The proposed Copyright reform in Europe is introducing just as much additional legal uncertainty and new problems than solving existing issues. If you are interested in following the debate, please head over to the new copyright reform hub on Medium.
We are proud to share with you Creative Commons 2016-2020 Organisational Strategy, reflecting over a year of intensive collaboration by CC’s global community. The insights and approaches contained within it have been influenced by hundreds of valuable discussions with our stakeholders, ranging from creators and open community leaders, to foundations and government officials.
This will be a transformative shift for Creative Commons — a new direction that is more focused and will have even greater impact. For more, we hope you’ll check out our series of blog posts: “We need to talk about sharing,” “Towards a vibrant, usable commons,“ and “Let’s light up our global commons.“
The biggest achievement of CC is the design of six different licences (contracts) to share creations. Each of the six licences is based on copyright law. As you may know, these laws are strictly territorial for each country and very different indeed. There is no international copyright framework that would make practical sense for a creator. Even inside the European Union there is NO single market for copyright! This achievement makes CC pretty unique and useful, but this doesn’t solve the underlying problem of different copyrigth laws.
Shouldn’t that change with EU copyright reform? Well,the Juncker Commission did put copyright reform as a priority but so far is extremely timid to engage with digital culture. They may see Creative Commons and the other free and open licences as enough digital culture. My suspicion is this: CC licences are conceptually contracts (‘contract’ or ‘licence’ means exactly the same thing in Europe). This private element matches well with their individualistic, marketbased worldview. What politicians miss is to focus on digital culture as a whole and then proceed to make the law fit for purpose and in the public interest.
Two examples of digital culture policy issues: We must digitise our printed and recorded culture as well as all the things from the past (all these are safely stored in our cultural institutions). These digital copies must be somehow accessible on the internet. Think about it as just many, many, many more texts, films and sounds from our past and recent past. Remember that this culture is not available commercially in shops. Most of it is only available in cultural institutions, often in few copies.
The second goal is to allow the existing digital culture to be used and become part of new culture. How the creators have their say in this and how much money needs to be considered are big problems. Solving them would bring unprecedented digital creativity.
If both goals become reality, new and unexpected things will happen. One could think of the past becoming part of the digital present and the present mixing in the past. To put it even more pompously, a civilization only gets to digitise its past once. Yes, we could do it now.
But if we continue using the old laws, laws that were designed for analogue culture like books, records, cinemas and radios, we will miss this immense opportunity. We will be condemned to build the new using the old. Easily for another 15 years if the current glacial progress at EU level is any indication.
It took Creative Commons 10 years to build six single copyright licences that work identically in every country (more on version 4.0). But all CC licences only work when the creator (author, filmmaker, musician, …) actively gives permission, via one of the CC licences. If the creator or their heirs are unknown or unlocatable, they cannot give this permission for access and sharing.
CC simply does not work for most old culture, unless you can spend huge efforts on finding and asking each an every creator or their heirs of the past 70-150 years. And of course, if you found them, you must explain and hope they agree to Creative Commons. This is clearly impossible.
Only a change of law, a copyright culture reform helps. What CC has achieved in digital culture over 10 years can at best be a guide to inform and inspire policy, but never a reason for inaction.