EU commission to member states: Use Open Definition compliant licenses for your Public Sector Information

Last week the European Commision published Guidelines on recommended standard licences, datasets and charging for the re-use of documents. These Guidelines are intended to help member states with the implementation of the amended Public Sector Information directive that was adopted last year. With these guidelines the Commission hopes to provide ‘reference material for all institutions in all EU countries, in order to align their practices and make them more transparent and predictable for potential re-users’.

The guidelines put a lot of emphasis on the legal aspects of PSI. As part of this the Commission highlights the fact that not all documents need to be licensed, especially those that are in the Public Domain:

A simple notice (e.g. the Creative Commons public domain mark) clearly indicating legal status is specifically recommended for documents in the public domain (e.g. where IPR protection has expired or in jurisdictions where official documents are exempt from copyright protection by law).

In addition to this important clarification the Commission also provides clear recommendations for the use of open licenses:

Several licences that comply with the principles of ‘openness’ described by the Open Knowledge Foundation to promote unrestricted re-use of online content, are available on the web. They have been translated into many languages, centrally updated and already used extensively worldwide. Open standard licences, for example the most recent Creative Commons (CC) licences (version 4.0), could allow the re-use of PSI without the need to develop and update custom-made licences at national or sub-national level. Of these, the CC0 public domain dedication is of particular interest. As a legal tool that allows waiving copyright and database rights on PSI, it ensures full flexibility for re-users and reduces the complications associated with handling numerous licences, with possibly conflicting provisions. If the CC0 public domain dedication cannot be used, public sector bodies are encouraged to use open standard licences appropriate to a member state’s own national intellectual property and contract law and that comply with the recommended licensing provisions set out below.

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Creative Commons comes out in support of copyright reform

Today Creative Commons (CC), the US non-profit that publishes the Creative Commons licenses (and Communia Member) has published a statement in support of copyright reform. This step comes after a year long discussion on how Creative Commons, which has traditionally defined itself as a neutral steward of the CC Licenses, should relate to ongoing discussions about reforming copyright in various countries around the world.

The statement issued by CC makes it clear that the success of the CC licenses should not be used as an argument that current copyright legislation is flexible enough since it enables voluntary licensing schemes like Creative Commons:

Creative Commons (CC) has enabled a new approach to copyright licensing over the last ten years. CC licenses facilitate novel social, educational, technological, and business practices, and support productive relationships around networked knowledge and culture.

We are dedicated stewards of our licenses and tools, and we educate users, institutions, and policymakers about the positive benefits of adopting CC licenses. Our licenses will always provide voluntary options for creators who wish to share their material on more open terms than current copyright systems allow. But the CC vision—universal access to research and education and full participation in culture—will not be realized through licensing alone.

Around the world, numerous national governments are reviewing or revising their copyright law. Some proposed revisions would broaden the scope of uses of copyrighted works permitted without the rightsholder’s permission. In response, it has been suggested that the very success of CC licenses means that copyright reform is unnecessary—that the licenses solve any problems for users that might otherwise exist. This is certainly not the case. CC licenses are a patch, not a fix, for the problems of the copyright system. They apply only to works whose creators make a conscious decision to affirmatively license the right for the public to exercise exclusive rights that the law automatically grants to them. The success of open licensing demonstrates the benefits that sharing and remixing can bring to individuals and society as a whole. However, CC operates within the frame of copyright law, and as a practical matter, only a small fraction of copyrighted works will ever be covered by our licenses.

Our experience has reinforced our belief that to ensure the maximum benefits to both culture and the economy in this digital age, the scope and shape of copyright law need to be reviewed. However well-crafted a public licensing model may be, it can never fully achieve what a change in the law would do, which means that law reform remains a pressing topic. The public would benefit from more extensive rights to use the full body of human culture and knowledge for the public benefit. CC licenses are not a substitute for users’ rights, and CC supports ongoing efforts to reform copyright law to strengthen users’ rights and expand the public domain.

More background information on the statement can be found in this blogpost on the Creative Commons website.

European parliament starts discussing the proposed Directive on collective management of copyright

The European Commission’s Proposal for a directive on collective management of copyright and related rights and multi-territorial licensing of rights in musical works for online uses in the internal market is slowly progressing through the legislative process in Brussels. As part of this no less then five committees of the European Parliament (Legal Affairs, Culture and Education, Industry, Research and Energy, Internal Market and Consumer Protection and International Trade) are in the process of forming their opinion on the proposal.

At this stage the draft opinions written by the rapporteurs for the four non-leading committees have been published. These opinions take the form of amendments proposed to the text of the directive (sometimes these are accompanied by short justifications).

In our policy paper from January we identified two main issues with the proposed directive: The first one concerns the transparency of repertoire information that has to be provided by collective management organisations and the second concerns the relation between collective management and open content licenses. In our analysis the proposed directive fails to sufficiently address these two issues.

We are happy to see that among the four published opinions the draft opinion of the Committee on Culture and Education authored by Helga Trüpel shares the concerns voiced in our policy paper. In the introduction of the document she writes:

The Rapporteur would like to stress that rightholders should have the possibility to make their works available under an open content license of their choice, for instance under Creative Commons, without necessarily opting out from the collective management system.

Furthermore, the Rapporteur would like to give even more flexibility to rightholders in the management of the rights. CMOs should provide accurate repertory information, in particular for works falling into the Public Domain. CMOs should ensure that the information in respect of the works whose term of protection terminates is accurate and regularly updated, in order to exempt such works from licensing and avoid claims to be enforced by CMOs in that regard.

In the following we take a closer look at the relevant amendments contained in the draft opinion of the Committee on Culture and Education:

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