Strong voice of civil liberties organisations against censorship in copyright framework

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Anyone following copyright debate may have an impression it is all about “money, money, money” (Abba). In COMMUNIA we believe that such an approach shows deep misunderstanding about the function of copyright. Copyright is just one angle of approaching more broader challenge, namely providing a just framework for to access to knowledge, information and culture. A well balanced copyright system is one of the fundamental underpinnings of a knowledge-based society.

Possibly the strongest challenge to such as system is are the proposals for forcing online platforms to filter all content uploaded by their users, put down in article 13 of the proposed Directive on copyright in the Digital Single Market. We have underlined many times before that proposed regulation will have a chilling effect on sharing content, access to information and the the ability to operate open platforms online.

Today, over 50 NGOs (including COMMUNIA) representing human rights and media freedom have send today an open letter to the European Commission President, the European Parliament and the Council asking them to delete the content filter mechanism. This letter comes ahead of a crucial vote in the European Parliament’s Civil Liberties committee, in which the MEPs tasked with upholding our fundamental freedoms will give their opinion on the upload filters that the Commission wants to introduce through article 13. The signatories of the letter, which include many prominent human rights organisations like the Freedom of the Press Foundation, Human Rights Watch and Reporters without Borders, believe that the mechanism introduced through article 13:

  • would violate the freedom of expression set out in the Charter of Fundamental Rights;
  • provokes such legal uncertainty that online services will have no other option than to monitor, filter and block EU citizens’ communications.; and,
  • includes obligations on internet companies that would be impossible to respect without the imposition of excessive restrictions on citizens’ fundamental rights.

If the European Union decides to approve the European Commission’s proposal, this would constitute an unprecedented step towards building an online censorship infrastructure. Similar filtering obligation have previously been rejected in the context of preventing terrorism and hate speech. Continue reading

The European Parliament should be talking about DRM, right now!

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Anti-circumvention laws have to be fixed!
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The European Union is currently discussing a reform of its copyright system, including making mandatory certain copyright exceptions, in order to introduce a balance into the system. However, no one, except Julia Reda, is paying any attention to one of the biggest obstacles to the enforcement of copyright exceptions in the digital age: technological protection measures (TPM), including digital rights management (DRM). In this blogpost we will present the reasons why the European Parliament should not lose this opportunity to discuss a reform of the EU anti-circumvention rules.

No balance between anti-circumvention prohibitions and users rights

The InfoSoc Directive incorporates rules regarding the protection of TPM in articles 6 and 7, which do not adequately take into account users rights created by copyright exceptions and limitations. First, Member States are only obliged to guarantee that users can access and use a TPM-protected work in relation to a closed-list of “privileged exceptions”. Beneficiaries of the remaining exceptions are not able to exercise their rights when a work is protected by TPM. Second, only certain privileged users—those who already have legal access to the work—have the right to require the technical means to benefit from the selected exceptions. Finally, the rules that are aimed to protect users do not apply to on-demand online services.

According to the European Parliament’s 2015 impact assessment study, the EU anti-circumvention rules are intend to restrict the exercise of users rights under the exceptions: 

The very narrow scope of application of this mechanism evidences a clear intent of the InfoSoc Directive to restrict considerably the enforcement of copyright exceptions in light of their increased economic impact in the new electronic environment (cf. Recital 44). (pg. I-84)

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New Estonian council compromise proposal: Another missed opportunity for TDM in Europe

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The right to read must be the right to mine!
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The Council of the European Union, currently led by the Estonian Presidency, has published an updated compromise proposal regarding Articles 2 to 9 of the Commission’s draft directive on copyright. The Estonian proposal will be discussed among the Member States next week at the meeting of the Copyright working party.

The minor tweaks to the exception for text and data mining offered in this recent draft—as well as the earlier changes suggested in the Maltese compromise proposal from 8 May —are inadequate to supporting research and innovation in the European digital single market.

Where the Commission’s original plan only permits “research organisations” to take advantage of the exception, the new Council’s compromise proposal would extend the beneficiaries to include “cultural heritage institutions.” At first glance this addition would seem welcome because it expands (albeit narrowly) to an additional beneficiary group. But this meager edit ignores the larger concern that citizens and  private sector organisations still will be excluded from the benefits of the exception. As we’ve argued, this is clearly not aligned with the goals of the reform to promote activity in the digital single market.

In addition, the Council compromise proposals do not change the problematic limitation that TDM may only be carried out strictly for “purposes of scientific research.” We’ve criticized the Commission’s short-sighted approach in only permitting TDM to apply to scientific research. Such a restraint will surely decrease the potential impact of novel TDM uses, such as for journalism-related investigations, market research, or other types of activities not strictly considered “scientific research”. Continue reading

Leading Academics: Article 13 is incompatible with EU law and must be deleted

Anatomische les van professor Paaw
There is no place for upload filters in EU law!
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Last week (the same day that we published an updated version of our position paper on article 13) our friends at copybuzz pointed to a paper by The Max Planck Institute for Innovation and Competition on article 13, published in response to a set of questions raised by six EU member states over the summer. As we have reported here, the questions related to the relationship between the measures proposed in article 13 and recital 38 of the Commission’s proposal and the existing EU legal framework (the E-Commerce Directive, the InfoSoc Directive and the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU).

The questions posed by the member states already implied that article 13 and recital 38 would violate a number of legal concepts established by existing legislation. The answers provided by the Max Planck Institute confirm this. As the paper, authored by Prof. Dr. Reto Hilty and Dr. Valentina Moscon points out, there are serious problems with all 4 aspects of the proposal that have given rise to the member state’s queries. Based on their analysis the Hilty and Moscon come to the same conclusion as we did in our own position paper:

Therefore, it is inadvisable to adopt Article 13 of the proposed Directive and its respective Recitals, 38 and 39. (page 2)

This opinion is based on an analysis that finds that the Commission’s proposal would create legal uncertainty, would risk conflicting with the user rights (exceptions and limitations) granted by the InfoSoc Directive, would be inconsistent with the E-Commerce Directive, and could enable abusive behaviour that threatens fundamental human rights, such as the freedom of expression and information.

A scathing takedown of the Commission’s Proposal

All in all, the responses to the questions posed by the six member states read as a scathing takedown of the Commission’s Proposal. Continue reading

Updated position paper: Article 13 remains a terrible idea and needs to be deleted

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Article 13 is an attack on the open internet
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Today we are publishing an updated version of our position paper on Article 13 of the European Commission’s proposal for a directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market. Since we have published our original position paper in January of this year, Article 13 has generated an enormous amount of discussion and has emerged as the most contested part of the Commission’s proposal. The discussions within the parliament and among the Member States are still ongoing and so far there is no clear indication where these talks will end.

In the updated policy paper we re-iterate our concerns (a few of them have recently been taken up by a group of Member States in a set of questions to the legal services of the Council), analyse proposals for amending the Commission’s proposal that have been adopted in the European Parliament, and provide a set of recommendations. Our key recommendation remains to delete article 13 from the proposal as it addresses a problem that lacks empirical evidence confirming its existence. Article 13, as drafted by the Commission, would limit the freedom of expression of online users and create legal uncertainty that has the potential to undermine the entire EU online economy. As such it is unworthy of being included in a Directive proposal that is intended to modernize the aging EU copyright framework.

Read the updated position paper below. If you are familiar with the issues at hand and/or the previous version you may want to jump straight to the updated part.

Position paper: EU copyright should protect users’ rights and prevent content filtering

Article 13 of the European Commission’s proposal for a Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market attempts to address the alleged disparity in revenues generated by rightsholders and platforms from online uses of protected content (the so called “value gap”). The proposed article attempts to do this by introducing an obligation for “Information society service providers that store and provide to the public access to large amounts of works” to filter user uploads. It would also require these providers to set up licensing agreements with rightsholders.

These proposed measures are highly problematic as they violate fundamental rights of users, contradict the rules established by the E-Commerce Directive, and go against CJEU case law. The measures proposed in the Commission’s proposal stem from an unbalanced vision of copyright as an issue between rightsholders and infringers. The proposal chooses to ignore limitations and exceptions to copyright, fundamental freedoms, and existing users’ practices. In addition, the proposal fails to establish clear rules with regard to how citizens can use protected works in transformative ways—such as remixes and other forms of so-called “user-generated content” (UGC). As a result, a system of this kind would greatly restrict the way Europeans create, share, and communicate online. Continue reading

CULT Committee wants educators to pay for content that they now use for free

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CULT final opinion spells disaster for education
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(With Teresa Nobre).

Last week, the Committee on Culture and Education (CULT) of the European Parliament voted on its final opinion concerning the Commission’s Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market. Copyright law in the shape proposed by the CULT MEPs would spell disaster for educators and educational institutions across Europe.

This post aims to provide educators with an overview of the changes to the draft Directive proposed by rapporteur Marc Joulaud, a French MEP from the EPP group, and then through amendments by the members of CULT. We start with an analysis of two clashing logics visible in the CULT debate, followed by an overview of key decisions made during the vote. We finish with advice on next steps in the ongoing fight to secure an educational exception that meets the needs of educators.

If you want to learn more, we have been covering the policy process from the start, with a focus on how the new law will affect educators.

Copyright and education: two clashing views

There are two clashing viewpoints in the ongoing debate on the new educational exception, and each represents a different approach for how to achieve the goals defined by the Commission in its Communication on the DSM strategy and subsequent Directive. These goals include “facilitating new uses in the fields of research and education” and providing a “modernised framework for exceptions and limitations”—which will result in a situation where “teachers and students will be able to take full advantage of digital technologies at all levels of education”.Continue reading

Five easy ways for CULT MEPs to help fix EU copyright

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Vote to #FixCopyright
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Tomorrow the Members of the Culture and Education Committee of the European Parliament (CULT) will vote on their position on the proposal on Copyright in the Digital Single Market directive. This will be the second vote in the European parliament after last month’s vote in the IMCO committee. While the CULT committee is nominally responsible for Culture and Education it seems rather likely that tomorrow’s vote will result in an one sided opinion that would  support the key elements of the flawed directive, making them worse in many areas. Below is a quick rundown of what is on the table during tomorrow’s vote. We have listed  voting recommendations for CULT MEPs interested in enacting real copyright reform that will foster Europe’s cultural and educational sectors:

Expand the scope of the text and data mining exception

We have argued many times that Text and Data mining should not be covered by copyright at all. A TDM exception such as the one proposed by the Commission would then be unnecessary. Any TDM exceptions enacted in spite of this would need to be as broad as possible both in terms of beneficiaries and in terms of purpose. Unfortunately the compromise amendment on the issue does nothing to broaden the scope of the proposed exception and merely reaffirms the Commission’s backwards looking proposal. MEPs should reject the compromise amendment and vote for AMs 337, 356, 360, 362 and 364 Instead.

Broaden the education exception to fit the needs of education in the 21st century

On the proposed education exception the Culture and Education committee seems intent to abandon the needs of 21st century educators. Instead of improving the Commission’s half-baked proposal, the compromise amendment reaffirms or worsens the most problematic elements of the proposal: Continue reading

IMCO compromise on education could have aimed higher

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Don't leave educators with a licensing labyrinth!
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As reported last week, the voting of the Internal Market Committee on the Draft Opinion on the proposed DSM Directive was full of plot twists, but none related to the issue of education. The Committee adopted its compromise amendment to article 4 and it was applauded by many, since this amendment offers a better solution to the obstacles faced by educators and learners across Europe than the Commission’s proposal. Yet, the educational exception resulting from this compromise is still not suitable to the modern needs of educators and learners across Europe.

Giving preference to new licenses is always a bad idea

The IMCO amended article 4(2) in order to give precedence only to extended collective licensing (ECL) schemes. This shows appreciation of the weak position of educational institutions to negotiate individual licenses, and thus represents a progress in relation to the Commission’s proposal. However, it’s not enough to guarantee that the new exception will not simply be replaced by ECL schemes all over Europe. 

The ECL schemes have been in existence in the Nordic countries for a long time now, and there’s a general understanding that they have to be protected in those countries. We cannot overemphasize the fact that the term “limitation” in article 4(1) encompasses compulsory or statutory licenses. On the other hand, works of authors that opt out from voluntary licenses will fall under the exception anyway. In other words, maintaining article 4(2) is not that relevant.

What policy makers that want to protect the public interest related to education should worry about is that ECL may be exported to countries with no tradition whatsoever of implementing such schemes. These are also countries which currently do not foresee any compensation for most or all of the uses made under their educational exceptions. They might be forced to introduced compensation, based on the proposed law.Continue reading

The wandering saga of the text and data mining exception in the EU copyright reform

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Navigating the rocky seas of copyright
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Now that the EU Parliament committees have introduced their amendments to the Commission’s Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market, it’s useful to take a look back at the evolving nature of various aspects of the reform. This week we’ll review the copyright exception for text and data mining. Text and data mining (TDM) enables mechanical analysis of  huge amounts of text or data, and has the potential to unlock interesting connections between textual and other types of content. Understanding these new connections can enable new research capabilities that result in novel technological discoveries, critical scientific breakthroughs, journalistic endeavors, and new business analytics opportunities.

The Commission first asked about text and data mining in its 2013 public consultation on the review of the EU copyright rules, and Communia responded to the call for feedback. We argued that text and data mining should be considered as an extension of the right to read—that mining texts and data for facts is an activity that is not and should not be protected by copyright. We noted that TDM should not be addressed through contractual-, license-, or fee-based approaches, and urged that technical protections measures should not prevent users from engaging in text and data mining activities. We argued for legal clarity in our 2015 policy paper on the the review of the EU copyright law: “the development of clear rules for researchers who must be able to read and analyse all information that is available to them, whether through text and data mining or otherwise.”

The Commission’s Crippled Proposal

In September 2016 the European Commission released its copyright reform directive. For the most part it lacked a progressive vision, adequate protections for the public interest, and workable solutions to promote the European digital single market. This characterization is equally applicable to how the Commission handled text and data mining. In our response to the directive, we noted that it’s good that the Commission recognized that researchers encounter legal uncertainty about whether—and how—they may engage in text and data mining, and are concerned that publishers’ contractual agreements may exclude TDM activities. So, in this respect it’s positive that the Commission introduced a mandatory exception to copyright for text and data mining that would forbid contractual restrictions or terms of service from interfering with the right to exercise the exception.

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Copyright and Education in Europe: 15 everyday cases in 15 countries

Copyright and Education in Europe: 15 everyday cases in 15 countriesLicentie

Today we publish the findings of a new study carried out by Teresa Nobre that intends to demonstrate the impact exerted by narrow educational exceptions in everyday practices. She accomplishes this purpose by analysing 15 educational scenarios involving the use of protected materials under the copyright laws of 15 European countries: the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain and the United Kingdom.

Almost no case law was analysed, and uses permitted under licenses, namely extended collective licenses, are not indicated here. Thus, the study does not give a detailed picture of all the countries under analysis.

Materials available for educational uses

This study confirms what we have known for a long time: that not all copyrighted works are treated equally in the context of education. Some educational exceptions exclude the use of certain types of works (textbooks and academic books in France and Germany, dramatic works and cinematographic works in Denmark and Finland and musical scores in France and Spain). Other laws contain restrictions in relation to the extent or degree to which a work can be used for educational purposes, thus creating obstacles to the use of entire works, namely short works (e.g. individual articles, short videos and short poems) and images (e.g. artworks, photographs and other visual works).

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