Tag Archives: out-of-commerce works

7 out of 10: the ARIPO Model Copyright Law

The African Regional Intellectual Property Organisation (ARIPO) has released its model copyright law.

ARIPO it aims to support the work of intellectual property (IP) teams across Africa, through both country-specific capacity building, and regional-level reports and guidance.

Its 19 Member States come primarily from English-speaking Africa (with some exceptions), and will now doubtless be encouraged to refer to the Model Law in reflecting on their own reforms.

This means that the document has a potentially powerful impact. As such, it is worth being clear about its strengths, weaknesses, and silences, from a library point of view. Library associations and others advocating for better laws for libraries should be aware of where the Model Law will, or will not help.

This blog therefore explores the positives, the negatives, and the holes in the Model Law. All references to Articles are to the Model Law, unless stated otherwise).


The Good

Fair Dealing: in the first Article of the chapter on exceptions and limitations (Article 18), the Model Law suggests that uses which constitute fair dealing, for the purposes of scientific research, private use, criticism or review, or the reporting of current events should be permissible (Article 18(1)). It then offers a set of criteria for judging the fairness of this dealing – the purpose and character of the use, the nature of the protected work (how original is it?), the amount of the work used, and the effect of the use on the market (Article 18(3)).

This is a positive step, giving valuable flexibility to libraries and other users in making reasonable uses of works. However, it if course remains less open than fair use exceptions, which do not have closed list of accepted purposes. If the list was to be made open (for example by adding a ‘such as’ before the list of purposes), it would offer an even better model.

Inclusion of Unpublished Works: too often, copyright exceptions only apply to works which have been formally published. This can make the work of libraries and archives in dealing with unpublished works more complicated. The Model Law underlines that the fact of being unpublished does not prevent uses under fair dealing (Article 18(4)).

A Digitally-Reading Education Exception: the Model Law makes it clear that it is possible to make uses of copyrighted works for education purposes via electronic networks, and not just in analogue form (Article 21(1)(a) and 21(1)(b)).

Interestingly, the only area where the exception can be cancelled out by a licence is for in-person teaching (Article 21(1)(c)(iii)). This is clearly not ideal, given that the Article is, anyway, covered by the rule that uses under exceptions should not conflict with the normal market exploitation of a work.

A Technologically Neutral Definition of Copying: too often, national laws suggest that copies can only be made through a specific technology, such as photocopying. The Model Law has the merit of underlining that it is possible to make reproductions through any format (Article 2).

Protection of the Public Domain: the Model Law includes standard provisions on facts, data, news and political speeches not being protected by copyright, but is clear that this also applies to laws, court judgements and other administrative texts are also in the public (Article 6). Furthermore, there is an explicit definition of the public domain, which allows the possibility for authors to renounce their rights. This is positive, given the tendency in some countries to create unwaivable rights which undermine initiatives such as Creative Commons (Article 35).

No Term Extension: the Model Law does not take the opportunity too often used elsewhere (and in spite of the evidence) to go beyond protection lasting for the lifetime of the author plus fifty years. This is a useful model to use elsewhere.

Inclusion of Museums: the provisions on library copying also apply to archives and museums. This is a positive, given the challenges identified in WIPO work around museums facing different conditions and rules to other heritage institutions.


The Bad

Overall, the Model Law provides a relatively good example for governments. However, there are some weaknesses which libraries should look to avoid replicating in their own national legislation. The below suggestions are in addition to the encouragement to adopt fair use above.

Vague Provisions on Circumventing Technological Protection Measures: in line with the WIPO Copyright Treaty, the Model Law underlines that ‘effective’ technological protection measures should themselves be protected by law. In other countries, there then follows a guarantee that users should be still be allowed to carry out permitted acts (i.e. under exceptions). However, the ARIPO Model Law only provides that governments may make exceptions. This is far too weak at a time that libraries are acquiring a growing share of collections in digital form (Article 40(4) ad 45(3)).

No Lending Exception: the Model Law includes public lending as one of the uses over which a rightholder should have exclusive rights. This is not something required by the Berne Convention itself (which only covers rental). This risks obliging libraries to make payments or seek authorisation for lending (over and above what they have paid to acquire books in the first place). This risks seriously damaging libraries’ ability to promote literacy and a love of books (Article 7(1)(k).

Restrictions on Preservation Copying: while the Model Law does (commendably) not limit the technology used to make copies, the fact that it only talks about ‘a’ copy poses to digitisation efforts (Article 23(3)). In line with recent EU reforms, it would be better to talk about taking copies in the quantity necessary to achieve the goal.

Furthermore, the Model Law also includes the obligation to see if a commercially available copy is available before taking such a copy. This risks introducing an unhelpful administrative burden, and may not be practicable. Given that it is usually cheaper to buy a copy than digitise and preserve, it would be better to leave the choice between copying and buying to libraries, rather than enforcing it through law (also Article 23(3)).

Imposing Commercial Availability Checks for Marrakesh Copying: The Marrakesh Treaty made an important breakthrough by removing copyright-related barriers to making and sharing accessible format copies of books for people with print disabilities. It did however leave the possibility for Member States to impose restrictions though, in the form of an optional remuneration requirement, or the obligation to check if an accessible format copy is not already available on the market before making or sharing one (Marrakesh Treaty, Articles 4(4) and 4(5)).

Libraries have argued strongly against making use of either of these possibilities, given the financial and administrative cost. However, the Model Law does suggest that there should be a check on commercial availability. Given the lack of information about which books are available where, and in what formats, such a requirement risks only leading to uncertainty.

Lack of Provisions on Collective Management: the Model Law is surprisingly thin on guidance about the regulation of collective management organisations (Article 57), while at the same time including provisions on extended collective licencing (Article 38). While it is clear that well-managed collecting societies can facilitate the work of libraries when carrying out uses that fall outside of exceptions, it is essential that these are run in a transparent and accountable way in order to be legitimate.

The Model Law says very little about the need for CMOs to be independent of government (in order to avoid conflicts of interest in the operation of copyright offices), to publish information about how much they are collecting and paying out, or to be representative of rightholders and rights when offering licences. At a time when multiple governments are needing to act to force better governance in this field, the vagueness of the Model Law is troubling.

Over-Application of the Three-Step Text: The Berne Convention only applies the three-step test (that a use needs to be a certain specific case, not conflict with the normal market exploitation of a work, and not unreasonably prejudice the legitimate rights of rightholders) only to exceptions to the reproduction right (Article 9(2), Berne Convention). However, the Model Law applies this to all exceptions, leading to potentially unhelpful debates about what is and is not possible (Article 18(2))

Attribution Obligations: on various occasions (Articles 18(1), 21(2), 22, 23(2), 24(1), 26(3)), the Model Law suggests that use can only be made under exceptions if there is attribution. However, this may not always be possible. Laws elsewhere recognise this possibility to make uses without attribution when this is not practicable. However, the Model Law does not, creating uncertainty for users who do not know the author of the work they are using.

Licence Override for Document Supply: as mentioned above, the exception allowing for educational uses of works in face-to-face teaching can be disapplied when a licence is available. This also applies to situations when libraries are making copies for the private use of users. Where a collective management organisation argues that it can offer licences, this could do a lot of damage to document supply activities (Article 23(2)(a)(iii).

Block on Parallel Importation: in the context of WIPO, libraries have argued that even when there is a domestic rightholder with the right to distribute a work nationally, it should be possible for libraries to make acquisitions across borders. This can be essential in order to meet requests for specific versions of works, or, for example, when the domestic rightholder is not active. The Model Law gives the rightholder the exclusive right to import works, without exceptions (Article 7(1)(j)).

Limits on Caricature, Pastiche and Parody: the Model Law does include welcome exceptions to economic rights (such as reproduction) for review and critic. However, the exception for caricature, pastiche and parody (Article 30) only applies to moral rights, and not to economic rights. As such, it may make it possible to restrict such activities on other grounds.


The Missing

The Model Law, while comprehensive, does not cover a number of areas which, from a library point of view, would be desirable in any national copyright law.

Orphan and Out-of-Commerce Works: libraries hold many works which are no longer commercially available, but are still in copyright. As such, there are significant restrictions on how far they can give access. This is particularly difficult when a work is orphaned (i.e. it isn’t possible to identify or local rightholders). More and more countries are introducing provisions allowing libraries to permit use of such works, subject to various conditions. The Model Law does not even reference these issues.

Text and Data Mining: legal uncertainty about the possibility for libraries to allow for text and data mining of works in their collections has lead a number of countries to introduce explicit exceptions. There is nothing about this in the ARIPO Model Law, meaning that there is continued uncertainty.

Limited Exceptions for People with Disabilities: while the Model Law does copy provisions from the Marrakesh Treaty for people with print disabilities, it does not take the opportunity (foreseen in the Marrakesh Treaty) to apply similar rules for people with other disabilities (such as sub-titling for people experiencing deafness). Many countries do allow copying without restrictions on the type of disability – it is a shame that this possibility has not been included in the Model Law.

Contract Override: the Model Law is silent on the issue of contract override – i.e. the possibility for exceptions and limitations to be cancelled out by the terms of a licence. In a growing number of countries, there are conscious steps to prevent this from happening, and so defend user rights. National governments should introduce broad provisions ensuring the pre-emption of any contract terms which do undermine exceptions.

Cross-Border: the Model Law only refers to cross-border uses in the case of the provisions on sharing accessible format copies of works for people with print disabilities. There is nothing anywhere else which would allow for the cross-border application of exceptions.

This is perhaps an unfair criticism of course – it is only through international law making that there can be legal certainty for cross-border uses. ARIPO itself could act, but the most effective solution would need to come from WIPO itself. IFLA of course continues to engage to achieve this.



Overall, the ARIPO Model Law does cover a number of key points which help libraries do their job, in particular relatively flexible fair dealing provisions. However, there remain a number of flaws, both specifically (lending rights, limitations on preservation), and cross-cutting ones (contract override).

Governments should therefore not look to adopt the Model Law wholesale, but rather work with their library associations to ensure that they have rules that truly support the public interest missions of libraries. Overall, the Model Laws gets a 7 out of 10.

The EU Copyright Reform: Battles Won, Bullets Dodged, and the Questions that Remain

The text adopted yesterday at the Council, after the Parliament’s vote on 26 March, comes after years of discussion.

The Commission’s proposal released in 2016 has been reviewed and voted upon in five parliamentary committees, at the plenary of the European Parliament, at several levels within the Council, and through trilogue discussions among the Council, the Parliament and the Commission.

IFLA and its partners have engaged in every step of the process to ensure the best results possible for our sector. There are also a number of very good analyses out there, not least those produced by our partner organisations.

This blog, rather than looking to give a comprehensive overview of the legislation, looks at the battles that libraries have, together, won, the bullets we have dodged, and the questions that remain. These last will be important, with the effort to ensure the right rules for libraries now moving to the national level. You can access the final agreed text here.



First of all, the battles won – those areas where we have seen a significant improvement on the text originally proposed by the Commission in September 2016. Through the work of a number of committed Members of the European Parliament, and supportive Member States, there have been important steps forward in some key areas:

  1. Extension of the mandatory text and data mining (TDM) exception to all libraries and cultural heritage institutions (Article 3): originally, the Commission proposed that only research organisations could benefit. However, research libraries may have faced a lack of certainty, and other libraries and cultural heritage institutions would have been excluded, forced to seek licences in order to carry out analysis on the works they hold. Now they can.
  2. A second and broader mandatory TDM exception, applicable to any individual or institution (Article 4): the first version of the TDM provision created extensive uncertainty by trying to distinguish between types of mining which would and wouldn’t be allowed. The final version of the Directive makes TDM exceptions mandatory in all Member States, for all users with legal access, albeit with some smaller limitations. See below for more.
  3. Clarity on cross-border networks of collaboration for preservation (Recital 28): while the need for cultural heritage institutions to work across borders in order to make the most of digitisation equipment was mentioned in the original impact assessment, the first version of the Directive failed to make it clear that such networks were possible. Now it does.
  4. Application of contract override to preservation (Article 7(1)): libraries can be prevented from carrying out preservation activities when the terms of the licences under which works are accessed state otherwise. The original Directive did not address this issue. Now it does.
  5. A wider number of purposes acceptable under digitisation for preservation (Article 6, Recital 27): preservation does not only imply taking a copy of a particularly vulnerable work. Cataloguing, insuring and even lending to another institution for preservation work may also require copies to be made. Improvements to the Directive have offered a greater indication that these are possible under an exception, although libraries will need to work at the national level to ensure these are covered.
  6. A fall-back exception for out-of-commerce works where no collective management organisation exists for a specific category of work in a given country (Article 8(2)): the grand plan in the original Directive was to allow for extended collective licensing of out-of-commerce works? But what about the many sectors and countries where there isn’t a representative, well-governed collecting society to run this, or they don’t have the right mandates? Thanks to the new exception, libraries can now also find a way to digitise and make available works which aren’t available on the market.
  7. Stronger conditions on when a country can opt out of the education exception (Article 5(2)): the original proposal left a lot of scope for Member States to disapply the new education exception and allow licensing to prevail. However, it is clear that many educational licences are not fit for purpose. The final version of the Directive puts the onus on Member States to ensure that before an exception is taken away, licences have to offer a realistic solution.
  8. Protection of the public domain (Article 14): recent cases have seen actors take simple photos of works which have long been in the public domain and claim copyright. This can represent a barrier to their spread, as key texts and images risk being subject to infringement proceedings. The final version of the Directive makes it clear that straightforward reproductions of works in the public domain cannot themselves claim copyright.
  9. A clear possibility to have broader limitations and exceptions (Article 25): the tendency in international copyright law is to favour higher levels of protection of rights, rather than greater scope to pursue public interest goals through exceptions. However, in the final version of the Directive, it is made clear that Member States should feel able to go further if they want.
  10. Extension of education exception to uses by educators in other settings (Article 5(1)): the original version of the directive allowed for teachers to use digital works in the classroom, or online. This potentially restricts the ability of educators to offer courses in libraries and elsewhere. The final version of the Directive clarifies that this is possible under the exception (or licences if applicable).



In the course of the discussions, a number of ideas emerged which would have seriously limited the effect of the new rules, and indeed have created dangerous precedents both for Europe and the rest of the world. Fortunately, they didn’t stick:

  1. Obligation to delete datasets created for text and data mining (Article 3): a number of MEPs tried to argue that if copies of articles and other materials were made in machine-readable formats for text and data mining, these needed to be destroyed afterwards in order to prevent against misuse. This (once again) makes the lazy assumption that exceptions are more or less the same thing as piracy (wrong), and would have meant that experiments carried out with TDM could not be reproduced.
  2. Scientific publications in the scope of the new rights for online press publications (Article 2(4)): in one European Parliament committee, there was an to extend the new planned press publishers right extended to scientific publications. This did not make sense, given the very different market conditions there (not least the fact that authors are not paid for their work). Fortunately, MEPs saw sense and rejected this proposal.
  3. Continued over-protection of technological protection measures (Article 7(2)): the original Directive took the refreshing step of arguing that technological protection measures (TPMs) which prevent the enjoyment of exceptions (for example copying for preservation) should not themselves enjoy legal protection, even for licenced (as opposed to purchased) works. The European Parliament tried to reverse this, leaving any work accessed under licence potentially tied up in TPMs. This proposal did not make it to the final version.
  4. No possibility to cumulate exceptions and limitations (Article 7): a further effort sought to overturn the (highly restricted) TU Darmstadt ruling. This established that it is possible to combine exceptions, as long as these continue to respect the three-step test. Despite this obvious safeguard, rightholders tried to add in a new clause that would prevent ‘stacking’, but which would have at the same time had a huge impact on disciplines such as digital humanities. It didn’t make it.
  5. Automatic right for publishers to benefit from public lending right at the expense of authors (Article 16(2)): one often-overlooked article in the Directive served to protect collective management organisations who had been paying out shares of copying revenues to publishers. Following the Reprobel case in the Court of Justice of the European Union, they risked having to pay this money out to authors instead – the Directive therefore underlines that publishers can claim a share. There were efforts during the negotiation of the Directive to extend this to public lending right, which would have seen authors in a number of countries lose revenue to publishers. The final version leaves the choice to Member States.
  6. Library repositories being covered by new rules on platform liability (Article 2(6)): the first version of Article 13 (now 17) would have meant that any site hosting large volumes of user uploaded content would need to implement filters to check for infringement, or face liability. This would have placed a huge burden on scientific and open education repositories, which play a vital role in giving access to materials. Thanks to extensive work, there is now a clear exception for these, alongside sites such as Wikipedia.
  7. Libraries and individuals being obliged to pay for uses of short snippets of press publications (Article 15(1)): while clearly aimed at GoogleNews, the original version of the Directive gave very broad application to the Press Publishers Right, with non-commercial users such as libraries potentially liable to pay. This would have potentially had a major impact on research work done by librarians for users, as well as catalogues and libguides. Fortunately, the new Directive is clear that non-commercial users are not affected.
  8. Works can only be declared out of commerce when all versions, manifestations and translations are no longer on sale (Article 8(5)): the original version of the Directive indicated that a work could only come under the new provisions when all versions, manifestations and translations were no longer on sale. This would have seriously limited the impact of the Directive, given that different language versions are not necessarily interchangeable, and that researchers may well need a specific edition, and so cannot complete their work with a substitute that is still on sale.
  9. 20-Year duration for press publishers’ rights (Article 15(4)): the first version of the Directive gave press publishers a right for 20 years, despite any evidence of this being proportionate or justified. This would have seriously limited the work of libraries working with the press, as well as research into recent history. In the end, the duration of the right was limited to two years.
  10. Retroactive effect of the new press publishers’ right (Article 15(4): at first, a lack of clarity in the text could have implied that even existing publications would benefit from the new possibilities. This would have put into question work already done using this material, bringing major new uncertainty. The final version of the Directive is clear that there is no retroactive effect.



As is almost always the case with European legislation, a lot comes down to transposition – the steps taken to turn EU rules into national ones. An added factor in this is the lack of precision in many parts of the Directive. This is inevitable, and offers opportunities to ensure positive outcomes. At the same time, it also means that libraries will need to play close attention.

Here are ten more things to watch out for:

  1. Rules around permissible security measures in text and data mining (Article 3(3)): the Directive underlines that rightholders are allowed to take security measures in order to protect their works. At the same time, this should not lead to the cancelling out of the TDM exception in the first place. Finding the right balance here – and preventing overly restrictive approaches – will be important if the exception is to have its full effect.
  2. Rules around opting out of text and data mining for all individuals and institutions (Article 4(3)): as highlighted above, a major step forwards was the mandatory TDM exception for the benefit of people and organisations outside of research centres, libraries and cultural heritage institutions (if they have legal access to the works mined). There is a catch here, in that rightholders can explicitly state that they do not want their works mined. It will be important to work with Member States to ensure that the rules around this are specific enough to mean that opting out is the exception, not the rule.
  3. Definition of who can benefit from the education exception (Recital 20): despite our efforts, the education exception formally still only applies to educational establishments, although it can be used (under the authority of a formal education institution) in libraries and cultural heritage institutions. There is, nonetheless, a possibility to ensure that libraries (or groups that offer training and support to people in libraries) are recognised as educational establishments in national law. This would open up useful new possibilities for libraries to fulfil their potential as places for learning.
  4. Application of the opt-out from the education exception (Article 5(2)): as highlighted above, there is the possibility for Member States to decide that the new education exception does not apply in situations where there are licences adapted for educational uses on offer. There is likely to be extensive rightholder lobbying in favour of excluding broad categories of works from the exception. It will be up to libraries and educators to ensure that the conditions laid down by the Directive (that licences are ‘suitable’, ‘cover the needs and specificities of educational establishments’ and are ‘easily available’) are fulfilled.
  5. Application of the exceptions in the out of commerce works exception (Article 8(3)): a major area for work will be how to define where cultural heritage institutions need to ask for licences, and where they can benefit from the exception in order to digitise and make available out-of-commerce works. It will be up to member states to decide what it means for a collective management organisation to be ‘sufficiently representative of rightholders in the relevant type of works or other subject matter and of the rights that are the subject of the licence’.
  6. Application of rules to out-of-commerce works by third country nationals (Article 8(7)): one weakness of the Directive is the focus on trying to ensure that works by people from outside the European Union are not covered by new rules on out of commerce works. For many European countries, this will be difficult, given that they use major world languages, and so telling the difference between a French and a Quebecois work, for example, may be difficult. Member States will need to take a sensible approach to this point.
  7. Application of the definition of a good faith search on whether a work is in commerce (Article 8(5)): the Directive suggests that before a work can be declared out-of-commerce, a ‘reasonable effort’ must be made to ensure that it is not available to the public through normal commercial channels. Given the difficulties already encountered around the Orphan Works Directive, it will be important to ensure that national implementation does not create disproportionate obligations on cultural heritage institutions.
  8. Definition of which works can be preserved under the preservation exception and of the activities and purposes covered (Article 6, Recital 27): the Directive’s preservation exception, as set out above, does allow for copying for preservation purposes, while leaving the possibility for Member States to pass other exceptions and limitations for internal uses. There is, therefore, a key opportunity to ask for exceptions that allow for any core library uses of works to be covered.
  9. Management of the dialogues planned for the text and data mining exception, the out of commerce works provisions and the upload filters provision (Articles 3(4), 11, 17(10)): a number of articles provide for dialogues between stakeholders on how the rules should be applied. It will be necessary to pay attention to the composition, terms of reference and other aspects of these discussions in order to ensure that the results reflect the interest of libraries and their users. This will, in particular, be the case around protection of freedom of expression under the provisions on platform liability.
  10. Protecting the quotation exception (Article 15): The press publishers’ right creates a worrying precedent for protection being given to ‘short extracts of a work’. This risks affecting how legislators and courts think of the concept of quotation in general, as well as criticism and review. While the scope of the Article in the Directive is narrow, the precedent is certainly worrying.

For more, see our resources page about the European reforms. You can also see analysis and reaction by our partner organisations:

LIBER: New European Copyright Directive: A Detailed Look

EBLIDA: Long Read : Final stretch for the Digital Single Market Directive

SPARC Europe: A new Copyright Legislation for Europe. How will this impact Open Access?

EUA: EU Copyright Directive: EUA cautious about adopted agreement

The Good, The Bad and (Avoiding) the Ugly: A Way Forwards on the Copyright Directive

Discussions around the European Union’s draft Directive on copyright in the Digital Single Market are as tense as ever. Strong divisions have emerged between and among Member States and Members of the European Parliament around controversial proposals for a new press publishers’ right (Article 11) and an (effective) obligation on internet platforms to filter content (Article 13).

These disagreements stand in contrast to the consensus that has emerged around other provisions in the Directive, which will help libraries and cultural heritage institutions in their work to promote innovation, support education and enable preservation and access to heritage.

Such measures, in line with the EU’s own international obligations, cause no unreasonable prejudice to rightholders, and indeed will support creativity and discovery.

The fear must be that a failure to find agreement on Articles 11 and 13 will lead to calls for the rejection of the Directive as a whole. This would be a huge loss for innovation, education and heritage in Europe, and would be hard to explain to Europe’s voters, given the public support for such measures received from all sides of the debate so far.

This blog offers more detail on the situation so far, and sets out the case for avoiding this worst-case scenario.


The Good, The Bad and the Ugly. ACJ1, CC-BY-NC-SA https://www.flickr.com/photos/ajc1/4684652569The Good – Achievements So Far

The draft Directive already contains a lot of good. Starting from a reasonably positive base in September 2016, discussions among MEPs and Member States have led to improvements in provisions around text and data mining, teaching, preservation, and out-of-commerce-works – Articles 3-9.

If these elements of the Directive pass, EU citizens will:

  • Be able to engage much more easily in text and data mining. This will provide a significant boost to research into Artificial Intelligence in particular, at a time when Europe risks being left behind other countries who have been far more ready to update their legislation.
  • Have more opportunities to learn using digital tools, including in libraries. This will further democratise education, and help ensure that everyone can continue to learn throughout life.
  • Continue to enjoy access to Europe’s cultural heritage into the future, thanks to changes that will give libraries and cultural heritage institutions the clear right to take digital copies of books and other materials for preservation purposes.
  • Gain new access to works which are in-copyright but out-of-commerce, and so otherwise can only be found within the walls of libraries.

This is a good result, in and of itself. It will offer important clarity to libraries and cultural heritage institutions and allow them to fulfil their missions in the digital age. It will break down one of the most significant barriers to realising the potential of text and data mining, a Commission priority since 2012.

Moreover, given the EU’s own international obligations under the Berne Convention, it will not cause any unreasonable prejudice to authors. Instead, today’s authors will benefit from wider discovery of their work, including the rediscovery of works which are no longer in print. The authors of tomorrow will find it easier to read, study and innovate.

This is not to mention other elements of the text on the table that will provide additional rights to authors, including the possibility to reclaim rights and to benefit from greater transparency about revenues made on the basis of their work.

These provisions have enjoyed a large degree of consensus, with agreement relatively early on in discussions between Parliament and Council. Stakeholders from all sides of the discussion have been ready to signal their support for these steps, or at least their readiness to accept them.


The Bad – Sticking Points

However, it has long been clear that not all of the Directive is consensual. The two most contentious elements – Articles 11 and 13 – look to create new rights or rules for situations which are arguably specific to individual markets, and indeed individual providers – the situation of newspapers faced with GoogleNews, and of record companies faced with YouTube.

As has been argued repeatedly, the proposals on the table – a new right over very short fragments of text from newspapers, and an obligation on all online platforms to filter content uploaded by users – are likely to make the problem worse.

Not only will they strengthen the hand of the existing dominant players (who are best placed to negotiate with content producers, introduce filters or make payments), but they risk causing major collateral damage, for example to educational and scientific repositories run by libraries.

It is therefore unsurprising that there is so much disagreement about these articles.

Most recently, and just days after the agreement of a new Treaty between the countries, France and Germany disagreed about whether smaller internet platforms should be excused from the obligation to filter all user content for potential copyright infringement.

Even though this particular dispute has been agreed, there are many more still open, underlining how flawed the approach to these articles currently is.

In short, while there is support for effective ways of sustaining high quality journalism and curtailing illicit uses, the proposals on the table are not the answer.


The Ugly – The Nuclear Option

There are crucial meetings due in the coming days which aim to find a way forwards. Steps have been made to create some minor flexibilities in Articles 11 and 13, for example to reduce the burden on small platforms, as well as limited protections for the educational and scientific repositories that support open access and open educational resources.

Friends scene. Source: https://devrant.com/rants/1546587/this-will-happen-in-java-when-you-declare-the-class-with-wrong-nameHowever, there are already complaints from some who had previously supported Articles 11 and 13, who are unwilling to accept anything less than the highly flawed original proposals.

Most worryingly, these calls are accompanied by demands to reject the entire Directive.

This would be the worst of all worlds. All of the progress already made to date on Articles 3-9 would be at risk, despite already having been subject to consensus. The years of work that have gone into these would potentially be lost, and with it an opportunity to support clear public interest goals in Europe.

As an election approaches, it would be difficult to explain to voters why a flagship piece of legislation has been sunk, merely because there was disagreement on one part.

It is therefore time to reflect on the value of delaying those parts of the Directive which are clearly not yet mature, and proceeding with those that are. This would allow the European Union to chalk up a useful ‘win’.

Instead of rushed discussions now, a full and holistic discussion on how to achieve these goals, reviewing all relevant policy tools, is needed, and could be a useful job for the next Parliament.