- The ‘Licences for Europe’ (L4E) debate was wrongly framed from the outset, focusing on one approach to copyright (i.e. licensing.) to the exclusion of all alternatives and with the risk of extending copyright licensing to uses that are currently not covered.
- As a result, and due to the continuation of the process even after many of the participating stakeholders expressed their discontent, a series of organisations representing a wide spectrum of interests left the L4E Text and Data Mining Working Group 4 (WG4) on May 22nd 2013. They include universities, research institutions, open access publishers, university researchers, research funders and Coadec, the only organization representing EU technology companies involved in this WG.
- Licensing has an important role to play, but a fact-based assessment of whether data mining requires copyright permission, and of alternatives to licensing, particularly exceptions and limitations, is also required to establish the appropriate balance.
- The Text and Data Mining (TDM) discussion is not about copyright or technical matters reserved to an elite: it is about the future of research and data-driven innovation in Europe, including in the area of medical discoveries; it is also about jobs, growth and reduction of costs (a McKinsey report estimates that government expenditure in Europe could be reduced by €100 billion a year through effective use of ‘big data’).
- The current discussions seem to only consider a double licensing scenario. This could lead to a situation whereby TDM is only affordable for larger businesses, to the detriment of the European digital [startup] businesses.
- There is an urgent need for Europe to be competitive with the United States and the high-tech economies in Japan and South Korea, where legal barriers to TDM specifically are far lower.
- Exceptions and limitations serve the public policy goal of securing access to digital content; an outcome that should not be left entirely to the market. The premise of the L4E WG4 appears to be that additional licenses are required for computers to ‘read’ and analyse the content for which universities and other entities have already paid large licensing sums.
- The only way to rescue the credibility of the L4E process is to:
- Change the mandate given to the entire L4E process, so discussions go beyond the model of licensing and properly incorporate alternatives, to acknowledge the fact that copyright should be made more flexible to take into account changes to modes of accessing information, business practices, educational needs and of safeguarding cultural heritage that have occurred since the 2001 Information Society Directive.
- Ensure that stakeholders that have been absent from the process since the start or that have left it since take part in it.
- Ensure that, at European Commission level, all relevant DGs are included with an equal status, ranging from DG Communications Networks, Content and Technology (DG CONNECT), DG Internal Market and Services (DG MARKT), DG Education and Culture (DG EAC) and DG Research and Innovation(DG RTD).
- Ensure that the process operates in full transparency moving forward.
Download our Declaration here.
ANNEX – Reasons for a more flexible copyright regime include:
- Access to information in the digital age – Lending by libraries is a crucial activity that supports education, life-long learning, work and leisure. In the physical world, the principle of exhaustion, a long-standing and important part of copyright law, permits libraries to buy and lend printed works. In the digital environment, there are no safeguards to protect equivalent activities of acquiring and “lending” e-books. As a result, a number of the biggest trade publishers are refusing to sell e-books to public libraries in European and other countries. Publishers, not librarians, are deciding library e-book policies from a commercial standpoint, rather than in the best interests of the community. As e-books become the norm, this is deeply worrying for the future of public library services and will diminish Europe’s vibrant reading culture, which is nurtured by libraries. To address this problem, libraries require an exception to the right of communication to the public to permit e-lending, and protection from licence terms that undermine statutory exceptions.
- Consumers in the Single Market – Consumption of digital media may occur under an exception in one member state of the EU that does not exist in another. This presents problems for consumers exercising their freedom of movement. Careful consideration should be given to harmonisation of exceptions to avoid ‘accidental’ illegality, to the detriment of consumer perception of the credibility of the copyright regime.
- Media pluralism – an extension of copyright to ‘snippets’ as stipulated in the Leistungsschutzrecht in Germany could result in thousands of smaller publications being removed from search engine and aggregation indexes, thereby damaging media pluralism.
- Growth and jobs – The Internet and ICT industries play a key role in job creation and growth. Many companies active in this sector are SMEs at the forefront of innovation in Europe . A flexible regime that applies consistently across the European Union is indispensable to the completion of the Digital Single Market and to avoid inhibiting the growth of innovative startups businesses.
- Visually impaired – Even in the most developed markets, only about 5% of published books are available to persons who are print disabled. The resulting “book famine” is aggravated by a lack of harmonisation of copyright exceptions for print disabled people across Europe. Because the EU Copyright Directive does not mandate exceptions for print disabled people, there is a great deal of variation among Members States, which, among other things, makes it illegal to transfer material made accessible across borders.
- Research – Text and data mining and data-driven innovation are drivers of growth and scientific advance. Such activities do not conflict with the way works are sold, rented or otherwise normally exploited by right holders. ‘Licences for Europe’ implies broadening copyright protection to cover these practices and is in conflict with initiatives around open data and open government.
- Cultural Heritage – Long accepted cataloguing and indexing activities by cultural institutions require that copyright is manageable. For example, archives are especially dependent upon exceptions and limitations because, for most material in their collections, such as unpublished letters or family films, there are no representative bodies to provide licensing and there is little prospect of new licensing models. ‘Licences for Europe’ could therefore develop into a serious drawback for free information exchange. Rather than simplifying the activities of cultural institutions, new rights, such as those for press publishers discussed in Germany, could obstruct them, thereby inhibiting innovation.