MEP Voss doubles down on worst elements of Article 11

Karikatuur van Franse censoren
New right threatens free access to information
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We just got done criticising how Bulgaria’s weak consolidated presidency compromise handles Article 11 of the proposed Copyright in the Digital Single Market (DSM) directive. The Bulgarian plan doubles down on the Commission’s original bad idea and ignores most of the positive protections offered by some members of parliament.

But we shouldn’t have been surprised when MEP Axel Voss came out with an even worse plan for the press publishers right. This week MEP Voss released his proposal for a compromise on Article 11, and the changes he is proposing are even more radical and more broken than anything we’ve seen thus far.

Expanding the scope to cover facts

First, Voss proposes to expand the scope of beneficiaries of Article 11 from to cover not only press publishers, but also news agencies (who aggressively lobbied for being included in the scope of Article 11 late last year). But in doing so, he introduces the risk of inappropriately granting copyright – like protection to facts and compilations of basic information. This is a dangerous extension of the scope of exclusive rights that would endanger the right of access to information. It is especially appalling since even the founders of the “modern” European copyright system wisely choose to make sure that news of the day and facts cannot be exclusively claimed: The 1986 Berne convention explicitly states that copyright shall “not apply to news of the day or to miscellaneous facts having the character of mere items of press information”.

Mandatory remuneration

Perhaps the most extreme change is that press publishers and news agencies would be granted (or saddled with?) an “inalienable right to obtain an fair and proportionate remuneration for such uses.” What does this mean? It means that publishers would be required to demand payment from news aggregators and other users. Continue reading

MEP Voss sells out freedom of expression, doubles down on protecting Big Content

Cadmus doodt de draak
The fight for keeping the internet open is on!
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After more than a year of discussions MEP Axel Voss has finally come forward with his ideas about one of the most controversial aspects of the EU copyright reform proposal. On Wednesday he shared his compromise proposals for Article 13 of the proposed copyright in the DSM directive, that deals with filtering measures aimed at online platforms. The “compromises” drafted by MEP Voss make it clear that with regards to article 13 he has chosen to do the bidding of the music industry at the expense of users, open platforms and pretty much the rest of the internet.

Let’s focus on two main aspects of the approach that Voss is backing (for a more comprehensive analysis of his compromise see Julia Reda’s excellent write-up here). What would the new rules mean for users sharing materials via platforms, and what would the new rules mean for online platforms?

Online platforms: License or cease to exist!

In the version supported by MEP Voss, article 13 establishes two different obligations for online platforms that allow user uploads. In a first step, all platforms are required to obtain licenses from rightsholders. Those platforms that hold “significant amounts” of content also need to take “appropriate and proportionate measures to ensure the functioning of these agreements”. In the case that platforms do not have licensing agreements with rightsholders they need to take “appropriate and proportionate measures to prevent the availability on their services of works or other subject-matter”.

These rules would effectively end the current situation in which online platforms are not directly responsible for content that their users upload. The new rules would mean that all online platforms “that store and provide access to the public to copyright protected works or other subject-matter uploaded by their users” (which means pretty much all platforms) will be directly responsible for the content uploaded by their users and must obtain licenses from (unspecified) rightsholders. If they don’t (which is a strange condition given that all platforms must do so) they must implement filtering rules that prevent all copyrighted works from becoming available on their services. In other words, platforms must obtain licenses from rightsholders or they must cease to exist (as it is somewhat hard to make a business case for a platform on which nothing is available). Continue reading

Bending over backwards – ALDE wants to ensure online is like the offline

Vergaan van het schip de Vrijheid
Protect online freedom     of expression
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Despite ambitious planning, the JURI Committee vote on the Copyright in the Digital Market directive seems increasingly unlikely to happen in 2017. Meanwhile, following the lead of the EPP, ALDE (The Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe) published a new position paper on Copyright in the Digital Single Market earlier this month. ALDE seems to be deeply split when it comes to the question of copyright policy. Perhaps this is why the paper offers a very blurred perspective on how the group’s MEPs will vote in the upcoming votes in the Civil Liberties (LIBE) and Legal Affairs (JURI) committees in the European Parliament.

A blurred compromise to keep everyone happy

While many liberal MEPs are traditionally supportive of less restrictive copyright rules and value the protection of individual freedoms, ALDE’s official spokesperson for the copyright file, MEP Cavada is one of the most outspoken proponents of stronger copyright protection in the European Parliament.

Positions of the political groups in JURI with respect to selected elements of the DSM directive proposal [Source].

The new position paper seems to be an attempt to bridge both positions. Following a somewhat rambling introduction that extensively highlights the need to fight online piracy (which technically is not included in the scope of the DSM directive), the position paper states that attempts to protect copyright online should not infringe users’, consumers’ and citizens’ rights:

ALDE wants to protect copyright online because we need to ensure that creators are fairly remunerated for their creations. In taking measures to ensure this, however, ALDE is not ready to go as far as to infringe users’, consumers’ and citizens’ rights to exercise their freedom of expression online. Just as in working against any unlawful behaviour, online or offline, ALDE will do as much as possible, while maintaining a fair balance of fundamental rights, such as the right of information and the right of free expression.

Unfortunately the position paper leaves it unclear what this would mean for ALDEs position towards article 13 of the Commission’s proposal (which require upload filters for online platforms). Continue reading

European Parliament Research Confirms The Obvious: Press Publishers’ Right A Terrible Idea Good For No One

Karikatuur van Franse censoren
No new rights for press publishers!
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This week we learned about a research study requested by the Legal Affairs committee regarding the potential impact of Articles 11 and 14-16 of the Commission’s proposed Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market. The research was overseen and published by the Policy Department for Citizens’ Rights and Constitutional Affairs.

We are especially interested in the assessment of Article 11—the provision that would create new rights in press publications that would allow to press publishers to control digital uses of even the smallest snippets of their content. COMMUNIA has long advocated that the press publishers right should be removed from the proposed directive. Not only is the mechanism ill-suited to address the challenges in supporting quality journalism, it would have the effect of decreasing competition and innovation in the delivery of news, limit access to information, and create widespread negative repercussions for related stakeholders.

The European Commission, which came up with this idea, has offered no data about how a new right would increase revenues to sustain a free and pluralist press.

On the other hand previous Academic research as well as statements from the media companies themselves confirm that Article 11 won’t accomplish  its aims, and is a danger to access to news online. The independent analysis commissioned by JURI conforms this once again, which should finally put the nail in the coffin on the press publishers’ right. The report concludes:

There are real concerns surrounding the rather uncertain effects of the right, and many of the problems facing press publishers can be resolved by a much less controversial intervention. We therefore approve the proposal made in the draft JURI Opinion, namely that the press publishers’ right be abandoned and replaced with a presumption that press publishers are entitled to copyright/use rights in the contents of their publications. (p. 8)

The authors of the research take a look at instances where a press publishers’ right has already been implemented, such as Germany and Spain. They conduct interviews with stakeholders on the ground to analyse the implications and effects of the ancillary rights there.Continue reading

JURI rapporteur take on education is not in tune with everyday practices

Allegorie op het onderwijs
Education deserves more attention
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For several months now, we have been arguing that ‘the devil is in the detail’ when it comes to the Commission’s education proposal. MEP Therese Comodini Cachia draft amendments to the proposed exception for digital and cross-border teaching activities, while introducing some improvements, do not meet the educational community expectations to see a better copyright reform. And, worst still, they represent a serious step back in relation to the existing EU acquis in the area of educational exceptions.

The licensing fight continues

We appreciate MEP Comodini efforts to mitigate the negative impact of article 4(2), which allows Member States to give precedence to licenses over the proposed exception. However, we believe she misses the opportunity of getting rid of the Commission’s infamous proposal, while still protecting the extended collective licensing (ECL) schemes that exist in the Nordic countries.

Under the Commission’s proposal, any licensing offer could rule out the application of the education exception, thus negating much of the substance and effectiveness of the exception. MEP Comodini seems to recognize that many educational institutions would be ill-placed to negotiate license terms or would be forced to accept the terms dictated by the licensor, and thus introduced some substantial changes to article 4(2). Under Ms. Comodini’s proposal, the unilateral and discretionary offer of the rightholder to conclude a licensing agreement is not sufficient to deny the educational establishment concerned the right to benefit from the educational exception. An existing contractual relation is needed to override the exception.Continue reading

The Legal Affairs Committee meeting on copyright was a clash of civilisations

Batle of Hanau
Will the old thinking win?
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Now that most of the committees have published their draft opinions on the Commission’s Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market, it’s time to hear their members presenting their initial views. JURI hosted a meeting on 22 March where MEPs voiced a range of opinions on various aspects of the copyright reform proposal. The divide between the MEPs seems to run deeper than mere disagreements on definitions; instead, they underscore a fundamental schism in the MEPs’ understanding of the world we live in.

The industry-backers

Some MEPs reacted to the copyright reform proposal using a 20th century ordering of the world, where mass-scale creative industries emerged and eventually were consolidated. For MEPS such as Jean-Marie Cavada (ALDE, France) or Angelika Niebler (EPP, Germany) the world has not changed all that much in terms of where important stuff happens. Cavada and Niebler think publishers and other rightsholders produce all the real value, while the internet and new sharing technologies is like a portable TV that  that main purpose of is to constantly rip them off.

Seeing the world like that, it’s no wonder that they mostly approve of the European Commission’s original proposal, and oppose reforms that champion users’ rights, which for the most part they see as legitimizing tech-enabled theft. There is no coincidence that many of those creative industry backers are from France and Germany, countries that built their considerable entertainment industries well before the digital era.

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Legal Affairs Committee’s leading MEP tries to diffuse the content filter bomb

Victor Frankenstein becoming disgusted at his creation. Illustration from the frontispiece of the 1831 edition
Making the monster a little bit prettier
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Again we are witnessing an attempt to make the Frankenstein’s monster, article 13, a bit prettier as the Legal Affairs Committee’s (JURI) report has been officially published. Instead of killing it altogether with its recitals, MEP Therese Comodini Cachia tries to save the numbering of the proposal and at the same time to diffuse the bomb the European Commission set against users’ rights.

Filtering is kind of gone

The reading of the proposed article 13 text leaves no doubt that the intent is to remove the upload filter. The reference to “preventing the availability” of content uploaded by users who have no ownership over it is gone from article 13 paragraph 1. The emphasis is on effective and proportionate measures that the information society service providers need to take to ensure that the agreements they conclude with rightsholders are functioning well.

At first sight the amendments proposed for article 13 seem good. What kind of measures should be carried out is left open. It can be really anything that parties decide would work for them, be it some compensation or a share in the revenues the content users upload generates when there are ads on display. Unfortunately, looking into the recitals, it gets more complicated. Ms Comodini proposes no rewrite to recital 39 that would change the fact that the content recognition remains a go-to technology in terms of assessing the rights to uploaded content.

What are the consequences of that? It means that effectively the ISSPs and rightsholders are not encouraged to look beyond tech solutions to address any perceived disparities of income. Rather, the directive legally validates the existing market practice of employing tech such as Content ID to sort out ownership of the content. With her concept Ms Comodini may have closed the gate to filtering uploads but she left the path leading to it basically intact.

Another consequence is that if article 13 had ever meant to make Youtube weaker, by constant relying on tech solutions in settling human disputes, it equips the tech giant with an enormous competitive advantage. After all they already have Content ID.

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Legal Affairs Committee Stops Short of Protecting User Rights

Schaatsenrijden in een dorp
we need some forward-looking changes
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MEP Therese Comodini Cachia, the Rapporteur on the Copyright in the Digital Single Market Directive in the European Parliament’s Committee on Legal Affairs (JURI), is currently  perhaps the most influential person on copyright policymaking in Brussels. Last week her draft report was officially published. Communia has already praised Ms. Comodini for calling the publishers’ bluff on ancillary copyright and for proposing to really unlock Europe’s research potential by removing the harmful and unworkable restrictions to text and data mining that the European Commission proposed.

Given Ms. Comodini’s deep understanding of the interplay between law, society, and technology, and the shrewd manner in which she solved several legal Gordian Knots in her draft, it comes as a disappointment that we fail to see some forward-looking changes that would really make the European copyright framework fit for the Digital Single Market.

Freedom of Panorama

Some two years ago the European Parliament had its first heated discussion on the question of Freedom of Panorama. A lot has happened since then, including introduction of a new copyright exception in support of Freedom of Panorama in both France (limited) and Belgium (full). Continue reading

JURI rapporteur proposes to fix most egregious flaws of the copyright reform proposal

Het is goed om voor het eerst weer te schrijven
Redrawing the balance
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Today, MEP Therese Comodini Cachia, the European Parliament’s main rapporteur for the proposed copyright in the Digital Single Market directive published her draft of the JURI report (pdf) on the Commission’s proposal. In line with the initial reactions from the rapporteurs from the Culture and Education (CULT), Internal Market and Consumer Protection (IMCO), and Industry Research and Energy (ITRE) committees Ms. Comoidini’s report points out substantial flaws in the Commission’s unbalanced and backward-looking proposal.

Unlike her colleagues from CULT and IMCO Comodini has limited her report to fixing flaws in the provisions proposed by the Commission. While such fixes are important, this means that her draft report constitutes a missed opportunity to introduce more forward-looking provisions that would strengthen the position of users such as much-needed exceptions providing legal certainty for user generated content and ensuring freedom of panorama in all of the EU.

Below we provide a brief overview of the changes to the Commission’s proposal that Ms. Comodini proposes in her draft report. We will follow-up over the next few days with more in- depth analysis of individual issues.

R.I.P ancillary right for press publishers

Her most straightforward intervention is to delete the Commission’s proposal for a new neighboring rights for press publishers. In line with what we and many others had proposed she instead proposes to solve the enforcement problems of press publishers by improving their ability to act against infringing uses of works published by them:

Member States shall provide publishers of press publications with a presumption of representation of authors of literary works contained in those publications and the legal capacity to sue in their own name when defending the rights of such authors for the digital use of their press publications. (AM 52)

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