On world IP day, a note of caution: the EU Copyright Directive is failing

Element of WIPday imageToday is World Intellectual Property Day. On a day to celebrate the role that intellectual property rights play in encouraging innovation and creativity, we should take care that IP law does not achieve the opposite result. I blogged yesterday about the press publishers’ right in Article 11 of the proposal for a Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market. Today, I’m staying with the proposed Directive, and with another open letter (pdf, via here) that I’ve signed articulating some of its shortcomings. In this letter, academics from 25 leading Intellectual Property research centres in Europe express grave concerns at the legislative direction of the proposed copyright Directive, and in particular with Articles 3, 11 and 13:

  • the proposed exception for text-and-data-mining in Article 3 will not achieve its goal to stimulate innovation and research if restricted to certain organisations,
  • the proposals for a new publishers’ right under Article 11 will favour incumbent press publishing interests rather than innovative quality journalism [I blogged about this yesterday], and
  • the proposals for Article 13 threaten the user participation benefits of the e-Commerce Directive (2000/31/EC) which shared the responsibility for enforcement between rightholders and service providers [I blogged about this at an earlier stage in the process].

Poetry Day Ireland logoToday is also Poetry Day Ireland; but poetry the proposed Directive certainly is not. But you govern in prose; and the prose of the proposed Directive could be improved by revisting Article 3, 11 and 13.

169 European academics warn against the press publishers’ right proposed by the EU Commission

Copyright?DSMIn a statement published this morning, 169 academics working in a variety of fields from all over Europe give a final warning against the EU Commission’s ill-conceived plans for the introduction of a new intellectual property right in news.

Here are some extracts from the statement:

Statement from EU Academics on Proposed Press Publishers’ Right

We, the undersigned 169 scholars working in the fields of intellectual property, internet law, human rights law and journalism studies at universities all over Europe write to oppose the proposed press publishers’ right.

Article 11 of the proposal for a Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market, as it currently stands following negotiations in the EU Council and Parliament, is a bad piece of legislation. … The proposal would likely impede the free flow of information that is of vital importance to democracy. This is because it would create very broad rights of ownership in news and other information. … This proliferation of different rights for established players would make it more expensive for other people to use news content. … The proposed right would provide no protection against ‘fake news’. … There is no sound economic case for the introduction of such a right.

The academic community is virtually unanimous in its opposition to the European Commission’s proposal for a press publishers right. … it is important to understand that press publishers already have very significant rights in their publications. … [Moreover], Rapporteur Voss’s proposed amendments will make matters even worse. …

Conclusion
We call on all MEPs to oppose the Commission proposal, and with yet more determination, Mr Voss’s amendments. It is time to reject, once and for all, this misguided legislative reform.

My colleague, Giuseppe Mazziotti, and I are among the signatories. Read the full statement here (pdf) or here (html). It joins an open letter earlier this month from 56 organisations encouraging the deletion of Article 11.

Can you get out of the purchase of a house, if you find out later that someone had been murdered in it?

Get directions 16 Stillwell Dr, Wakefield WF2 6RL, UKThe question in the title was provoked by Ciara Kenny‘s House Hunter column in today’s Irish Times, where she ask Would you buy a house someone had been murdered in? I don’t think I would. And if I did, I’d be stuck with it, since the answer to the question in the title to this post is that you can’tget out of the purchase of a house, if you find out later that someone had been murdered in it. Ciara’s column is a diary of her travails trying to purchase a house in Dublin in today’s crazy property market (as she put it on twitter: it’s an effing nightmare). From today’s column:

Every old house has its secrets. Last summer, a gorgeous house came up for sale which we spent weeks deliberating over. But we couldn’t shake a bad feeling we had about the surrounding streets. So when bidding climbed above what we were willing to pay, we were relieved for once. … [Later, my partner found] a decade-old RTÉ news report about a man stabbed to death by a burglar on the stairs. … I don’t think I would be able to shake the image of that poor man’s violent death every time I walked upstairs.

If Ciara had bought the house, and later discovered its gruesome past, she would not have been able to reverse the transaction. (more…)

Standardised tobacco packaging comes ever closer in Ireland

Pantone448C via their websiteThe Irish Independent this morning reports that the first of the plain cigarette packets have hit shelves around the country:

Tobacco products bearing the new standardised packaging are now available in some Irish retail outlets. From September, all cigarettes and all other tobacco products will have to be sold in plain or standardised packaging by law.

The Department of Health have issued a press release in which the Minister of State for Health Promotion and the National Drugs Strategy, Catherine Byrne, welcomed the news that products using the new plain packaging can now be found in some outlets:

Gone are the familiar colours and logos of the various brands and instead all cigarette boxes will be in the same plain neutral colour [pictured above left], bringing into sharp focus the health warnings on the packets. … Our aim is to decrease the appeal of tobacco products, to increase the effectiveness of health warnings and to reduce the chances of consumers being misled about the harmful effects of smoking. This packaging makes it plain that cigarettes are bad for your health. … Standardised packaging is just one of a number of measures outlined in Tobacco Free Ireland (pdf), the ultimate aim of which is to encourage and help smokers to quit and to prevent young people from starting to smoke.

On 10 March 2015, when the President signed the Public Health (Standardised Packaging of Tobacco) Act 2015 (also here) into law, Ireland became the second country in the world — after Australia — to enact legislation requiring standardised tobacco packaging. (more…)

From Mute to Dysaguria

Alexander Skarsgard in MutePictured left is Alexander Skarsgård (imdb | wikipedia) in the new Duncan Jones (imdb | wikipedia | blog) movie Mute (imdb | Netflix).

Skarsgård plays Leo, a mute bartender searching for girlfriend who has inexplicably disappeared in Berlin in 2052. In an interview in last Sunday’s Observer, he takes up the story:

… [Leo’s] search takes him deep into a neon-saturated underworld, populated by gangsters and a pair of anarchic American field surgeons (Paul Rudd and Justin Theroux) … “It’s very dystopian, but not that far-fetched unfortunately, because it’s a society run by corporations,” says Skarsgård. “You subscribe to a corporation and then they will provide everything for you – housing, healthcare, food – but they basically own you. …”. …

So we could be looking at the future then? Skarsgård looks a little traumatised and then sighs: “Hopefully not.”

I’m looking forward to the movie; but I’m not sure I agree that the best adjective to describe it is “dystopian”. It is entirely appropriate when a state goes bad; but it is not a good adjective to describe “a society run by corporations”. In fact, we don’t have a word for when a corporate society goes bad, so I’ve suggested “dysaguria”, as a noun meaning “frightening company”, and “dysagurian” as the adjective to describe that frightening company and the associated society run by frightening companies (see here | here | here). We can’t easily discuss a phenomenon until we have the proper words to describe it:

In his speech on leaving the US Presidency in January 1961, Eisenhower warned against the growing power of the military-industrial complex. In modern surveillance terms, we might term this the security-corporate complex. And we already have a word for when the military/security state goes bad, … That word is “dystopia”.

However, we don’t have a word for when the industrial/corporate society goes bad, … I think it’s beyond time we had one … I suggest that we need a word for “frightening company”, and that we can devise one by following the lead provided by More and Mill [in coining “dystopia” as a counterpoint to “utopia”] provides a guide. … Let’s keep “dys” [meaning “bad”] as the prefix, and look for a suitable word to which to add it. Greek provides “aguris”, which means “crowd” or “group” … Hence, from “dys” meaning “bad”, and “aguris” meaning “crowd” or “group”, I suggest “dysaguria”, as a noun meaning “frightening company”, and “dysagurian” as the adjective…

In my view, therefore, “dysagurian” is the perfect word to describe the society in Mute‘s Berlin in 2052.

Update: Mute did not find favour with Donald Clarke in the Irish Times.

Legal reforms and practical responses are necessary to protect freedom of speech

Sunday Independent front page 12 NovYesterday’s Sunday Independent (front page pictured left) was something of a bumper issue for freedom of speech. The Editorial argued that it’s time to level the media playing field, and called on the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Communications, Climate Action and Environment to take into account the challenges facing all of the media, not just radio and tv stations, in its deliberations on the future of the television licence fee. And there were three other interesting columns in the print edition that were published online last night. Fergal Quinn argued that, with a referendum looming, the media should champion free speech, and we must learn to tolerate open debate. Eilish O’Hanlon argued that no-one should need to beg the Government’s permission to express an unpopular opinion. And Ruth Dudley Edwards praised Conor Cruise O’Brien as a revisionist who cared about truth and as a patriot who kept free speech alive.

Last week, the Long Room Hub in Trinity College Dublin and the Heyman Center for the Humanities in Columbia University, New York co-hosted a series of events in Dublin and New York on the challenges fake news poses to modern society. In yesterday’s Sunday Independent, Breda Heffernan reported on one of the Dublin events that fake news is a dark menace to truth, democracy and discourse.

TLRHubHeadlines
Me, Andrea Martin, Todd Gitlin, Jane Ohlmeyer (Director, Long Room Hub), Fionnán Sheahan (click through for larger image)
The previous night, the Hub had hosted a (slightly controversial) Behind the Headlines event on freedom of speech: Where Journalism and the Law Collide at the Boundary of 21st Century Debate, featuring Fionnán Sheehan (Editor of the Irish Independent), Professor Todd Gitlin (of Columbia Journalism School), Andrea Martin (a media lawyer in practice in Dublin), and myself. Ryan Nugent reported in the Irish Independent the following day that traditional and social media are ‘not on a level defamation playing field’. Our four talks have been podcast on SoundCloud by the Hub; Todd’s talk is here; and, yesterday, the Sunday Independent published Andrea’s and mine. (more…)

Consultation on the Status, Treatment and Use of the National Anthem

Public Consultation Committee Seanad EireannThe Seanad Public Consultation Committee was established “to facilitate direct engagement and consultation between members of the public and Seanad Éireann” (pdf).

It has just undertaken a Consultation on the Status, Treatment and Use of the National Anthem (pdf):

The purpose of this consultation is to invite submissions from interested parties or citizens to consider the most appropriate way the State should treat the National Anthem. This consultation process is being considered in the context of the music and English and Irish lyrics of the National Anthem no longer being in copyright. Legislative proposals have been made to address this issue. Seanad Éireann would like to consult with citizens on their views on this issue.

I have already commented at length on this blog about the issue, so I made a short submission to the Committee in which I referred to those posts, and answered some of the questions posed in the Consultation. In my view, the anthem should be treated with respect and dignity, and there is a good case to be made for legislation to protect it from inappropriate commercialisation. However, I do not think that copyright is a suitable means to this end. Instead, I think that it is a matter for a specialist piece of legislation, specifically directed to the issue. I have drafted a possible Bill (doc), and I attached it to my submission to the Committee, and my answers to the Committee’s questions reflect the drafting choices in the attached Bill.

(more…)

Digital resource lifespan, via xkcd; or why copyright law must permit digital deposit

xkcd 1909 Digital Resource Lifespan

The description for this picture provides:

I spent a long time thinking about how to design a system for long-term organization and storage of subject-specific informational resources without needing ongoing work from the experts who created them, only to realized I'd just reinvented libraries.

This picture is worth many thousand of my words: