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.

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

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!

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.

SCCR/36: Communia general statement on limitations and exceptions

Anatomische les van professor Paaw
Public interests deserve the same international attention as private ones
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In our capacity of permanent observers of the WIPO Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights, we are attending the 36th session of the Committee, which is taking place in Geneva from 28 May to 1 June 2018.

The following is the general statement made by Teresa Nobre on our behalf on the issue of exceptions and limitations to copyright, which compose agenda itens 6 (Limitations and exceptions for libraries and archives) and 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.

The normative work of this Committee towards the grant of exclusive rights over copyrighted works and related subject matter has been exemplary. One would expect that users rights would have by now been subject to similar legislative efforts. However, the Member States that already benefit from sophisticated copyright exceptions and limitations, have been reluctant to make a convergence of laws, suggesting that the protection of public interests such as access to knowledge and education deserve less international attention that the protection of the private interests of copyright holders.

We recall that the European Union will soon adopt a mandatory exception for various uses, which will harmonize the laws of 28 European countries, despite their different traditions. This means that agreeing on minimum standards is possible, while still taking into account local specificities.

The reason why the EU is harmonizing national laws is very straightforward: the EU countries have such narrower exceptions that they are making illegal legitimate practices that take place on a daily basis, such as showing a Youtube video in class or emailing short copyrighted materials to students.

We are well aware that the industry claims that the needs of the global community of educators, learners and researchers can be solved through licensing. If that was the case, we would not be here, since there are currently no laws preventing parties from entering into licensing agreements.

The fact is that licenses are, first of all, expensive: 1/3 of European teachers surveyed by the European Commission said that they or their schools could not afford to buy educational licenses. Furthermore, we did a study on educational licenses in Europe and discovered that the current contractual practices are not commendable: licenses (i) restrict the scope of protection of exceptions, (ii) grant questionable rights to right holders, and (iii) impose burdensome obligations on schools.Without legislative intervention, fair educational and research activities that take place locally but also across borders will continue to be harmed.

Therefore, we urge this Committee to agree on action plans that are aimed at finding a model for a minimum harmonization in the field of exceptions and limitations to copyright.

Thank you.

SCCR/36: Communia statement on the protection of broadcasting organizations

WIPO SCCR 36
New rights should be accompanied by exceptions
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In our capacity of permanent observers of the WIPO Standing Committee on Copyright and Related Rights, we are 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 5: Protection of Broadcasting Organizations.

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

We would like to urge this Committee to consider the interests of all relevant stakeholders, when working on agenda item 5.

The discussions on the protection of broadcasting organization have been revolving mainly around the private interests of such organizations and other beneficiaries of copyright.

We consider that the Committee should also engage in discussions aimed at ensuring the protection of the interests of users, namely the global community of educators, learners, researchers and librarians, and also the general Internet users that create user generated content.

Taking these public interests into account includes developing mandatory exceptions and limitations that protect legitimate practices, such as criticism, parody, uses for the purposes of teaching or scientific research, and uses by libraries and other culture heritage institutions. It also requires making clear that the exceptions for broadcasting rights are not less enabling for users than the exceptions that apply to copyright.

Furthermore, protecting users rights implies that the broadcasters are not given rights in works that are in the public domain, or that are openly licensed.

Finally, any treaty granting post fixation rights should foresee that the term of protection of those rights does not in any case extend beyond the term of copyright, in order to give legal certainty to users and to avoid deepening the already complex issue of accessing and using orphan works.  

We look forward to participating in further debates on these issues.

Thank you.

Member States adopt negotiation position, side with rightsholders in attack on user rights

Caïn venant de tuer son frère Abel, by Henry Vidal
Will Parliament step up to defend user rights?
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Last Friday the Committee of Permanent representatives of the Council (COREPER) agreed on a negotiating mandate for the proposed Copyright in the Digital Single Market directive. The agreed upon text does not substantially differ from the latest compromise proposals that we have discussed here before. Unfortunately that means that the Member States have agreed on text that fails to address the biggest shortcomings of the Commission’s proposal and in a number of cases actually makes it worse.

The result is a version of the Commission’s proposal that is even more out of balance than the original. The rights-holder lobby has managed to capture the Member States to advance their agenda to the detriment of the interests of internet users in the EU and in complete disregard of the original intention to further harmonise the fragmented EU copyright rules:

  • Over the past one and a half years the Member States, driven by a mediterranean maximalist coalition (France, Italy, Spain and Portugal) have doubled down on the Commission’s highly problematic proposal to impose upload filters for open internet platforms. As we have explained here, the version of Article 13 adopted by the Member States would create a new parallel liability regime that puts the creative expression of platform users at the mercy of a censorship machine run by platform operators in collusion with rightsholders.
  • Driven by the same mediterranean maximalist coalition the Member States have insisted on a narrow, innovation-hostile exception for Text and Data Mining. This approach flies in the face of the EU wide ambition to become an important player in the area of machine learning and artificial intelligence. At the insistence of more forward-looking Member States the Council text also includes an optional exception that allows TDM for a wider set of purposes and beneficiaries, but this comes at the cost of further splintering user rights in the EU.
  • Under intense pressure from Germany the Member States have maintained the introduction of a new ancillary copyright for press publishers against a near-universal academic consensus that such a right will endanger the freedom of information without benefitting press publishers. In a small improvement of the Commission’s proposal the new right would now last for a maximum of 2 years and would not apply retroactively.

There are a few areas where the Member States are proposing improvements to the Commission’s proposal (such as a more streamlined process that would allow cultural heritage institutions to make out-of-commerce works available online, and a new, albeit optional, paragraph providing a legal basis for extended collective licensing) but in general the Member States have missed the opportunity to fix the Commission’s flawed original proposal. Continue reading

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