Copyright policymaking and the digital public domain: a bitter-sweet wishful thinking from France

The mission on culture at the digital era commissioned by the French government and supervised by Pierre Lescure, rather pompously entitled ‘Acte II de l’exception culturelle’, released its report this week in Paris: ‘Rapport sur la politique culturelle à l’ère des contenus numériques’, downloadable in two volumes on the website of the Ministry of Culture (in French).

The Lescure Report is a new step in the policymaking on creative content in the digital society in France. Following the presidential elections last year, the new government wanted to induce reflection about the future of the HADOPI system adopted by the former government, and more generally on the protection of national culture on the Internet. The ambition heralded by this mission was big, so were the expectations about the resulting report.

The Report addresses a wide range of issues (the first volume of the Report is about 480 page-long) spanning copyright exceptions, non-commercial sharing, liability of intermediaries, financing models to support culture digitization, digital libraries, online clearing of rights on photographs and copyright enforcement. Among its key proposals, the Report argues for the prolonging of the graduated response, albeit under new conditions and under the responsability of another administrative authority (the HADOPI authority would disappear), as well as a new taxing system targeting telecommunication operators meant to finance the transition of cultural industries to the digital age. Moreover, the Report concurs with conservative views on copyright enforcement and discards the proposals elaborating alternative remuneration systems for rightholders and legalizing non-commercial sharing of copyrighted content. Not surprisingly, it has been criticized for being skewed towards industrial interests and in carrying on the repressive policy against webusers (read the critical view from La Quadrature du Net on the ‘wishful thinking and real dangers’ of the Report). Continue reading

Communia condemns the privatization of the Public Domain by the Bibliothèque nationale de France

Last week the Bibliothèque nationale de France (BnF) concluded two new agreements with private companies to digitze over 70.000 old books, 200.000 sound recordings and other documents belonging (either partially or as a whole) to the public domain. While these public private partnerships enable the digitization of these works they also contain 10-year exclusive agreements allowing the private companies carrying out the digitization to commercialize the digitized documents. During this period only a limited number of these works may be offered online by the BnF.

Photo by Scarlet Green (CC-BY)

Together with La Quadrature du Net, Framasoft, SavoirsCom1 and the Open Knowledge Foundation France COMMUNIA has issued a statement (in french) to express our profound disagreement with the terms of these partnerships that restrict digital access to an important part of Europe’s cultural heritage. The agreements that the BnF has entered into, effectively take the works being digitized out of the public domain for the next 10 years.

 

The value of the public domain lies in the free dissemination of knowledge and the ability for everyone to access and create new works based on previous works. Yet, instead of taking advantage of the opportunities offered by digitization, the exclusivity of these agreements will force public bodies, such as research institutions or university libraries, to purchase digital content that belongs to the common cultural heritage.

 

As such, these partnerships constitute a commodification of the public domain by contractual means. COMMUNIA has been critical of such arrangements from the start (see our Public Domain Manifesto) and our Policy Reccomendations 4 & 5. More interestingly these agreements are also in direct contradiction with the Public Domain Charter published by the Europeana Foundation in 2011. In this context it is interesting to note that the director of Bibliothèque nationale de France currently serves as the chairman of the Europeana Foundation’s Executive Board.

 

Public Domain Day in Paris, France, 26 January 2012

Creative Commons France organizes with Wikimedia France, the CNRS Institute for Communication Science and the Open Knowledge Foundation a public domain day in Paris, with members of organizations partnering for this event, Philippe Aigrain and Jérémie Zimmermann of la Quadrature du Net, Rémi Mathis of Wikimedia France, Lionel Maurel @calimaq and Tangui Morlier of Regards Citoyens.

Journée du domaine public
Jeudi 26 janvier de 18h à 21h
Institut des Sciences de la Communication du CNRS (ISCC)
Maison des Sciences de la Communication et de l’interdisciplinarité (MSCI)
20, rue Berbier du Mets 75013 Paris
Metro Gobelins