COMMUNIA FINAL REPORT | Other COMMUNIA Recommendations

The term of copyright protection should be reduced. The excessive length of copyright protection combined with an absence of formalities is highly detrimental to the accessibility of our shared knowledge and culture.

(Corresponding to COMMUNIA Policy Recommendation 1 - Download Postcard)

The term of copyright protection should be reduced. There is no evidence that copyright protection that extends decades beyond the life of the author encourages the production of copyright protected works. Instead the requirement to obtain permission for works by authors that have long died are one of the biggest obstacles for providing universal access to our shared culture and knowledge. Given the above the term of copyright protection for new works (that is works created after the term-reduction) should be reduced.

Additional Proposals

However, the Commission and the Parliament may investigate the possibility of following alternative strategies, including

  1. limiting the term of protection to the artist’s life;
  2. making the rights related to such an extended term not transferable to record producers (labels);
  3. regulating that the extended period will be managed under liability rules (rights to remuneration) via collecting societies (ensuring that sound recordings will become available);
  4. regulating contracts during the existing term (e.g. extending the “use it or lose it” provision to the current term of protection).

Relevant Actions to Be Taken by:

  1. European Commission (EC)
  1. Introduce legislation that reduces the term of copyright protection across the member states.
  2. Advocate term-reduction in international fora such as WIPO
  1. European Parliament (EP)
  1. Introduce legislation that reduces the term of copyright protection across the member states.
  1. Member States (MS)
  1. Introduce legislation that reduces the term of copyright protection across the member states.
  2. Advocate term-reduction in international fora such as WIPO


Harmonize Exceptions and Limitations of the Copyright Directive among the Member States and open up the exhaustive list so that the user prerogatives – such as fair dealing and fair use – can be adapted to the ongoing technological transformations.

(Corresponding to COMMUNIA Policy Recommendation 3 - Download Postcard)

Though the European model of predefined Exceptions and Limitations may guarantee a high degree of legal certainty and lower transaction costs, the limited list of Exceptions and Limitations established by the copyright directive limits the possibilities to adjust the copyright system to the rapid pace of technological innovation that shapes how we interact with copyright protected works. This not only limits the abilities of citizens to gain access to our shared culture and knowledge but also imposes restrictions to innovative business models and as a result economic growth. Together with the introduction of an open ended exception such as a fair dealing or fair use clause, it is imperative that exceptions and limitations can be adjusted to the needs of society at large and innovative economic actors in particular.

Relevant Actions to Be Taken by:

  1. European Commission (EC)
  1. Review the copyright directive by opening up the exhaustive list of exceptions and limitations. Examine the possibility of introducing a fair dealing or fair use provision.
  1. European Parliament (EP)
  1. Review the copyright directive by opening up the exhaustive list of exceptions and limitations. Examine the possibility of introducing a fair dealing or fair use provision.
  1. Member States (MS)

As a pre-requisite for unlocking the cultural, educational and economic potential of the public domain, identification of works being in the public domain should be made easier and less resource consuming by simplifying and harmonizing rules of copyright duration and territoriality.

(Corresponding to COMMUNIA Policy Recommendation 4 - Download Postcard)

The rules for establishing the duration of the term of protection of individual works have become so complex that it is almost impossible to establish with certainty whether a work is protected by copyright (including all neighboring rights) or whether it is in the public domain. This complexity of the system makes it very difficult to automatically calculate the status of a work. Two factors have contributed to this situation: the divergence of legislation between de different member states and a large number of (national) exception clauses. This situation can only be remedied by intervention on the European level, preferably by simplifying the rules and harmonizing them across Europe.

The work on public domain calculators has highlighted the incredible complexity of copyright term rules which makes it very difficult to determine the copyright status of individual works. This means that one of the biggest obstacles to positively identifying public domain works (and thus unlocking their cultural, educational and economic potential) lies in the cumbersome process of determining the term of copyright protection.

4.1. The COMMUNIA network has contributed to the development of tools for identifying the copyright status of works. as these tools in their current form require human input in order to determine the status of works, the Commission should consider supporting work on future versions of these tools that can automatically determine the copyright status of works based on publicly available bibliographic metadata.

Relevant Actions to Be Taken by:

  1. European Commission (EC)
  1. Introduce legislation that simplifies the rules to determine the term of protection and further harmonizes these rules across the member states.
  2. Supporting work on public domain calculators
  1. European Parliament (EP)
  2. Member States (MS)

Digital reproductions of works that are in the Public Domain must also belong to the Public Domain. Use of works in the public domain should not be limited by any means, either legal or technical.

(Corresponding to COMMUNIA Policy Recommendation 5 - Download Postcard)

The internet enables the widespread re-use of digital reproductions of works of authorship whose copyright protection has expired. The public Domain status of these works means that there is no owner of the works who can impose restrictions on their reuse. At the same time the owners of the physical works (such as heritage institutions) often feel that they are entitled to control over digital reproductions as well and that they can impose restrictions on their reuse. However digitization of Public Domain works does not create new rights over it: works that are in the Public Domain in analogue form continue to be in the Public Domain once they have been digitized.

Relevant Actions to Be Taken by:

  1. European Commission (EC)
  1. Ensure that cultural heritage institutions that receive funding for digitization projects or contribute to Europeana do not impose undue restrictions on the reuse of Public Domain works.
  2. Promote the explicit marking of works that are in the public domain.
  1. European Parliament (EP)
  2. Member States (MS)
  3. Memory Institutions (MI)
  1. Refrain from implementing business models that rely on exclusive control over public domain works.

Any false or misleading attempt to misappropriate Public Domain material must be declared unlawful. False or misleading attempts to claim exclusivity over Public Domain material must be sanctioned.

(Corresponding to COMMUNIA Policy Recommendation 6 - Download Postcard)

In order to preserve the integrity of the Public Domain and protect users of Public Domain material from inaccurate and deceitful representations, any false or misleading attempts to claim exclusivity over Public Domain material must be declared unlawful. There must be a system of legal recourse that allows members of the public to get sanctions imposed on anyone attempting to misappropriate Public Domain works.

Relevant Actions to Be Taken by:

  1. European Commission (EC)
  1. Introduce legislation that makes false or misleading attempts to claim exclusivity over Public Domain material unlawful.
  1. European Parliament (EP)
  2. Member States (MS)

Memory Institutions must be enabled to fulfill their traditional function in the online environment. In order to be able to provide access to knowledge and culture they must benefit from compulsory and harmonized exceptions and limitations that allow them to make their collections available online for non-commercial purposes.

(Corresponding to COMMUNIA Policy Recommendation 10 - Download Postcard)

Memory Institutions must be able to fulfill their duty to provide access to knowledge and culture by benefitting from harmonized exceptions and limitations (copyright, but also other IPR), solutions for orphan works and standardized and harmonized licensing terms. To ensure the functioning of Memory Institutions the term of copyright protection must not be extended.

Memory Institutions must keep in mind the long-term costs of the lifecycle of cultural content, including sustainability costs and skilled personnel. Public-private partnerships must be aimed at opening up the content, public investments must at least ensure access, preferably under an open license or directly into the Public Domain.

In order for publicly funded memory institutions to maintain their position in the digital age they need to be enabled to make available their collections online for non-commercial purposes. Across Europe these organisations hold an unrivaled wealth of knowledge and information related to our shared knowledge and culture. Preventing these organisations from effectively making their collections available online means delegating them to second class status and devaluing the long term investments embodied by these organisations. Existing exceptions and limitations benefitting memory institutions need to be broaden to allowing institutions to make available those works that they hold in their collections for non-commercial purposes.

Relevant Actions to Be Taken by:

  1. European Commission (EC)
  1. Develop a policy framework that allows European cultural heritage institutions to properly function in the online environment
  1. European Parliament (EP)
  1. Develop a policy framework that allows European cultural heritage institutions to properly function in the online environment
  1. Member States (MS)
  1. Develop a policy framework that allows European cultural heritage institutions to properly function in the online environment
  1. Memory Institutions

Digitization projects that receive public funding must - at the minimum - ensure that all digitized content is publicly available online. Allowing for the free redistribution of digitized content should be considered since it is beneficial for the sustainability of the access to digitized cultural heritage.

(Corresponding to COMMUNIA Policy Recommendation 11 -Download Postcard)

When public funding is used for digitization projects it needs to be assured that the public benefits from these efforts. At the minimum this means that digital versions need to be available online for consultation by the public that has paid for the digitization effort. Public funding bodies should prioritize digitization projects that will increase the amount of our shared and culture that is available to the public. Memory institutions that receive public funding should consider making available digitized collections with as little restrictions as possible. Free availability of collections that includes the free redistribution and reuse of the digital artifacts will result in wider availability and reduce the risks inherent to centralized storage

Relevant Actions to Be Taken by:

  1. European Commission (EC)
  2. European Parliament (EP)
  3. Member States (MS)
  4. Memory Institutions (MIs)
  1. Memory Institutions should consider allowing free redistribution of digitized content.
  1. Public Funding Bodies (PFBs)
  1. Prioritize digitization projects that result in an increase the amount of our shared and culture that is available to the public.