Taming the upload filters: Pre-flagging vs. match and flag

Raderboot
How to limit the damage filters can do
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One of the most important elements of any implementation of Article 17 will be how platforms can reconcile the use of automated content filtering with the requirement not to prevent the availability of legitimate uploads. While most implementation proposals that we have seen so far are silent on this crucial question, both the German discussion proposal and the Commission’s consultation proposal contain specific mechanisms that are intended to ensure that automated content filters do not block legitimate uploads, and that uploads are subject to human review if they are not obviously/likely infringing. 

In order to achieve this objective, the German discussion draft published in June relies on the idea of “pre-flagging”: users would be allowed to flag uploads containing third party works as legitimate. Platforms would then be prevented from automatically blocking pre-flagged uploads unless they determine that the flag is incorrect because the upload is “obviously infringing”. 

By contrast, the Commission’s implementation guidance consultation proposes a “match-and-flag” mechanism: if upload filters detect the presence of a third party work in an upload and the use is not deemed to be “likely infringing”, then the uploader is notified and given the ability to state that the use is legitimate. If the user flags the upload as legitimate, the platform will have to initiate a human review of the upload, which remains available from the moment of upload until the review has been concluded. This type of mechanism was first suggested by a group of copyright academics in October of last year. It is also at the core of the proposal that we had presented during the last meeting of the stakeholder dialogue.

Both approaches provide a mechanism that limits the application of fully automated upload filters (while implicitly acknowledging the fact that many platforms will deploy upload filters). In the Commission’s proposal, filters are limited to making a pre-selection (“is the upload likely infringing?”); in the German proposal, they can only operate on unflagged content and to filter out “obviously incorrect” pre-flags.

Convergence on “match-and-flag”?

Both approaches have been criticised by rightholders, who claim that they undermine the “original objective of the directive” without providing alternative proposals on how automated filtering can be reconciled with the requirement not to block legitimate uploads. In addition, the German discussion proposal has also been criticised by platforms such as Google and Facebook. The platforms are arguing that giving users the ability to pre-flag every single upload would be impractical and would likely lead to substantial numbers of unnecessary (where the content in question is already licensed) or unjustified (users making excessive use of the pre-flagging tool) pre-flags, which would make such a system impractical to operate at scale. Continue reading

Implementation update: French Parliament gives carte blanche, while the Netherlands correct course.

Le Francois L'Hollandois
Dutch parliament strengthens user rights
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Back in January of this year, we noted how both the Netherlands and France (at that point the only Member States that had presented proposals to implement Article 17) had proposed selective implementations of Article 17 that ignored crucial user rights safeguards. A lot has happened since January, but yesterday both Member States took further steps in their national implementations. And this time the two Member States are moving in opposite directions: 

While the Dutch government has reacted to criticism from civil society and members of Parliament by fixing some of the most obvious shortcomings of its implementation law, the 2nd chamber of the French Parliament has adopted a law that gives the French government the power to implement Article 17 (and the rest of the provisions of the DSM directive) however it sees fit. 

Netherlands: a course correction

Back in July of 2019, the Netherlands were the first country to propose an implementation law of the DSM directive. Somewhat surprisingly (the Netherlands had been one of the most vocal opponents of Article 17 in the Council) the proposed implementation law did not make any efforts to protect user rights and omitted most of the user rights safeguards contained in the final version of Article 17. After the proposal was sent to Parliament in June this year, together with Bits of Freedom and others we pointed out these shortcomings to the members of the legal affairs committee. Yesterday, in response to questions from members of the legal affairs committee, the government conceded that its original implementation proposal was incomplete and added the missing user rights safeguards to the proposal for an implementation law. Continue reading

Video recording of the COMMUNIA Salon on the German proposal to implement Article 17

Last week on Thursday we held the third virtual edition of our COMMUNIA Salon. This edition focussed on the recent German proposal to implement Article 17 of the DSM Directive and included contributions by John Henrik Weitzmann (Wikimedia Deutschland), Julia Reda (Gesellschaft für Freiheitsrechte), Martin Husovec (London School of Economics) and Paul Keller (COMMUNIA). If you have missed the event you can watch a recording of the presentations and the subsequent discussion here:

COMMUNIA Salon 2020/3: The German proposal to implement Article 17 – A broken promise or a way forward?

COMMUNIA Salon 2020/3: The German proposal to implement Article 17Licentie

On Thursday, the 2nd of July, we will be organising the next edition of our virtual COMMUNIA Salon to discuss the new German implementation proposal for Article 17 of the DSM directive. For this event we will be joined by Julia Reda (Project lead control © at the GFF and former MEP), John Hendrik Weitzmann (General Counsel at Wikimedia Deutschland) and Dr. Martin Husovec (Assistant Professor, Department of Law, London School of Economics). 

As we have written in our initial reaction, the German proposal is the first serious attempt by a member state to implement Article 17 of the directive in a way that preserves the precarious balance between the rights of users and creators. Where previous implementation proposals have limited themselves to (selectively) transposing the provisions of the directive, the German Ministry of Justice has presented a proposal that adds a number of interesting (and potentially controversial) additional provisions, which seem to be designed to strengthen the position of both users and individual creators. These include the addition of a remunerated de-minimis exception intended to safeguard common types of so-called “user generated content”, the ability for uploaders to “pre-flag” legitimate uses of protected works in their uploads, and the addition of a direct remuneration rights intended to ensure that individual creators benefit from the new legal regime.

With this proposal the German government presents an alternative vision for how Article 17 could work in practice, which could serve as a model for other member states when implementing the directive. During our Salon we will hear first reactions from civil society stakeholders and analyse the legal underpinnings of the more innovative elements of the proposal, such as the proposed de-minimis exception. The presentations will be followed by an informal question and answer session.

The Salon is open for everyone to attend and will be held on Zoom. Join us on Thursday, the 2 of July, at 1530 CET, by registering here. Registered participants will receive login information ahead of the event.

Article 17 implementation: German proposal strengthens the right of user and creators

Rechtvaardigheid (Justitia)
A more balanced way to implement Article 17
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It speaks to the complexity of the discussion about Article 17 of the Copyright in the Digital Single Market directive that the new German implementation proposal is at the same time a broken promise and something that sets a positive example for the other Member States. The measures to implement Article 17 unveiled today as part of a wider proposal for implementing a second set of provisions of the directive (which we will discuss in a follow up post), do not manage to keep the earlier promise to avoid the use of upload filters and instead embrace their use within certain limits. This will almost certainly be a major point of political controversy within Germany.

But seen from the other 26 EU member states this broken promise will likely be overshadowed by the fact that the German government is setting an example for fully using the room for legislative discretion left by the directive to include a number of significant protections for users together with measures aimed at ensuring that individual creators directly benefit from the new provisions. In doing so the German implementation proposal is the first proposal that does not limit itself to (selectively) transposing the provisions of the directive into national law. As a result of this, the German implementation proposal is much closer to the legislative compromise struck by Article 17 than any of the other implementations that we have seen so far.

The implementation proposal (which represents the position of the Ministry of Justice and still needs to be endorsed by the government as a whole) proposes to implement Article 17 in a new law that is separate from the main Copyright Act. This new “Gesetz über die urheberrechtliche Verantwortlichkeit von Diensteanbietern für das Teilen von Online-Inhalten” (UrhDaG) follows the overall logic of Article 17 in making OCSSPs first liable for infringements by their users and then requiring them to either license or take measures to prevent the availability of infringing works to limit their liability.

To ensure the balance of the resulting provision the proposal adds a number of provisions aimed at safeguarding the ability of users to freely share and receive information and for creators to be remunerated for such uses of their works. These measures include: Continue reading

Member States watch: User rights safeguards must be fully implemented into national laws

The Letter Writer
Submissions in Hungary and the Netherlands
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As part of our implementation project we are tracking the national implementations of the DSM directive in the different EU member states and are working together with local advocates and civil society organisations to make sure that national implementations are as good as possible from the users and public interest perspectives. As part of this work we are also occasionally providing input into national legislative processes. Earlier this week we made a submission to the public consultation in Hungary and expressed concerns about shortcomings of the Dutch implementation law in a letter to the Dutch Parliament.

Hungary: The importance of the pastiche exception

Last month the Hungarian Ministry of Justice and the Hungarian Intellectual Property Office (HIPO) published a consultation proposal on the transposition of the DSm directive into Hungarian law.

Hungary is one of the EU member states that currently does not have an exception for parody, caricature or pastiche in their Copyright Act. Article 17(7) of the DSM directive requires all Member States to “ensure that users […] are able to rely” on exceptions or limitations authorising use “for the purpose of caricature, parody or pastiche”. Consequently Hungary must introduce such an exception as part of the implementation of the directive. The consultation proposal identified two different options to meet this requirement:

  • an exception allowing “anyone to use any work for the purposes of (…) parody by evoking the original work and by expressing humour or mockery” (Option A), or
  • an exception allowing “anyone to use any work for the purposes of (…) creating a parody, caricature or pastiche” (Option B).

In our submission to the consultation (Hungarian, English) we pointed out that Option A, by omitting caricature and parody, fails to properly implement the DSM directive and that therefore the Hungarian legislator should go with Option B. Option B, in line with our longstanding position on exceptions and limitations in the EU copyright framework, recommends to closely follow the language of the exception contained in Article 5(3)(k) of the Information Society Directive. By taking over the wording of the prototype exception and leaving the interpretation of the concepts of parody, caricature and pastiche to the courts, Option B takes full advantage of the policy space that is available to Member States and enables the harmonization of these concepts across the EU. This is especially important since in the context of Article 17, the concept of pastiche will likely become an important safeguard for the freedom of expression. Continue reading

Our DSM Directive Implementation Tracker is out

The finish in the great match race [...] at Sheepshead Bay, N.Y., June 25th, 1890 between Salvator and Tenny / L.M.Licentie

Today we are launching our new DSM Directive Implementation Tracker.

These tracking pages aim to provide information on the status of the implementation of the new Copyright Directive in all EU Member States. The information contained in each country page was collected by local organisations and individuals in each country and/or from public sources.

This tracker is part of a wider implementation project of COMMUNIA and its members Centrum Cyfrowe and Wikimedia, which includes a range of activities (including our DSM Directive Implementation Guidelines) to make sure that local communities in as many Member States as possible are aware of their national legislative processes and participate in those processes.  

What is the current status of the implementation?

One year after the entry into force of the DSM Directive, the implementation picture is very varied. So far only one member state (France) has adopted one element of the Directive (the new press publishers right) into national law.

There are currently two member states with implementation law proposals tabled in their national parliaments. In France a proposal implementing articles 17 – 22 of the Directive has cleared committee and is awaiting first reading in plenary. In the Netherlands a proposal implementing the entire Directive has just been introduced into parliament and is awaiting reading in the legal affairs committee.Continue reading

A better way to implement Article 17? New German proposal to avoid overblocking

Jakobs ladder
A step-by-step concept against overblocking
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Back in April 2019, at the occasion of the final vote on the DSM Directive in the Council, the German Federal Government issued a statement, announcing that it intended to implement Article 17 with a focus on “preventing ‘upload filters’ wherever possible, ensuring freedom of expression and safeguarding user rights”. While the German Government has yet to produce an implementation proposal for Article 17, we may now have gotten a first insight in what such an implementation might look like. Late last month, the Kölner Forschungsstelle für Medienrecht at the University of Applied Sciences in Cologne, published a step-by-step concept for implementing Article 17 of the DSM Directive (“Stufenkonzept gegen Overblocking durch Uploadfilter“). 

The paper authored by Prof. Dr. Rolf Schwartmann and Prof. Dr. Christian-Henner Hentsch consists of an implementation proposal in the form of concrete legislative language. The objective of the authors seems to be to stay as close as possible to the objectives formulated in the German statement to the Council. What makes this proposal remarkable is that it is the first proposal (although not an official one) for implementing the Article 17 of the new Copyright Directive that does not consist of more or less literal transposition of Article 17 into national law (as it is the case in the French, Dutch and Belgian legislative proposals). In order to achieve the stated objective of preventing over-blocking by upload filters, the concept proposes a combination of Article 17 with Article 12 of the DSM Directive (which provides Member States the option to introduce Extended Collective Licenses). 

The implementation proposal contains modifications of three different acts: the Copyright Act (Urheberrechtsgesetz – UrhG), the Tele Media Act (Telemediengesetz – TMG) and the Collective Management Organisations Act (Verwertungsgesellschaftengesetz – VGG). Specifically the authors propose the following modifications: 

In the Copyright Act, they propose to add a new section to the article (§ 19a UrhG) that defines the act of communication to the public. The purpose of this addition is to include acts of giving the public access to copyright-protected user uploaded works by Online Content Service Providers (OCSSPs) in the definition of the existing making available to the public right. This establishes that, in principle, OCSSPs need authorisation from rightholders for such acts. The added section also includes the definition of OCSSPs, which is a literal transposition of the definition used in the DSM directive. 

The second addition to the Copyright Act is a new exception covering uses for the purpose of caricature, parody or pastiche by users of OCSSPs (§ 51a UrhG). Notably, this exception only applies in the context of sharing works via OCSSPs (which is highly unusual as copyright exceptions are usually not limited to specific services) and is conditional on remuneration to rightholders via collective management organisations. Continue reading

Article 17: Both French and Dutch implementation proposals lack key user rights safeguards

Allegory of the Alliance with France
Selective implementations sacrifice user rights
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As of January 2020 there are two Member States that have published legislative proposals for the implementation of Article 17 CDSM. In July the Netherlands published a proposal for an implementation law for public consultation that implemented all provisions of the CDSM directive. Then, in early December, France published the proposal for a project for a law on audiovisual communication and cultural sovereignty in the digital era that implements some of the CDSM directive provisions, including Article 17 (see a first analysis of the French proposal by Julia Reda here).

These first implementation proposals are coming from a main proponent of Article 17 (France) and one of the most vocal opponents (Netherlands), and allow us to get a first impression of how Member States across the EU are likely going to deal with this controversial article. Irrespective of the different positions by France and the Netherlands during the directive negotiations, the implementation proposed by both Member States do not diverge much from each other. 

Both the laws stay very close to the text of the directive: The French implementation largely follows the order of the different sections of the directive via two nearly identical articles, one dealing with copyright (L137) and the other dealing with related rights (L219). The Dutch implementation law follows its own structure and introduces 3 articles (29c, 29d and 29e) that deal with copyright and one article (19b) that declares these articles to also apply to neighbouring rights. 

Selective implementations

The general approach chosen by both legislators is to transpose the text of Article 17 (paragraphs 1-6 and 8 and the definition of online content-sharing service providers (OCSSP) from article 2(6)) as closely as possible into their national law.

Neither of the legislators transposes paragraph 17(7) (that introduces crucial safeguards protecting uses under exceptions and limitations) and both only transpose parts of paragraph 17(9) (that imposes an obligation on OCSSPs to operate a complaint and redress mechanisms for users in the event of disputes over the takedown and staydown procedures). None of the legislators provide any further guidance on how platforms are supposed to meet the requirement to make “best efforts to obtain authorisation” from rightholders. Continue reading

Our Guidelines for the Implementation of the DSM Directive

La vertu pour guideLicentie

We are thrilled to release our Guidelines for Implementation of the DSM Directive.

These guidelines explain different provisions of the new Copyright Directive and make suggestions on what to advocate for during the implementation process of those provisions in the EU Member States. They are aimed at local advocates and national policy makers, and have the general objective of expanding and strengthening user rights at a national level beyond what is strictly prescribed by the new Directive. 

Communia partnered with LIBER (Articles 3 and 4), IFLA (Article 6) and Europeana (Articles 8 to 11) for the creation of these guidelines. The guidelines are part of a wider implementation project of COMMUNIA and its members Centrum Cyfrowe and Wikimedia, which includes a range of activities (including our transposition bootcamp) to make sure that local communities in as many Member States as possible participate in their national legislative processes.  

There is room for improvement in the DSM Directive

The two and a half years of public discussions of the new Copyright Directive were largely centred on a small number of problematic clauses (the press publishers right and the upload filters). However, the Directive also includes a number of provisions that improve the existing EU copyright rules (a number of new copyright exceptions and protections for the public domain).

While the national implementations will have to include all the problematic aspects of the new Copyright Directive, there is some room for meaningful improvements, and some measures can be taken to mitigate the worst provisions of the Directive. The EU Member States have until 7 June 2021 to implement the Directive into their national laws. 

Expanding and strengthening user rights

Our detailed proposals try to achieve the general objective of expanding and strengthening user rights by suggesting that, during the national implementation process, Member States make use of the following flexibilities: Continue reading