Last week Thursday the European Commission launched its much anticipated public consultation on the review of the EU copyright rules. This consultation is the first visible sign of the second track of the Commission’s attempt to modernise the EU rules (the first track consisted of the rather unsuccessful Licenses for Europe stakeholder dialogue). In the words of the Commission the focus of the consultation is on:
… ensuring that the EU copyright regulatory framework stays fit for purpose in the digital environment to support creation and innovation, tap the full potential of the Single Market, foster growth and investment in our economy and promote cultural diversity.
With regards to the contents of the consultation, a first reading reveals a mixed bag of questions, with a surprising amount of them actually touching on issues that are closely related to our own policy recommendations. The consultation comes in the form of a 37 page document with a grand total of 80 questions that cover everything from the functioning of the single market for copyrighted works, linking and browsing, copyright term duration, registration of copyrighted works and exceptions and limitations for cultural heritage institutions, education, research, persons with disabilities and “user generated content”. In addition, there are questions about private copying and levies, the fair remuneration of authors and performers, respect for rights, and even the possibility of a single EU copyright title. Finally there is an open question for everything else that stakeholders might want to tell the Commission.
The deadline for providing answers to all of these questions is the 5th of February, which if one takes into account the upcoming holiday period is rather short.Continue reading
COMMUNIA, along with several other representatives from the research sector, has withdrawn from the Licences for Europe dialogue on text and data mining due to concerns about the scope, composition and transparency of the process.
A letter of withdrawal has been sent to the Commissioners involved in Licenses for Europe explaining the reason that these stakeholders can no longer participate in the dialogue and the wish to instigate a broader dialogue around creating the conditions to realise the full potential of text and data mining for innovation in Europe:
We welcomed the orientation debate by the Commission in December 2012 and the subsequent commitment to adapt the copyright framework to the digital age. We believe that any meaningful engagement on the legal framework within which data driven innovation exists must, as a point of centrality, addressthe issue of limitations and exceptions. Having placed licensing as the central pillar of the discussion, the Licences for Europe Working Group has not made this focused evaluation possible.
Instead, the dialogue on limitations and exceptions is only taking place through the refracted lens of licensing. This incorrectly presupposes that additional relicensing of already licensed content(i.e. double licensing) – and by implication also licensing of the open internet – is the solution to the rapid adoption of TDM technology.
This approach also undermines the considerable work that has been done in Europe to increase the amount of Open Access content available and encourage its exploitation. We are concerned, therefore, that our participation in a discussion that focuses primarily on proprietary licenses could be used to imply that our sectors accept the notion of double licensing of as a solution. It is not. We firmly believe that the right to read is the rightto mine.
Furthermore, we would point to the urgent need to be competitive with the United States and the high‐tech economies in Japan and South Korea, where legal barriers to TDM are far lower precisely because of the existence of copyright limitations and exceptions there.
In January Communia was invited to participate in the European Commission’s ‘Licenses for Europe‘ stakeholder dialogue. This stakeholder dialogue is one part of the Commission’s agenda to ‘modernise copyright in the digital economy‘. Communia participated in Working Group 4 on Text and Data Mining for Scientific Research Purposes.
Unfortunately the first meeting of this working group which took place on the 4th of February in Brussels did not live up to the expectations raised by the Commission’s earlier announcement. It quickly became evident that the stakeholder dialogue is based on a flawed assumption (‘more licensing will bring copyright in line with the requirements of the digital economy’) and that the process was designed to prevent a serious discussion about how to unlock the potential of scientific text and data mining.
Given this the participating organisations representing academia, researcher community and civil society (including Communia), have decided to make these concerns public in the form of an open letter to the Commissioners Barnier, Geoghegan-Quinn, Kroes and Vassiliou (re-published at the end of this post). The letter which was published today raises a number of concerns that need to be addressed before the stakeholder dialogue on text and data mining can continue.
Chief among these concerns is the belief that in order to have an open discussion about the reform, possible solutions cannot be limited to licensing. From our perspective text and data mining cannot be solved by re-licensing texts to libraries, researchers or the public. What Europe needs is clarity that text and data mining works that are lawfully available does not require permission by rights holders. A stakeholder dialogue that simply declares this position off limits can hardly be called a dialogue at all. In the case of Public Domain content, there is a risk that a focus upon licensing will lead to unlawful re-licensing of content that is out of copyright.
In addition the whole process needs to become more transparent and needs to include all stakeholders (including academics and the Commissions own Research and Innovation Directorate General, which is currently being limited to attend as an observer).
The open letter has been published in the hope of getting the Commission to change the terms under which the stakeholder dialogue is being conducted. Should this not be the case, Communia and the other organisations that have signed the letter are very likely to step away from the dialogue. As the list of supporting signatories shows this is supported by a growing number of academics who are rightfully concerned about the prospects for conducting data driven research in Europe.Continue reading