Library Group And Others Issue Declaration For Consumer Friendly Copyright In Europe

from the wouldn't-that-be-something dept

Stuart Hamilton from the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) alerted us to the news that his organization, along with “a broad based coalition of European groups, representing consumers, creators, libraries, civil society and technology companies” have put together a declaration in the EU Parliament for Copyright for Creativity — with the goal being to reform copyright law to bring it back to its original purpose, while updating it for the internet age so that it “fosters digital creativity, innovation, education, and access to cultural works.”

Now, wouldn’t that be nice?

The argument that they’re making is that if the EU implemented such a massive change to copyright law, that actually did focus on such things, it would give Europe a huge competitive advantage. The key goal is to establish important “well-crafted exceptions” to copyright law (such as fair use) that have been shown, time and time again, to encourage greater creativity, innovation and education.

You can see the full declaration, if you’d like. It’s been signed by a bunch of groups, including the EFF and the CCIA, who has really been leading the charge recently to get people to understand the importance of exceptions to copyright law in actually driving creativity and economic growth.

Apparently, some Parliament Members already support the declaration, leading to the hope that it will be used “as a basis for an urgent debate on copyright.” Again, this would be wonderful if it happens, but given how thoroughly the entertainment industry has dominated pretty much all policy discussions when it comes to copyright, I’m a bit skeptical that this will get very far. Still, it would be great if it really did get a real discussion on copyright issues, that was evidence-based rather than faith-based, going in European policy circles.

As it stands right now, the declaration is a bit vague. It seems like it would help to have some more specifics included as well. And, on top of that, I’m still not convinced that harmonization of copyright systems across multiple countries really is ideal at this point — even though that’s a key element of the declaration. Part of the problem we have with copyright laws today is that there is so little evidence on the actual impact of stronger or weaker copyright laws. It’s an area that needs more widespread experimentation with very different models (or no copyright at all) to see what really happens so that there is real evidence. Harmonizing a single system takes away some element of that ability to experiment and to compare different systems to see what really works.

That said, these are minor quibbles for a project whose overall goal does seem like a good thing — and greatly needed in an era where any sort of changes to copyright law seem to only be driven by the entertainment industry, with a focus on driving the purpose further and further away from its original intentions, and making it more and more about propping up a legacy industry’s business model.

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Comments on “Library Group And Others Issue Declaration For Consumer Friendly Copyright In Europe”

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Tim Dickinson (profile) says:

Complaining about the lack of variation for trials of different copyright systems does seem to be a very minor quibble and not one that adds much value here. The harmonisation of copyright systems would make technology much cheaper to develop to make use of the available material as well as offering users greater certainty of their position.

I’m pleased some people in Europe are at least proposing such useful ideas, even if they aren’t yet fully fleshed out.

Anonymous Coward says:

What about laws that

A: Make copyright opt in and set up some public directory that lists all copyright material so that people don’t have to be psychic to know what is and what isn’t copyright?

B: Substantially shorten copyright length (no more than seven years). Also make these shortened terms apply retroactively so that tons of work can make its way into the public domain before it disappears into history. Or force it into the public domain using eminent domain laws. Make it apply to software as well, so Windows 95 can make its way into the public domain, and Windows 3.1 as a historical piece of software people can study and play with.

C: Make the punishment for accidental infringement much less than the punishment for accidentally claiming copyright on something you do not have copyright to.

D: Make any discontinued/out of print work automatically enter the public domain.

These are some changes I would like to see.

Tor (profile) says:

Only harmonization of minimal set of exceptions

“And, on top of that, I’m still not convinced that harmonization of copyright systems across multiple countries really is ideal at this point”

Well, to be fair they are only talking about harmonizing a minimal set of exceptions but without any upper limit for what individual countries may choose to do. That sounds like a very good idea to me and would also mean a lot to people with visual or reading disabilities who could benefit from a greater supply of books.

Here’s what they write: “If exceptions to copyright laws were harmonised at an EU level, with these exceptions forming a minimum above which member states can extend, individual contracts for each member state can be avoided, facilitating cross border trade and minimising negotiation related transaction costs.”

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Only harmonization of minimal set of exceptions

To me it’s nice that we’re seeing more organized groups forming, expanding, and working together to finally begin addressing the issue. Before the Internet, for the longest time, the only ones that were really organized were the unions and the big corporations, and hence they were the only ones that really had any impact. Everyone else had to act individually because the communication platform was intentionally designed to keep us divided. Hence you wind up with ridiculous copyright laws (ie: that laws 95 years for corporations) and ridiculous patents with a ridiculous legal system that allows plaintiffs to suddenly relocate their operations to East Texas just before a patent lawsuit.

But now the rate that these corporations are advancing their absurdly unfair agenda is slowing down and the courts are starting to change their decisions even. We still have quite a ways to go but the Internet is allowing an open communication platform that enables the organization required to correct these problems and forces the legal system to pass and enforce more equitable laws. But still, we need to be more aggressive and organized and everyone needs to spread the news and get more people aware of these issues. Most people, by and large, are unaware of many of the issues because they only get their news from the mainstream media (even those with the Internet) and many people don’t even have the Internet. Yet, despite such little awareness and such a small audience, look how much of impact we’re having (ie: the pirate party in Sweden and the decision for Parliament to reject ACTA by such a large margin). We still haven’t corrected any of the existing laws in place (ie: copy protection length) but we are slowing down the rate that things are getting worse. Imagine what we can accomplish if many more people start becoming aware of these issues and started to participate in the organizational structures designed to combat these retarded laws. You think the big corporations are unaware of possibilities? They’re very aware, and that’s why they’re scared half to death. They no longer control the news and public opinion the way they used to, they can no longer prevent the communication required for us to organize groups against their agenda. You’re darn right they’re afraid. and if they’re not we need to make them more afraid. We need to organize, get the word out, and make people more aware of these issues to get the existing laws corrected.

Suzanne Lainson (profile) says:

Easier to address specific issues first

The group cites examples of issues that haven’t been adequately addressed in traditional interpretations of copyright laws. It seems to me that it would be much easier to start with modifications/clarifications to deal with these issues than than to rewrite copyright laws altogether.

The areas which seem to be the easiest to address are:

1. Archiving content.
2. Expanding public access via libraries.
3. Clarifying fair use in academic/educational situations.

Suzanne Lainson (profile) says:

Re: Easier to address specific issues first

Thinking through the archiving issue a bit, I’ll toss this out to ponder.

One reason to archive is to preserve knowledge so it won’t be lost. On the other hand, does the creator or owner of that knowledge have the right to destroy content if he chooses not to have it be made public anymore? It’s a matter of deciding whether once content has been released it can not longer be removed from the digital record, or not. Can you create something and then find the file and delete it, or does creating it mean it is now publicly available forever?

And thinking a bit more about preservation and ownership, let’s say that the archival entities not only want to preserve everything, they decide to match up content with the creator, even if the creator published it anonymously. But given technological advances, it is likely that you can determine who created it. So is it in the best interest of history to put a name to all content, even if that wasn’t the original intention?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Easier to address specific issues first

Who cares about the original intention by the author. The author has no right to control how others use something with his/her intention. If the author doesn’t like it, don’t release something to others who might leak it to the public. If they do, those specific others should be held accountable, not the public in general who agreed to nothing and should be allowed to freely copy and distribute any content they want without paying anything.

Suzanne Lainson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Easier to address specific issues first

The author has no right to control how others use something with his/her intention.

Do you also feel that if we know the author, even if the content was posted anonymously, we can feel free to reveal it? In other words, will there be any secrets or is everything up for grabs once we find out about it or have access to it?

Suzanne Lainson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Easier to address specific issues first

Also, along with the “no secrets” question, if someone posts something to Facebook, for example, but then takes it down, does the original post remain with Facebook for the company to do whatever it wants with it?

Similarly, if you post a song on MySpace, does it become available for MySpace to do whatever the company wants to do with it, even if you take the song down?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Easier to address specific issues first

If someone posts something on a website and google caches it or some website history database caches it, they should be allowed to keep the cache forever and continue presenting it to the public. Be careful what you post next time.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Easier to address specific issues first

I don’t understand the question. Reveal what? The content? Or you mean distribute the content. Yes, the public is free to distribute the content. If you mean break the authors anonymity, that’s a different question. I’m anonymous right now but you are free to copy and paste whatever I type anywhere on the net. The same should be true when authors post their works on the net, people should be able to freely redistribute it. but the ability to freely distribute it does not mean that the author can’t be anonymous.

Yeah, everything should be up for grabs. If I have a contract with you and you that says that I pay you $20 for a song but you are not allowed to give the song to anyone else, and say you do give the song to someone else and they copy it and redistribute it. They never agreed to the terms, you are the one that signed the contract, not them. You should get punished and pay any damages, no one else should pay damages (no one else agreed to the terms) and everyone should be allowed to redistribute the content all they want without paying anything.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Easier to address specific issues first

Well, that’s one of those privacy vs free speech things, both are important and it’s often difficult to reconcile the two. However, I really don’t think the law can fix it without drastic measures that will substantially limit our technology and and place huge restrictions on our various freedoms.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Easier to address specific issues first

but I do agree that privacy is important and that it can often conflict with free speech in difficult to resolve circumstance. I’m not sure if damages towards someone who reveals an anonymous poster should be in order and, if so, to what extent. I think such issues are difficult to resolve.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Easier to address specific issues first

You mean like if an author posted a piece of content online anonymously and one person knows who the author is but no one else does? Should that person be allowed to reveal the identity of the author to the public? uhm… that’s kinda a privacy issue and it’s a tough question (and I doubt the law can reasonably be expected to prevent the identity of the author from being posted if someone really wanted to post it, not without the law substantially liming Internet functionality and computer technology in ways that we wouldn’t want it to, and even then I doubt that will really work), but even if the answer is no it doesn’t negate the fact that the author has no right to control who does what with his/her work once the author posts it on the net.

Karl (profile) says:

Re: Re: Easier to address specific issues first

Probably the things you’re talking about won’t be allowed in this case. European law is different from American and English copyright law, and is partially based on moral law. Moral law says the author/artist has the ultimate decision on what to do with his or her works, even if they don’t hold the copyright on it.

So, if someone publishes something anonymously, it’s against EU law to reveal their name against their will. And if the author doesn’t want their work published, you can’t publish it.

This only lasts for the life of the author, however.

Suzanne Lainson (profile) says:

Hard to push through

I was suggesting that if you wanted changes in copyright laws, it would be best to start with some specific uses that can be well-defined.

My guess is that if you actually started out with, “Once you post it, say it, or write it down, you lose control over it,” you’d find it very hard to get popular support, even among average people. It would be very easy to spin it this way: “Big companies and the government will come and take your ideas and make money from them and give you nothing.” I think the pro-copyright folks could generate a degree of paranoia in people similar to what has been done with any suggested changes in health care.

I’m just being pragmatic. Saying that once anyone else hears it or sees it, what you have said or created enters into public domain will not likely win you anti-copyright supporters, even if you think it’s better for society as a whole.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Hard to push through

“”Once you post it, say it, or write it down, you lose control over it,” you’d find it very hard to get popular support, even among average people.”

Even if I would find it hard for the average person to agree, which neither of us know if this is the case or not, I will not compromise what I believe just because others won’t agree. They can use reason, logic, and evidence to try and change what I believe, but merely disagreeing with me isn’t good enough. I will try and convince others with reason and logic regardless of how you think others think. I’ll let them decide what to think on their own.

Also, what I said was that if you write it down and you show it to someone under the agreement that they won’t redistribute it and they break that agreement, then you only get to sue that one person who initially broke that agreement for damages. Others who continue to redistribute it made no such agreement and shouldn’t be punished. It’s ridiculous to waste precious legal resources and privacy and property invasions, technology and free speech restrictions, and all the effort required to go after those who didn’t agree to such agreements and continue to redistribute a work.

Mike Linksvayer (profile) says:

evidence awaits discovery

Part of the problem we have with copyright laws today is that there is so little evidence on the actual impact of stronger or weaker copyright laws. It’s an area that needs more widespread experimentation with very different models (or no copyright at all) to see what really happens so that there is real evidence.

Amen, but I wonder if the seeming lack of evidence isn’t as much due to lack of looking by researchers as it is lack of policy diversity in the world.

Obvious places to look for the impact of different policies include different copyright lengths, exceptions, DMCA-like laws, levels of enforcement of all of these, and especially dates of implementation for each.

There’s been lots more policy variation over the ~300 year history of copyright, the impacts of which could be studied.

Public licenses have also introduced variation in levels of copyright restriction that ought be ripe for finding evidence.

Just be sure to evaluate costs as well as benefits — concentrated and diffuse.

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