Last call to push for a good EU copyright reform for education: Joint conclusions from the ETUCE-EFEE-COMMUNIA conference

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Support for clear and broad exception for education and research purposes
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Today, we publish joint conclusions on better copyright for higher education and research together with ETUCE / EI federations of teachers’ trade unions and EFEE, the European Federation of Education Employers. This document is an outcome of a joint high level conference organized on 11 April 2018 in Brussels, with the financial support of the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO).

The event marked for us an important opportunity to discuss with education stakeholders how copyright law can support sound educational policy. This been the goal of our Copyright for Education project, initiated two years ago. Through this project, we have been aiming to strengthen the visibility and position of education stakeholders in the copyright reform debate – in particular with extent to issues like the education exception, which affects them directly.

This joint initiative was coordinated by ETUCE, also with the goal of lobbying for good copyright for education during the vote in the European Parliament on 20 June. The shared conclusions from the conference partners stress that:

#1: A genuine copyright exception

Educators would benefit from an EU-wide education exception – without mandatory remuneration – , which educators can rely upon across the European Union and which defines a minimum standard. Removing copyright restrictions on the digital use of illustrative materials including textbooks for educational purposes would increase legal certainty as this would reduce the financial burdens on education systems and institutions.Continue reading

Launched: copyrightforeducation.eu

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Today, COMMUNIA launches the copyrightforeducation.eu website, asking for support for a better copyright for education. Let’s raise our voices and spread the word now, so that we can influence our legislators in creating a better copyright law for education.

What you can find in our new website

We believe in policy decisions that are based on evidence. On copyrightforeducation.eu you can find all the studies that we have been conducting in the past years on the issues of copyright and education:

  • Our study that shows that copyright laws in Europe are too fragmented and, thus, lead to inequality among European students, create legal uncertainty for teachers, and limit cross-border collaboration.
  • Our study that shows that most of these laws are too narrow, preventing educational activities that take place everyday in schools all over Europe, such as the use of an entire image in an educational resource or the screening of a film in class.
  • Our study that shows that licenses restrict the scope of protection of the educational exceptions, grant questionable rights to rightholders and impose burdensome obligations on schools. Therefore, the EU proposal, which prevents copyrighted materials from being used under the education exception from the moment that such materials become easily available in the market under a licence, is a bad solution.
  • Documentation showing that educators support a good solution for copyright, in other words, a mandatory exception that cannot be overridden by contracts or licenses, that facilitates cross border use, and does not oblige Member States to provide for remuneration for each and every use of copyrighted materials for educational purposes.

We need to act NOW

A vote will soon take place on the shape of European copyright law. European legislators listen mainly to the voice of copyright rightsholders. We need to change that now.

We are asking for a law that grants educators and learners freedom to use copyrighted content. Educators should not be forced to rely on licenses, which spell new costs and burdens.

Those who teach, learn and create, exchange information for the benefit of European society. They deserve a copyright framework that enables them to provide modern, innovative education. Education fit for the Europe of the 21st century.

Copyright needs to be reshaped in order to facilitate modern education which spans the lives of learners, and takes place in a variety of formal and informal settings, online as well as offline.

European educators and learners need an education exception that is mandatory and cannot be overridden by contracts or licenses.

Educators should not need to be lawyers to understand what they can and cannot do. We believe in transparency. Educators would benefit from an education exception on which educators can rely across the European Union. This would create legal certainty for educators.

What you can do to help

Please visit the website copyrightforeducation.eu and if you support a better copyright for education, act now:

– Reach out to your MEP https://voxscientia.eu/call-to-action/
– Sign up for our newsletter on Education and Copyright
– Contact us at education@communia-association.org

SCCR/36: Communia statement on educational and research exceptions

Karikatuur van Franse censoren
Action plans have to bring evidence to the table
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In our capacity of permanent observers of the WIPO Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights, we have been attending the 36th session of the Committee, which is taking place in Geneva from 28 May to 1 June 2018.

The following is the statement made by Teresa Nobre on our behalf on agenda item 7 (Limitations and exceptions for educational and research institutions and for persons with other disabilities):

I’m speaking on behalf of COMMUNIA International Association on the Digital Public Domain.

We would like to start by thanking all the delegates for demonstrating their support for education throughout this SCCR. We would also like to thank the Chair for preparing the Draft Action Plan, and we have 2 suggestions to make regarding the planned actions.

The first is on the typology. We welcome the Chair’s proposal to synthesize, organise and classify the information contained in the study performed by Prof. Seng, and we would be pleased to offer our advice to the Chair in the development of the proposed typology.

At COMMUNIA we have been mapping educational exceptions for several years now, and we have created a template that breaks down the different provisions into their essential elements (users, uses, purposes, works, conditions and preclusions) and shows simple yes/no or 0/1 results, which permit a quick understanding of their differences and similarities. This template was recently updated, in collaboration with PIJIP, to reflect the different provisions analysed by Prof. Seng and could, therefore, be a good reference to the Chair.

The second suggestion regards the study on digital issues. We believe that such a study is only useful if it brings evidence regarding the gags, legal uncertainties and obstacles that may inhibit the development of digital education and research.

For that, the methodology has to go beyond policy and legal analysis. Interviews and surveys involving educators, learners and researchers are essential. Here are a few topics that we would suggest to be included in such study:

  • Digital actions carried out by the education and research communities on a regular basis;
  • Types of tools, devices and works used for educational and research purposes;
  • Restrictions encountered by these stakeholders in relation to different types of digital materials;
  • Mechanisms to ensure functioning of exceptions and limitations regarding TPM-protected works;
  • Obstacles and uncertainties faced by these stakeholders; and
  • Cross-border related problems encountered by these stakeholders.

Thank you.

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.Continue reading

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

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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?

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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