Category: Copyright

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:

The copyright implications of a publicly curated online archive of Oireachtas debates

Former Legal Deposit Office, Paris; image via Wikipedia
Former Legal Deposit office,
Rue Vivienne, Paris
via Wikipedia (element)
From a twitter thread by Philip Boucher-Hayes last week, I learned that Ken Foxe had reported in the Irish Mail on Sunday that nearly ten years of video footage of Oireachtas debates and hearings had been taken offline. A spokesperson for the Houses of the Oireachtas said that the videos were removed because they had little traffic and were in an obsolete format. However, after an outcry online, the footage was restored, though with limited functionality. To overcome first the takedown, and then the limitations, various concerned netizens – including, I understand, Gerard Cunningham, Emerald De Leeuw, Elaine Edwards, and Sterling Plisken – have begun work on a publicly curated online archive of Oireachtas debates and hearings.

This is not the first time that civil society has had to step up when public functions have stepped back (see the story of the demise and return of, with various backups here and here). So, I think that a publicly curated online archive of Oireachtas debates is a fantastic idea, and I hope it prospers. It also provides a context in which I can discuss an important issue relating to Oireachtas copyright and digital deposit.

First, the Oireachtas holds copyright in the broadcast material. Chapter 19 of Part II of the Copyright and Related Rights Act, 2000 [CRRA] (that is, sections 191 to 195 CRRA (also here and here)) provides for Government and Oireachtas copyright. In particular, section 193(2)(b) CRRA (also here)
provides that the Oireachtas holds copyright in “any sound recording, film, live broadcast or live cable programme of the proceedings of either House of the Oireachtas”. So, the starting point of the copyright analysis has to be that the Oireachtas could therefore in principle rely on this copyright to restrict the reproduction of the Oireachtas broadcasts, or making them available online.

Second, there is, however, an exception which might permit at least some of the work of a publicly curated online archive of Oireachtas debates and hearings. Section 71(1) CRRA (also here) provides

The copyright in a work is not infringed by anything done for the purposes of parliamentary or judicial proceedings or for the purpose of reporting those proceedings.

The question, therefore, is whether a publicly curated online archive of Oireachtas debates and hearings is reproduced and made available for the purposes of “reporting” Oireachtas proceedings within section 71 CRRA. There is a comprehensive discussion of the issue by Simon McGarr on his blog. I think that the argument that the archive would be a report for the purposes of section 71 CRRA could go a very long way towards permitting the production of a publicly curated online archive of Oireachtas debates and hearings. However, there must be limits to what constitutes a “report”. And it may be that the archive exceeds them, at least in some respects.

Third, if section 71 CRRA isn’t enough, then a current reform process might provide another exception to permit the production of a publicly curated online archive of Oireachtas debates and hearings. (more…)

Legal deposit of digital publications

Digital Deposit, via NLAThe Department of Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, on behalf of the National Library of Ireland, is currently undertaking “a consultation on the legal deposit of published digital material in the 21st century in the context of copyright legislation” (see here and here). In particular, the Department welcomes submissions in relation to three questions:

Question 1: Should the policy of collecting, preserving and making available the published output of the nation for the benefit of the public be extended to include all contemporary publication formats of Irish interest including online digital formats e.g.,.ie websites?

Answer: Yes.
I have already set out my views on this issue on this blog. The starting point is Section 198 of the Copyright and Related Rights Act, 2000 (also here), which provides that publishers of books and other paper publications must deliver a copy of each book or publications published in the state to various copyright deposit libraries. Most countries worldwide have similar provisions, and they ensure the preservation and the availability of a nation’s published heritage. With the rise of digital publishing, it is increasingly being recognised that print deposit is incomplete, and that a comprehensive preservation of a nation’s published heritage requires that copyright deposit should extend to online publications as well. As a consequence, countries with copyright deposit legislation are amending their legislation to ensure that generations of will have access to today’s online stories. As a consequence, the Copyright Review Committee (of which I was chair), in the Modernising Copyright Report (pdf), recommended amendments to the 2000 Act to extend the existing copyright deposit regime for print publication in section 198 to digital works. In particular, we recommended some changes to the existing section 198; and we recommended a new section 198A broadly modelled on the existing section 198 CRRA, to ensure that the process of claiming digital publications is as similar as possible to the existing familiar process relating to books and other print publications. And we additionally recommended that the copyright deposit institutions should be able to make copies of our online digital heritage whilst it is available. No doubt our recommendations and drafts can be improved, but I remain convinced that they are an excellent starting point for achieving a feasible digital copyright deposit regime in Ireland.

CRC Link Rot, via SC HealyQuestion 2: What issues arise if a policy extension on digital legal deposit is not provided for?
Answer: The real point about the size of the digital universe in the future is not about how big it will be (it will be huge) but how much is being lost (that is also huge). To take only one example, Sharon Healy did a study of link rot in the Modernising Copyright Report, and she concluded that 20% of the links in the footnotes of that Report are broken, meaning that the linked resource is no longer available. And our sources were official or public ones. To my mind, this is a perfect encapsulation why copyright deposit institutions should be able to claim digital publications and make copies of online resources – even the formal material is disappearing at frightening pace. In the US, the nonprofit Internet Archive harvests more than 250m webpages a week; it is now more than 20 years old. However, the copying by any Irish equivalent would infringe copyright in the material harvested, which is why an amendment to copyright legislation is necessary; we are already 20 years late; and the longer we wait, the bigger and blacker the digital black hole of lost material will become. It is a challenge our libraries and heritage institutions are willing to meet, if only they are let.

Data is the new oilQuestion 3: What are the benefits if a policy extension on digital legal deposit is provided for?
Answer: The benefits will be not only cultural but also economic. On the cultural side, exciting projects in TCD Library and the NLI show the potential. On the economic side, the cover story of this week’s Economist tells us the world’s most valuable resource is no longer oil, but data. To take only one example, the field of Artificial Intelligence (AI) is red hot, but researchers need data on which to train and develop their AI engines. The loss of culturally significant data diminishes AI data-sets and impoverishes decisions based upon them. More generally, a proper archive of digital publications will be a resource for citizens and researchers, at home and abroad, now and in the future. The generations to come will not thank us if we do not legislate now for legal deposit of digital publications.

The IUA (and THEA) should follow the lead of their Dutch and German counterparts in their negotiations with large publishers

A little while ago, I argued on this blog that Irish competition and copyright law should be amended to enable open access to universities’ research. In particular, the Irish Universities Association (the IUA), the representative body of the universities which employ academics whose research is published by the large publishers should negotiate the terms on which their employees will transfer copyright in their research and content to the publishers. They could this, either on their own, or jointly with the Technological Higher Education Association (the THEA), the representative body for Institutes of Technology in Ireland. This co-ordination and collaboration could improve the terms offered by publishers both to individual academics when submitting their research for publication, and to institutions for subscriptions to research resources – and it could in particular pave the way to ensuring greater open access to research. Because such co-operation could amount to an anti-competitive agreement, decision or concerted practice in breach of section 4 of the Competition Act, 2002, I suggested in that post an amendment to that section. I now learn that similar joint-action has been taken in the Netherlands and Germany, and without such legislative cover.

The deal between the Association of Universities in the Netherlands and Elsevier (joint press release) was concluded at the end of November:

In unique deal, Elsevier agrees to make some papers by Dutch authors free

A standoff between Dutch universities and publishing giant Elsevier is finally over. After more than a year of negotiations—and a threat to boycott Elsevier’s 2500 journals—a deal has been struck: For no additional charge beyond subscription fees, 30% of research published by Dutch researchers in Elsevier journals will be open access by 2018.

“It’s not the 100% that I hoped for,” says Gerard Meijer, the president of Radboud University in Nijmegen, the Netherlands, and the lead negotiator on the Dutch side. “But this is the future. No one can stop this anymore.” …

The German action, taken by the Alliance of German Science Organisations, represented by the German Rectors’ Conference, is similar:

No full-text access to Elsevier journals to be expected from 1 January 2017

From 1 January 2017 on, Göttingen University — as well as more than 60 other major German research institutions — is to be expected to have no access to the full texts of journals by the publisher Elsevier. …

The DEAL project, headed by HRK (German Rectors’ Conference) President Prof Hippler, is negotiating a nationwide license agreement for the entire electronic Elsevier journal portfolio with Elsevier. Its objective is to significantly improve the status quo regarding the provision of and access to content (Open Access) as well as pricing. It aims at relieving the institutions’ acquisition budgets and at improving access to scientific literature in a broad and sustainable way. …

Given that the Netherlands and Germany have competition laws similar to section 4, I find it interesting that the publishers came to an agreement in the former and are continuing to negotiate in the latter, in both cases without recourse to the powerful Dutch or German competition authorities. I hope that the Germans are as successful as the Dutch were, and that the IUA (perhaps jointly with the THEA) will soon follow suit.

Copyright reform and digital deposit

Digital PreservationI noted yesterday that publication of the Copyright and Related Rights (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2016 has come a few steps closer. From the perspective of education, the Bill will implement the Marrakesh Treaty to facilitate access to published works for persons who are print disabled, facilitate distance learning and access to education over the internet, extend copyright exceptions to promote non-commercial research, and affirm that libraries, archives and educational institutions may make copies of works in theirs collection for preservation and exhibition purposes. The Bill will also extend “the existing copyright deposit provisions relating to books to facilitate the creation of a Digital Deposit on a voluntary basis”. Other countries (such as the UK and most other EU countries, Australia, Canada and New Zealand) have extended legal copyright deposit to digital and online publications, but no-one is systematically capturing Ireland’s .ie web domain, and it is on that issue that I want to focus in this post.

The first question is: what is legal copyright deposit? It is the ubiquitous statutory obligation (in Ireland, pursuant to section 198 of the Copyright and Related Rights Act, 2000 (also here) on publishers and distributors to deposit at least one copy of every print publication, free of charge, in designated (pdf) legal copyright deposit libraries. (more…)

Publication of the copyright reform Bill comes a few steps closer

Santa plus harp and copyright symbolIn August, the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation announced that the Government had approved the drafting of a Copyright and Related Rights (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2016. No timetable was provided at that stage. Nor was one provided in the Government’s Autumn Legislative Programme which was published in September. That Programme simply said that the Bill had been referred to the Joint Committee on Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, but the Bill was not listed for pre-legislative scrutiny by the Committee. Now comes news that, following a briefing by officials of the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, the Committee decided that it would not undertake pre-legislative scrutiny of the Copyright Bill (see the Committee’s Work Programme (pdf) s3(c), p5; h/t @johnjcarroll). Whilst it is a pity that the Committee will not afford a first opportunity to point out some concerns with the Minister’s current approach, this does have the advantage of bringing the publication of the Bill itself a few steps closer. Perhaps it might not be too much to hope that copyright reform in Ireland might get a Christmas present this year?

Amending competition and copyright law to enable open access to universities’ research

Book and racquet (element via flickr)1. Introduction
John Naughton began a classic column, on the world of university research being held to ransom by academic publishers charging exorbitant prices for subscriptions, by quoting Sir Patrick Cullen’s observation in George Bernard Shaw’s play The Doctor’s Dilemma that “All professions are conspiracies against the laity”. Then he continued:

To update the observation for a contemporary audience, simply replace the term “professions” with “publishers of academic journals” and you’ve got it in one. For, without the knowledge of the general public, a racket of monumental proportions has been milking the taxpayer for decades.

Most rackets can be prevented by good legal regulation. And a Bill that has just been given a very high chance of enactment demonstrates how that regulation might work. In this post, I want to explain the racket and the Bill, and then show how the legislative strategy in the Bill might provide a regulatory solution to the racket.

2. The Racket
Naughton explains the racket this way:

If you’re a researcher in any academic discipline, your reputation and career prospects are largely determined by your publications in journals of mind-bending specialisation … Everything that appears in such journals is peer-reviewed – that is to say, vetted by at least two experts in the field. … In any major scientific field, success depends on getting your articles published in such high-impact journals.

And not just personal success, either: under the research funding arrangements now in place in the UK and elsewhere, the survival of entire university departments depends on the publication records of their leading academics. So academia has become a publish-or-perish world.

This gives enormous power to outfits like Elsevier that publish key journals. And guess what? They wield that power [with high annual subscriptions] … The result is that unconscionable amounts of public money are extracted from our hapless universities in the form of what are, effectively, monopoly rents for a few publishers. …

But it’s not just the exorbitant subscriptions that stink; it’s the intrinsic absurdity of what’s involved in the academic publishing racket. Most publishers, after all, have at least to pay for the content they publish. But not Elsevier, Springer et al. Their content is provided free by researchers, most of whose salaries are paid by you and me.

The peer reviewing that ensures quality in these publications is likewise provided gratis by you and me, because the researchers who do it are paid from public money. … And then the publishers not only assert copyright claims on the content they have acquired for nothing, but charge publicly funded universities monopoly prices to get access to it. …

This is from 2012. If anything, the situation is worse now. (more…)

Exhausting exhaustion – the limits of the first sale doctrine in EU copyright law

ExhaustionThe exhaustion of intellectual property [IP] rights by the first sale of the protected work is a fundamental principle of IP law. Where a work or product covered by an IP right is sold by the rightholder, that IP right is exhausted in the sense that it can no longer be exercised by the rightholder to prevent the purchaser from selling or lending the work or product to a third party. For example, Article 4(2) of the Software Directive (Directive 2009/24/EC) provides

The first sale in the Community of a copy of a program by the rightholder or with his consent shall exhaust the distribution right within the Community of that copy, …

Article 4(2) of the InfoSoc Directive (Directive 2001/29/EC) is in similar terms. In Case C-166/15 Ranks and Vasilevics, the Court of Justice of the European Union [CJEU] explored the limits of this rule, and established the point at which the exhaustion doctrine is itself exhausted. As to the rule, the CJEU held:

The holder of the copyright in a computer program who has sold, in the EU, a copy of that program on a material medium (such as a CD-ROM or a DVD-ROM) with an unlimited user licence can no longer oppose the subsequent resale of that copy by the initial acquirer or subsequent acquirers of that copy, notwithstanding the existence of contractual terms prohibiting any further transfer.