schools have to take reasonable steps to ensure that licences are not infringed by teachers, students and third parties

It creates an excessive burden on schools that have to start policing teachers, students, parents and third parties

4. School must own, or subscribe to, a copy of the materials it copies, scans or uses under the licences

Does not allow uses of materials owned by teachers and students or borrowed from a library or legally obtained

5. Digital copies may not contain hypertext links (or the like) to any external or third-party website

It prevents teachers and students from comparing, verifying and updating information and knowledge

Solutions

To avoid spreading these licensing conditions across Europe, lawmakers should consider adopting the following measures:

  1. Prevent license priority, or provide only for limited priority to those contractual arrangements that are mutually agreed by the parties.
  2. Render contractual provisions that restrict the scope of protection afforded by a copyright exception or limitation unenforceable.
  3. Give schools access to affordable mediation and litigation, to challenge with ease the terms of a licence that are thought to be unfair or unreasonable.
  4. Assess the need to submit educational licences to public regulation.

 


Voss’ unbalanced approach to the education exception

The Shop of the Bookdealer Pieter Meijer Warnars on the Vijgendam in Amsterdam
legislators should care about teachers, not publishers
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During the recent high-level conference on copyright in higher education, which we organized with the European Trade Union Committee for Education (ETUCE) and the European Federation of Education Employers (EFEE), we had the pleasure of hosting MEP Alex Voss. It was a rare opportunity for us to hear the rapporteur for the Copyright in the DSM Directive dossier speak about the educational exception. Here is our critical take on this speech, which gives a good sense of how Mr. Voss sees the issue of copyright and education.

Mr. Voss defined the general question as defining “when to pay, and when to use copyright protected works freely”. We believe that we will never have good copyright for education if we see it as just an issue of transfer of funds.

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Balancing Education and Copyright – reflections after Conference on Copyright in Higher Education and Research

MEP Axel Voss, rapporteur of the draft Directive on copyright in the Digital Single Market, did not expect this dossier to be so controversial. And issues relating to the educational sector are not an exception. With these words, the Eurodeputy began his speech at last week’s high-level conference, “A better copyright for quality higher education and research in Europe and beyond”. The conference was organized jointly in Brussels by the European Trade Union Committee for Education (ETUCE), the European Federation of Education Employers (EFEE) and COMMUNIA Association. The event was for us an opportunity to meet educational stakeholders – including members of our Copyright for Education network, as well as representatives of publishers and CMOs.


Teresa Nobre (Communia Association) and MEP Axel Voss (EPP, Germany), photo Education International, CC BY NC

Licenses are not a solution for education

If we were to choose one thing that worries us the most in the ongoing copyright reform as it relates to education, it would certainly be the possibility of license override. According to the current proposal for the  Directive on copyright in Digital Single Market, licences that are easily available in the market can take precedence over the mandatory educational exception.

While this might seem like a way to adjust copyright to national specificity, licensing mechanism will spell new barriers and costs for educational systems across Europe. For countries where educational licenses have not been available to date, this means that there is a possibility that schools will have to pay for materials that have been available to them for free. But educational licenses are not just a matter of money. Continue reading

This is not how you make copyright reform! Report from the Copyright Action Days

Last week more than a hundred of copyright reform activists got together in Brussels for the the European Copyright Action Days to make it clear to EU lawmakers that the copyright reform effort that is currently being discussed in the European Parliament and the European Council is not good enough. In a series of events organized by Copyright 4 Creativity, Create.Refresh, Communia and others, activists and other stakeholders discussed the shortcomings of the current reform proposal as well as ideas for a more future-proof overhaul of the outdated EU copyright system.

As part of the Copyright Action Days we organized a a roundtable on the future of education in the European Parliament, our first ever COMMUNIA Salon on the future of copyright in the Museum of Natural Sciences and two workshops for copyright reform activists.

Video documentation by Sebastiaan ter Burg.

Roundtable on the future of education

The roundtable on the the future of education hosted by Dutch MEP Marietje Schaake was a full room event at the European Parliament, with over 40 policymakers and stakeholders attending. We discussed the intersection of educational policy, technology, copyright reform and open licensing policies. Irish school teacher Leanne Lynch talked about the use of technology, social media platforms and digital copyrighted materials in the classroom. Mitja Jermol – UNESCO Chair on Open Technologies for Open Educational Resources and Open Education – talked about how new technologies can support educational goals. Andreia Inamorato dos Santos from EC’s Institute for Prospective Technology Studies  presented results of their latest report on open education policies in Europe. Finally, Damjan Harisch from the Slovenian Ministry of Education and Maja Bogataj Jančič, Director of the Slovenian Intellectual Property Institute, presented the position of Slovenian Ministry of Education on the copyright reform  During the event, Teresa Nobre also presented our latest research on licences for educational uses. We are happy that we had the opportunity to exchange views on the matter with representatives of publishers and CMOs.

The Future of Technology in Education roundtable
The Future of Technology in Education roundtable, photo by Sebastiaan ter Burg. More photos here.

COMMUNIA salon

The COMMUNIA salon in the Museum of Natural Sciences brought together more than 70 activists, academics and policy makers to discuss challenges on the intersection of creativity, value creation and copyright in the online environment. Under the title “Copyright for the future” the discussions attempted to draw up a perspective that looks beyond the current legislative proposal. Continue reading

Our study “Educational Licences in Europe” is out now

Strafpleiters
Licence priority sounds even worse now
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The European Union is coming closer to approving a mandatory educational exception that may address some of the limitations copyright law places on everyday educational activities. However, the current proposal for a Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market would allow licences that are easily available in the market to take precedence over the educational exception.

Our new report “Educational Licences in Europe“, covering the analysis of 10 agreements in Finland, France, and the United Kingdom, shows that educational licences contain terms and conditions disadvantageous to schools:Continue reading

Is the new education exception in Germany geared towards the 21st century?

Anatomische les van professor Paaw
New law already scheduled for review
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This is a guest post by Bernd Fiedler, policy manager at Wikimedia Deutschland. Bernd previously worked as a teacher and is aiming at improving the framework for free education. WMDE is a Communia member organisation.

In the “Urheberrechts-Wissensgesellschafts-Gesetz” (engl. roughly: Copyright Knowledge-Society Act), the German legislator tries to improve the legal framework for educators and scientists in Germany, as part of a general clean-up of the exceptions section of the Copyright Code. In general, 15% of a protected work can be used for educational and scientific purposes without permission until 2023.

The law, introduced last minute at the end of the legislative period in 2017, was long overdue. It was heavily lobbied, it is limited to five years, and it is already scheduled for review. Still, as Federal Minister of Justice Heiko Maas put it, because it is bundled into a single document, it somewhat clarifies regulation for educators, coming into effect on March 1, 2018.

In Germany, legislation on education and research is fragmented due to the federal constitution. So far, with the exception of the Copyright Code, which is federal law, the state-level executive and legislative bodies have full responsibility for education in their Länder (states). This includes the details on how copyright exceptions and limitations for education are handled in practice, which is regulated very granularly in treaties between the states’ culture ministers on one side and rightsholder representatives on the other. In practice, there were 16 different ways of handling copyright in education and some federal-level treaties that had to be considered.

From March onwards, educational institutions can use up to 15% of any single work (e.g. Book, Film etc.) in order to supply their courses and staff, and use that amount even for third-party presentations, as long as this serves to present the teaching outcome or similar at the institution itself. Single images, “a few” scientific articles from the same academic journal issue, out-of-distribution works and “works of smaller proportions” can be used in their entirety.

Before, the federal law only contained vague legal terms such as “shorter extracts”, “works of smaller proportions”, the meaning of which had to be negotiated into the abovementioned treaties at state level, leading in practice to different extent limitations in each state.

Shortcomings of the new exception

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Licenses: we are past copyright

The finish in the great match race [...] at Sheepshead Bay, N.Y., June 25th, 1890 between Salvator and Tenny / L.M.
Copyright exceptions should win this race
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We have been arguing for quite sometime now that handing out the power to define the scope of users rights to right holders – in the form of license agreements that they can (almost unilateral) draft and frame as they wish – is bad. Really bad: licenses fragment the legal framework that mandatory exceptions try to harmonize; licenses contain abusive terms or impose obligations on users that are not foreseen in the laws; and licenses have a huge impact on national budgets.

Unfortunately, this message has not come through to all, or not everyone understands what we are saying, or worse right holders have done a nice job in convincing lawmakers that’s the right way to go.

Allowing licenses to override exceptions is the only treat that publishers want

The current copyright reform carried the promise of being a landmark in the history of the EU copyright law. Lawmakers would finally show they understand that copyright is not superior to any of the other fundamental rights that every constitutional law across Europe grants to their citizens, and would make things right. Sadly, however, the prospects of that being the case for education are now very low.

MEPs passed the last year negotiating the scope of the educational exception. On the one hand, those who side with schools, teachers and students, proposed amendments to eliminate some of the constraints that the educational exception contains. On the other hand, those who side with publishers have been pushing for more restrictions, in order to narrow down the scope of the proposed exception even further.

Not enough MEPs understood that the most problematic aspect of art. 4 is not the scope of the mandatory exception (n.º 1) but the fact that Member States may choose not to apply such mandatory exception if licenses covering those uses are easily available in the market (n.º 2).

It is our understanding that publishers could not care less about the scope of the educational exception, provided that they can rule out the application of said exception with their own license agreements. This is copyright “taking the back seat”, as Professor Niva Elkin-Koren would put it.Continue reading

Educators ask for a better copyright

Educators ask for a better copyright
58 signatures for better copyright
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Today COMMUNIA sent a joint letter to all MEPs working on copyright reform. The letter is an urgent request to improve the education exception in the proposal for a Directive on copyright in the Digital Single Market. It is supported by 53 organisations representing schools, libraries, universities and non-formal education, and also 5 individual educators and information specialists.

The future of education determines the future of society. In the letter we explain the changes needed to facilitate the use of copyrighted works in support of education. We listed four main problems with the Commission’s proposal:

#1: A limited exception instead of a mandatory one

The European Commission proposed a mandatory exception, which can be overridden by licenses. As a consequence educational exception will still be different in each Member State. Moreover, educators will need a help from a lawyer to understand what they are allowed to do.

#2 Remuneration should not be mandatory

Currently most Member States have exceptions for educational purposes that are completely or largely unremunerated. Mandatory payments will change the situation of those educators (or their institutions), which will have to start paying for materials they are now using for free.

#3: Excluding experts

The European Commission’s proposal does not include all important providers of education as only formal educational establishments are covered by the exception. We note that the European lifelong-learning model underlines the value of informal and non-formal education conducted in the workplace. All these are are excluded from the education exception.

#4: Closed-door policy

The European Commission’s proposal limits digital uses to secure institutional networks and to the premises of an educational establishment. As a consequence educators will not develop and conduct educational activities in other facilities such as libraries and museums, and they will not be able to use modern means of communication, such as emails and the cloud.

You can still endorse the letter by sending an email to education@communia-associations.org. You can read the full letter below or download the PDF.Continue reading

The defense of education at the World Intellectual Property Organization

SCCR35
Fighting for minimum international standards!
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As we reported last month, Communia attended the 35th session of WIPO’s Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights (SCCR), which took place from 13 – 17 November in Geneva. The SCCR has a mandate to discuss limitations and exceptions to copyright, including for educational purposes. While Communia supports efforts to reach minimum international standards of exceptions and limitations to copyright in all the different areas that are currently under discussion (libraries, museums, archives, persons with disabilities, and education), our role there is specifically to support the dialogue on educational exceptions.

Why is it important to have baseline international standards?  

First, it’s a question of educational equity. The different treatments of education by copyright laws all over the world result in huge discrepancies in the way education is provided, thus increasing the inequality in educational outcomes. Educators in countries with none or poorly designed education exceptions have to be extremely careful when selecting the teaching materials they will use in educational activities or they can risk civil and criminal action for copyright infringement. Meanwhile, in countries that have strong, well-drafted copyright exceptions, teachers have the freedom to choose and use whichever materials they feel are most adequate for their instructional activities.Continue reading

Educational Institutions in Europe advocate for a better copyright reform for education

20171113_095554 (1)
#fixcopyright for education
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There are many controversial things about current european copyright reform. We mainly hear about the fear of censorship of user-generated content or attempt to introduce something called ‘link tax’ to ensure press publishers right to control over the digital use of their content. But education? There are not many people, who will disagree that what Europe needs right now is a modern education system enhancing creativity, innovation and economic growth. Not to mention the importance of lifelong learning and the need of improving the quality and efficiency of education. Still repeated demand for digital skills and competences sounds like a cliche. You can find all of it well written down in EU documents and programs concerning education and training. So, there is one important question – why, when dealing with copyright issues, all these great ideas about the importance of education get forgotten?

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