EU Commission Wants More Copyright Licensing, But Not Creative Commons Or Fair Use

from the that'll-make-the-lawyers-happy dept

While there’s no doubt that copyright licensing is a mess that is often holding back key innovations online, it’s a bit worrisome to hear about how the EU Commission is exploring the issue. It has set up a “Licenses for Europe” campaign, but designed in a way that locks in a predetermined conclusion that the only way to deal with locked up content in Europe is to get the big copyright holders to agree to more easily determined licenses. Again, this is not necessarily a bad thing, but it ignores the larger picture: including the fact that most content produced today is coming from individuals and not as a part of a larger industry.

La Quadrature du Net explains why the whole setup is a problem:

Instead of planning for a broad reform that would break away with full-on repression of cultural practices based on sharing and remixing, the Commission is setting up a parody of a debate. 75% of the participants to the working-group concerning “users” are affiliated with the industry and the themes and objectives are defined so as to ensure that the industry has its way and that nothing will change. Through this initiative, the EU Commission shows its contempt of the many citizens who participated in defeating ACTA and are still mobilized against repressive policies.

La Quadrature du Net is registered to participate in a working-group of the new “Licences for Europe” initiative called “User-Generated Content”. Everything in its name, theme and mission is biased to fit the views of the entertainment industry – which represents more than 3/4 of the participants! – The working group is meant to focus on “User-Generated Content”, as if works created by Internet users were a different category from “real” cultural works; as if today, everyone was not on an equal footing to participate in culture. The Commission’s framing of discussion is subservient to major industrial actors who keep attacking their users’ cultural practices and ignore the urgent need to reform copyright.

Just starting out from the point of view, that “user generated content” is somehow a different category than “content,” itself is problematic, but much more problematic is the fact that there is no interest from this effort in things that would actually help out on a large scale: such as recognizing that copyright doesn’t make much sense for many of these works, and that sharing and building on others’ works is a part of how culture works (and that “licenses” can often get in the way of such things). In fact, the EU Commission made sure that no discussions of things like fair use were to be discussed, since the point of the discussion was just “licenses.”

The working group is supposed to work only on licensing – contracts by the industry in which it controls everything – rather than discuss new exceptions to copyright, which would represent the general interest by allowing not-for-profit sharing and remixing of digital works.

This is really unfortunate. Because when you start from the position of licensing everything, you ignore the fact that not everything needs to be licensed. And, as a result, you end up with over-licensing, which is a real problem. Apparently, things got even worse once the sessions began. Even though there were rules in place designed to keep the details of the proceedings mostly secret, some indications from inside were that things were not going well, thanks to some tweets from COADEC.

Industry reps seemed to have absolutely no interest in discussing things like fair use or other “exceptions” to copyright. Someone brought up fair use, and apparently the response was that “fair use is from the 20th century” and then annoyance at the fact that “exceptions” were even being discussed since “we should just talk about licenses.” Moderators obliged by shutting down any talk of exceptions.

Someone tried to point out that this seemed to be putting the cart before the horse, asking whether or not there has been any evaluation done as to whether or not licensing was really the best solution, and the moderator responded “well we want to deliver something.” We’ve heard this before, many times. Politicians have no interest in making sure the solution they’re pushing for makes sense or works, so long as they’re seen as “doing something.” We saw that nearly a decade ago when Senator Orrin Hatch tried to push his INDUCE Act, and when quizzed about it, he admitted that it might cause problems, but he had to “do something” or else.

Further making a mockery of the whole thing, someone brought up Creative Commons licensing… and that conversation was also shut down as a “certain industry” claimed it was “too early” to discuss such things. Apparently, this “certain industry” doesn’t realize that Creative Commons is a form of licensing too. Like too many maximalists, they consider Creative Commons not to be a form of licensing, but another form of “copyright exceptions,” (which it is not).

All in all, the whole session appears to have made a mockery of any attempt at real, meaningful copyright reform. One more comment from the session sort of highlighted the whole problem. As the moderator and people from “certain industries” shut down all talk of exceptions, and focused solely on how to set up a system with more and more licenses, an attendee asked a simple, pointed question:

Attendee asks, who gives a licence for mining the Internet?

And that, right there, encapsulates the entire problem. If you think that we shouldn’t be talking about exceptions, and that everything requires licensing, what you’re really saying is that search engines are illegal. Searching the internet without “permission” is illegal. And that’s the world that the EU Commissions seems to think we should be heading towards.

Yes, locked up content is a problem, and fixing licensing is one part of the solution, but it cannot be done absent a more comprehensive look at the issues of the internet and copyright today. Completely ignoring things like fair use or other “exceptions” to copyright (I prefer to think of them as the rights of the public rather than “exceptions”) means you get bad plans with bad results that border on the ridiculous.

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Comments on “EU Commission Wants More Copyright Licensing, But Not Creative Commons Or Fair Use”

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DannyB (profile) says:

Be careful what you wish for

If they want all their 20th century content locked up, then let them have it. Younger people seem to be less and less interested in older content.

Over time, more and more newer content will not be under the traditional gatekeeper control. Artists will cut out the middleman in making money from their fans.

If nobody is interested in old content locked up in a forest, and search engines cannot index it, does it make a sound?

anonymouse says:

Re: Re:

Maybe someone should just tell them that if they do not wish to waste their time they should look at licensing from both sides not just from the side of the “industry Giants”
Youtube has changed the way copyright works are distributed, so has p2p networks. Nothing is going to change that, so they need to work their laws into supporting these systems.

But they are ignorant leeches on society and they will suck and suck until there is no more to suck.
Hopefully those same people and organisations that stopped SOPA and PIPA will revolt at anything that does not respect the changes the internet has made to everything.

This will probably end up being a waste of time with laws invented that everyone just ignores, that is if they are allowed to be writing into the law books.

Anonymous Coward says:

there will never be a balanced version of copyright. those that advocate that copyright has to be implemented will never accept anything less. the problems with that attitude is that they want to be able to reap the benefits from what isn’t even theirs, what they are not entitled to and from what has been given/entered the public domain. what really is hard to understand is why no one and i mean no one, ever tries to implement any new law(s) that would benefit ‘the people’. i know the maximalists would be all over it, trying to shoot it down but why not try? every law that is attempted at being introduced or is introduced comes from someone that wants to keep stuff locked away, preventing improvements or new inventions, so is it a lack of money, nerve, self preservation or what?? we only ever hear about things that are going to screw the people, via the system, even more than before

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Not true! A lot of “research” sponsored by EU is on exemptions to copyright. The problem is that as soon as the commission is forced to act on it, they invite these “workshops” to give input. In the past nobody from civil society was there. So it is an improvement to include LQDN.
The workshops are for the industry and by the industry to spin the research to be a shout for more IPR.

That the commission is corrupt to the bone is not even a question. The only people we can hope to influence is in the parliament.

Here is the problem though: All EU-laws are made by the commission! The parliament is just a speedbump on the road for these illegitimate shadow czars.

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