Copyright
portrait of Paul Keller

Paul Keller

Director , Kennisland

European Parliament votes to improve access to digitised cultural heritage

In the shadow of ongoing discussions, the European Parliament has made some significant improvements to the provisions of the proposed directive that are directly relevant to cultural heritage institutions (CHIs).

River View with Church and Ferry, Salomon van Ruysdael, Mauritshuis, Public Domain

On 20 June, the Legal Affairs committee of the European Parliament voted on the Parliament’s report on the Copyright in the Digital Single Market Directive. The vote follows more than 1.5 years of intensive discussions and allows for trialogue negotiations under the Austrian Presidency.

Most of the controversy over the last month (June 2018) has centered on Articles 11 (a new right for press publishers) and 13 (an obligation for platform hosts to filter user-uploaded content to prevent copyright issues). Both of these have been adopted by the Legal Affairs committee and are thus likely to be part of the directive once it has been adopted.

Steps taken towards improving access to cultural heritage

We are pleased that the members of the Legal Affairs Committee have listened to the calls from Europeana, library organisations and cultural heritage institutions across Europe to add a fall back exception to Article 7 of the Commission's proposal. This would make the solution for access to Out-of-Commerce Works (OOCW) more robust and should contribute to increased online availability of 20th Century works held in the collections of Europe's CHIs.

With regards to the preservation exception in Article 5 of the proposed directive, Parliament has followed the direction of the Member States and have not made any substantial changes (CHIs had asked for a clarification that the article also apply to digitisation).

The Parliament did however add a paragraph requiring Member States to ensure that faithful reproductions of works in the Public Domain should remain such (that is, in the Public Domain). This is a very welcome addition. The establishment of this principle in EU law would be an important step towards realising the principles established by our own Public Domain Charter.

The Member States also made substantial improvements to the proposed exceptions for text and data mining and online education. While these improvements are not as progressive much of the  cultural heritage community had wanted, they are a step in the right direction toward providing CHIs and users more room to engage with digitised cultural heritage.

What this means moving forward

With the 20 June vote, the members of the Legal affairs committee have given the Rapporteur (German MEP Axel Voss) the mandate to engage in negotiations with the Member States (who had adopted their position in May 2018) and the European Commission. These negotiations will likely start during the Austrian Presidency. The provisions directly relevant for CHIs should be relatively uncontroversial. On preservation, text and data mining, and online education, the Parliament and the Member States have adopted very similar positions.

From the perspective of CHIs, it will be most interesting to see if the co-legislators will manage to reconcile their different approaches for ensuring increased availability of OOCW, in a way that allows greater online access to CHIs’ 20th Century collections. We will continue to work with all stakeholders involved in this discussion regarding the best possible outcome for Europe's CHIs and European citizens who deserve better access to our collections.

Note: On behalf of the Europeana Network Association, the Europeana Foundation represents the view of cultural heritage institutions in the debates around the EU copyright reform. Read the full consensus driven mandate. The mandate was approved with a clear majority of the Europeana Network Association Members Council, with a small number of organizations recording their dissent (which are clearly recorded in the mandate).

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