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The Digital Public Domain

 | 
Melanie Dulong de Rosnay
, 
Juan Carlos De Martin

II. Legal Framework

4. Building Digital Commons through Open Access Management of Copyright-related Rights

Giuseppe Mazziotti

Texte intégral

  • 1 Lawrence Lessig, The Future of Ideas: The Fate of the Commons in a Connected World (New York: Vint (...)
  • 2 Séverine Dusollier, ”Sharing Access to Intellectual Property through Private Ordering”, Chicago Ke (...)

1Without the intermediation of performers and producers of audio and video recordings, a huge stock of creative works which have entered the public domain after the expiration of the copyright protection term will never become available to the public in digital formats as a free resource. This chapter identifies such ”free resources” as ”commons”; they are a resource which anyone within the relevant community has a right to access without having to obtain anyone else’s permission.1 There are types of creative works (for example, musical works or theatrical plays) whose effective dedication to the public domain for the benefit of the public at large would never reach the full status of commons if digitized performances of these works were not disseminated under open access licences. The term ”open access” indicates different initiatives, ranging from ”open source” to ”commons” that have flourished following the creation of open-source software, and which have spread beyond the world of software.2 These commons-based initiatives share the objective of guaranteeing the openness of certain resources whose access and use would be automatically restricted under copyright law.

2From this perspective, digital resources embodying public domain works such as a Bach suite, a Brahms symphony or a Shakespeare play would never become a commons for the public at large if music and theatre performers and/or recording producers did not release their performances and recordings under open access licences. In short, the basic assumption of this chapter is that performers’ and producers’ open access management of their copyright-related rights in the digital environment enables the public enjoyment of creative works and gives an essential contribution to the building of digital commons.

3We will begin by considering how the use of open access licences for recordings and other forms of digital performances protected by rights related to copyright has a legal impact on the notion of digital commons. By giving a few examples of digital platforms which make use of open access licences for the dissemination of music performances we will show that, as European copyright law stands, the most evident and fruitful use of open access licences for the building of digital commons regards the category of old works whose copyright protection is expired and whose copying, dissemination and, possibly, reuse has been preventively authorized on the grounds of an open access licence. Finally this contribution demonstrates that public bodies and other entities that intend to institutionally pursue the policy objective of maximising the dissemination of creative works through the building of freely accessible platforms and repositories of digital commons should promote the implementation of open access licences by holders of copyright-related rights. These rights-holders may be given an incentive (even an economic incentive) to make their creations available to the public for purposes other than those of making an immediate profit from the licensing of digitized items.

1. Legal effects of open access management of rights related to copyright

  • 3 See Séverine Dusollier, ”Technology as an Imperative for Regulating Copyright: From the Public Exp (...)
  • 4 See articles 1(1), 2, 3(2) of Directive 2001/29 on the harmonisation of certain aspects of copyrig (...)
  • 5 See for instance articles 81 and 83 of the Italian Copyright Act, i.e. Act n. 633/1941 and later a (...)

4In legal terms, like author’s copyright, rights related to copyright or ”neighbouring” rights (according to the traditional lexicon of international conventions in this field) establish exclusive rights which have the effect of restricting any unauthorized use, communication and modification of audio and audiovisual performances and recordings of unprotected works or works whose term of copyright protection has expired. In the digital world, the extension of the copyright scope to the mere use of these works,3 which stems from the enforcement of a very broad exclusive right of digital reproduction, concerns the rights of the authors as well as the rights of performers, recording producers and broadcasters.4 The rationale for the legal protection of the type of creativity and economic investment which characterise acts of performance, recording and broadcasting of creative works is very similar to that of copyright, from both an economic and moral point of view. According to the basic economics of intellectual property, performances, recordings and broadcasts are non-excludable and non-rival goods (i.e. ”public goods”) that are very costly to produce but very cheap to copy and reuse. To avoid underproduction of these goods, a suitable copyright system should seek to foster cultural innovation by providing an incentive (or reward) to performers, recording producers and broadcasters. In addition to that, there is also a moral argument which underlies the protection of performances in all those jurisdictions (mainly civil law jurisdictions) where performers’ rights include moral prerogatives which seek to protect the reputation of performers against prejudicial uses which might call into question their paternity or affect the integrity of their performances.5

  • 6 See article 12 of Directive 2006/115 on the rental right and lending right and on certain rights r (...)
  • 7 See article 1 of Directive 2006/116 of 12 December 2006 on the term of protection of copyright and (...)
  • 8 See article 3 of Directive 2006/116, as amended by article 1(2) of Directive 2011/77 of 27 Septemb (...)
  • 9 See article 1(2), lett. a) and b), of Directive 2011/77.

5In European copyright systems, the enforcement of neighbouring rights depends on the enforcement of the author’s rights, in such a way that each act of performance, recording and broadcasting of a work protected by copyright shall be authorized by the copyright owner in order to be lawful.6 Before the adoption of Directive 2011/77, the most significant distinction between the exclusive rights of authors and those of performers and record producers was made, at least in the copyright laws of the European Union, by their respective terms of duration: 70 years ost mortem autoris for copyright7 and 50 years lasting from the date of lawful publication or communication to the public of a performance, recording or broadcast for rights related to copyright.8As a result of the entry into force of Directive 2011/77, EU law establishes now a further distinction in the field of neighbouring rights. Through an amendment of Directive 2006/116, the term of protection of sound recordings and fixations of performances incorporated into sound recordings was extended from 50 to 70 years from the date of publication or public communication of the recording.9 The term of protection of broadcasts and fixations of performances otherwise than in sound recordings, instead, remained untouched and is still subject to the previous 50-year term.

6In this evolving legislative context, acts of performance, fixation and broadcasting of works which have entered the public domain are automatically protected by neighbouring rights which restrict anyone from lawfully copying, communicating to the public and modifying performances, recordings and broadcasts without the authorisations of the respective rights-holders. This principle entails that creative works in the public domain would never become effectively available to the public at large as ”commons” insofar as these legally unprotected pieces of work were embodied by performers, phonogram producers and broadcasters exclusively into tangible and intangible performances released under copyright terms which merely aim to exploit commercially the above-mentioned rights.

  • 10 Giuseppe Mazziotti, EU Digital Copyright Law and the End-user (Berlin: Springer, 2008), pp. 3–4.

7If European law- and policy-makers wish to act seriously and effectively for the sake of cultural enrichment of society and for the pursuit of innovation through the enforcement of exclusive rights in sound recordings, they should consider that the economics of digital performance, recording and communication have been evolving very rapidly in the last two decades. Digital technologies and the Internet have changed the way in which performers, recording producers and broadcasters (who have often established themselves even as web-casters) manage their copyright-related rights. Multi-purpose digital technologies which enable acts of recording, editing, storage and dissemination of audio, video and udiovisual works allow these categories of right-holders to produce and release their creations in a way that is much cheaper than it has been at any other time.10 Due to the cheap character of digital production and communication techniques, today’s holders of copyright-related rights, when releasing their creative works to the public in digital settings, do not seek necessarily to recover the reduced costs of performance, recording and dissemination. These categories of right-holders might increasingly consider a higher exposure on the Internet as more beneficial to their subsequent business opportunities than an immediate monetization of all exclusive rights created automatically by copyright law on their digital items. New open access licensing practices, which have developed considerably in the last years due to the spread of such legal standards as Creative Commons, have mostly attracted emerging performers, virtual recording labels and web-casters. In the case of works where no actual author right exists, these licences have the potential to increase significantly the stock of public domain works (for instance, most of the classical music repertoire) which are performed, recorded and embodied into digital items and made available to the public for free. In this situation, the contractual technique of open access management, while seeking to remove most legal restrictions created by copyright-related rights to the free use and dissemination of digital performances of public domain works, may have a crucial role for the building of digital commons. To enable this function and to achieve the policy objective of the highest dissemination of unprotected works, open access licences such as Creative Commons shall be deemed to be applicable to the management of neighbouring rights in the same way as they apply to the management of copyright.

2. How open access licences complement the notion of digital commons: Creative Commons

8At least in civil law (droit d’auteur) systems, newly created works are granted copyright protection by default and enter the public domain only after expiration of the protection term of 70 years post mortem autoris. Unlike US law, droit d’auteur systems which conceive authors’ rights as non-waivable personality rights do not seem to endorse and confer contractual validity upon opyright licences which aim at making new works available in the public domain immediately, through a relinquishment in perpetuity of all present and future rights under copyright law by the author. This means that, in most European copyright systems, the so-called ”Public Dedication License” inserted by the US Creative Commons project into its web-based system of licence selection could not be used validly by copyright holders to opt for such a relinquishment in perpetuity.11 In most European legal systems, the open access management of copyright cannot achieve the result of expanding the legal scope of the public domain through the relinquishment of new works. In those systems where copyright law grants non-waivable author rights, this sort of relinquishment through the adoption of a purely contractual mechanism could never have erga omnes effects. At best, the effects of this dedication could be limited to the legal sphere of the sole parties involved in the transaction and would never address the public at large directly.

9Considering that in droit d’auteur jurisdictions open access initiatives do not have the potential to add new pieces of work to the public domain, it seems evident that the most fruitful use of such licences for the purpose of building digital commons may concern mostly ”old” creative works which have already entered the public domain. This can be the case for digital performances and recordings of classical music (up until the works of Debussy and Ravel) whose legal subjection to the enforcement of copyright-related rights has been preventively avoided through the adoption of an open access licence by performers and/or record producers.

  • 12 Glorioso, Andrea and Giuseppe Mazziotti, ”Alcune riflessioni sulle licenze Creative Commons e i di (...)
  • 13 Ibid., pp. 158–60.
  • 14 Intellectual Property in the New Technological Age, ed. by Robert P. Merges, Mark A. Lemley and Pe (...)

10As explained in the literature,12 the fact that the most popular and adopted open access licences, Creative Commons, have been developed in the US in the context of the US copyright system has called into question the same applicability of these licences to the case of management of sole copyright-related rights. This uncertainty has been aroused by the fact that, so far, in the original texts of CC licences and in their translations and adaptations to other jurisdictions, no reference was made to the management of rights related to copyright. After careful examination of these licences, it is easy to understand that this lack of reference should not mean that CC licensing standards are not applicable to the management of these rights.13 CC licences have been shaped initially on the grounds of a copyright system—the US Copyright Act—which has provided performers with a separate copyright on sound recordings as of 1972.14 This separate kind of copyright on sound recordings establishes for the benefit of performers the same rights granted to the performer under European copyright laws, except for the rights of public performance and broadcasting.

11This gap between US and European copyright laws in the scope of protection of sound recordings was partially filled by the adoption of the Digital Performance Rights in Sound Recording Act of 1995, which granted rights-holders on sound recordings a right to remuneration for the (sole) digital non-interactive communication (i.e. webcasting) of their recordings to be administered under a complex compulsory licence scheme.15 The necessary inclusion of the management of rights related to copyright such as performer rights in the text of the CC licences was recently upheld by the express extension of the notion of ”work” under the ”unported” 3.0 version of these licenses to ”performances”, ”broadcasts” and ”phonograms”.16 Whereas these items are eligible for copyright protection under US law, European copyright laws protect them through ”rights related to copyright”. This suggests that, in transposing open access licences which have developed from US law into European jurisdictions (as happened within the CC initiative), the wording of these licences should be preferably adapted by extending explicitly the notion of manageable rights to the realm of what European laws define as copyright-related (or neighbouring) rights.

12Two examples show how well the enforcement of open access licences works on the Internet. The first involves Magnatune’s digital platform,17 which stores, transmits for free and sells digital recordings belonging to a great variety of music genres. It includes music downloads embodying works in the public domain (for example, medieval, baroque and symphonic music) performed by artists and recorded by producers who are associated with the platform deviser. All legally protected content made available for free through the Magnatune platform is released under a CC licence which aims to make it clear to the website users that the elease for free of certain pieces of content does not necessarily entail a waiver of all exclusive rights covering those pieces of content.18 The CC licence indicates to users that ”some rights” are kept ”reserved” by the respective licensors. Magnatune combines this informational purpose with the insertion of a technological protection measure which consists of a (not easily removable) vocal tag providing a reference to the CC licence applicable to the use of each specific item. From a business-related point of view, the main objective of the Magnatune platform is that of making certain uses of its content freely available under CC in order to increase the reputation and appeal of its material. This then encourage Magnatune’s users to buy tangible and intangible goods embodying those performances (for example CDs and music downloads); it also enables subsequent uses such as the synchronisation of performances in timed-relation with a moving image (so-called ”synching”). A second example is given by Musikethos, which is a digital platform devised and managed by a non-profit association of classical and jazz performers who use mainly recordings of their live performances of public domain works (for example, ancient music and chamber music pieces) in order to foster not only the management of commercial uses not comprised in the CC licence but also the booking of live performances by agents, concert societies and other cultural institutions.19

13These examples show that the application of flexible open access licences to digital recordings enables the pursuit of objectives which go beyond mere solidarity in order to encompass the creation of new and promising business opportunities for performers and producers. These examples also show that the creation of such business opportunities by performers and producers adopting open access licenses for the release of their digital performances generates what economists call a ”positive externality”, namely, a self-interested decision by these actors which spills over to parties other than those who explicitly engage in the decision. In these examples, performers and recording producers are not the only ones who capture the benefits of their business decisions to opt for an open access management of their respective rights. The public at large is given the opportunity to freely enjoy performances of creative works that, notwithstanding their legally unprotected status, would not constitute digital commons. In the absence of a ”commons-based” release of their performances, musical works by great composers from the past could be enjoyed as commons either ”on paper” (by the few people who are capable of reading music sheets) or through the purchase of recordings marketed in a traditional way for merely commercial reasons. For sound recordings to enter the public domain under EU copyright law and become digital commons without the support of commons-based releases, the public should now wait 70 years from their date of lawful publication or communication to the public.

3. Public policy suggestions for maximising the dissemination of creative works in the public domain

14The examples given in Section 2 demonstrate that open access initiatives have been carried out with beneficial effects for society by private entities. A company establishing a virtual label and a non-profit association of musicians have both successfully opted for these licensing methods in order to pursue their own business model or their foundational mission. In my view, due to their peculiar characteristics, these licensing models for the dissemination and use of digital recordings should not be developed only by private parties. The most significant beneficial effects for society may come from the adoption of these models by impulse of public bodies that, among their policy objectives, may have that of institutionally pursuing the maximisation of creative works disseminated through the building and operation of freely accessible platforms and repositories of digital commons. Copyright legislators and administrative bodies such as national ministries of culture and the European Commission (EC) have recently endorsed and fostered initiatives which aimed at creating, by expenditure of public funds, digital spaces where right-holders wishing to waive their exclusive rights could make their creations available to the general public under open access conditions.

  • 20 See Mazziotti (2008), p. 245.
  • 21 See Commission Recommendation 2006/585/EC of 24 August 2006 on the digitisation and online accessi (...)
  • 22 See ERC Scientific Council Guidelines for Open Access, 17 December 2007.

15The objective of building virtual spaces hosting digital commons was expressly embodied into the Third Additional Provision of Spanish Act N. 23/2006 of 8 July 2006 which transposed the EU Copyright Directive of 2001 into the Spanish legal system. This provision, entitled ”Promotion of digital works dissemination”, encouraged the government to invest in the development of spaces of public utility where freely accessible materials, including works which have entered the public domain and works released under open access licences, may be stored and accessed by everyone through digital media.20 Another useful example is given by the project undertaken by the Italian Ministry of Culture entitled ”Italian Digital Library”, which is designed to subsidise the digitisation of wide collections of ancient books, historical reviews and music sheets coming from some of the most prestigious Italian libraries and music academies, and to publish them on a freely accessible digital repository. Moreover, it is to be stressed that the EU recently undertook initiatives such as the Recommendation 2006/585/EC on the digitisation and online accessibility of cultural material and digital preservation.21 This act of the EU recommends that, in full respect of copyright law, EU Member States encourage, develop and sponsor the digitisation and online accessibility of cultural materials such as books, journals, newspapers, photographs, museum objects, archival documents and audiovisual materials and create overviews of such digitisation in order to prevent duplication of efforts and promote collaboration and synergies at the European level. In addition to that, it is highly significant that the European Research Council—a European funding body, accountable to the EU, which was set up to support investigator-driven frontier research—issued a document which encouraged interested parties to reduce the current six-month gap between the time that research projects subsidised by the Council are published in subscription-only scientific journals and the time of their open access release on free web-based repositories.22

16All these kinds of publicly-funded initiatives aimed at fostering the implementation of open access licences and building freely accessible archives of digital commons could be usefully developed with regard to freely accessible repositories of audio and audiovisual performances. The adoption of open access management of copyright-related rights on recordings which embody creative works in the public domain enables their immediate and legitimate incorporation into such repositories. If, for instance, educational institutions such as music academies and acting schools subsidised by public bodies were obliged or given an incentive to embrace these licensing models for the release of their most significant performances, this would have highly beneficial effects for the cultural enrichment of society. From an economic point of view, it would make sense to publicly subsidise these institutions not only for the pursuit of their primary purpose of training the performers of tomorrow, but also for the development of open archives designed to host high quality recordings. The latter activity would add very little costs to those implied by the former and would be abundantly compensated by the benefits for the general public.

17This chapter has shown briefly that the open access management of copyright-related rights in the digital environment may have highly beneficial effects for the building of digital commons. Removing legal obstacles to the free dissemination and use of digital recordings enables the enjoyment of creative works which have entered the public domain by the public at large. Private companies and associations that have opted for these licensing methods in order to pursue their own business models or their foundational mission have in turn benefited society. These licensing models should not be developed only by private parties: the most significant beneficial effects for society may come from the adoption of these models by public bodies (for example, national ministries of culture) that may wish to maximise the dissemination of creative works through the building of freely accessible platforms and repositories of digital commons. This objective could be usefully developed by obliging or giving performing arts institutions an incentive to embrace licensing models for the digital release and archiving of high-quality audiovisual and audio recordings of their most significant productions.

Notes

1 Lawrence Lessig, The Future of Ideas: The Fate of the Commons in a Connected World (New York: Vintage, 2002), pp. 19–20.

2 Séverine Dusollier, ”Sharing Access to Intellectual Property through Private Ordering”, Chicago Kent Law Review, 82 (2007), 1391–1435 (pp. 1396–97).

3 See Séverine Dusollier, ”Technology as an Imperative for Regulating Copyright: From the Public Exploitation to the Private Use of the Work”, European Intellectual Property Review, 27 (2005), 201–04 (p. 201).

4 See articles 1(1), 2, 3(2) of Directive 2001/29 on the harmonisation of certain aspects of copyright and related rights in the information society, OJ L167/10, 22 June 2001.

5 See for instance articles 81 and 83 of the Italian Copyright Act, i.e. Act n. 633/1941 and later amendments.

6 See article 12 of Directive 2006/115 on the rental right and lending right and on certain rights related to copyright in the field of intellectual property (codified version), OJ L 376/28, 27 December 2006 (”Relation between copyright and related rights”): ”Protection of copyright-related rights under this Directive shall leave intact and shall in no way affect the protection of copyright”.

7 See article 1 of Directive 2006/116 of 12 December 2006 on the term of protection of copyright and certain related, OJ L 372/12, 27 December 2006.

8 See article 3 of Directive 2006/116, as amended by article 1(2) of Directive 2011/77 of 27 September 2011 amending Directive 2006/116/EC on the term of protection of copyright and certain related rights, OJ L 265/1, 11 October 2011.

9 See article 1(2), lett. a) and b), of Directive 2011/77.

10 Giuseppe Mazziotti, EU Digital Copyright Law and the End-user (Berlin: Springer, 2008), pp. 3–4.

11 See http://creativecommons.org/licenses/publicdomain.

12 Glorioso, Andrea and Giuseppe Mazziotti, ”Alcune riflessioni sulle licenze Creative Commons e i diritti connessi degli artisti interpreti ed esecutori, dei produttori di fonogrammi e degli organismi di radiodiffusione televisiva”, Il Diritto d’Autore, 79 (2008), 133-63 (pp. 148–50).

13 Ibid., pp. 158–60.

14 Intellectual Property in the New Technological Age, ed. by Robert P. Merges, Mark A. Lemley and Peter S. Menell, 3rd edition (New York: Aspen, 2003), p. 371.

15 See US Copyright Act, Sections 106 and 114, in particular Sect. 114(d).

16 See http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0.

17 See http://www.magnatune.com.

18 See http://www.magnatune.com/info/licensing.

19 http://www.musikethos.org/wiki/me.php/Main/Copyright.

20 See Mazziotti (2008), p. 245.

21 See Commission Recommendation 2006/585/EC of 24 August 2006 on the digitisation and online accessibility of cultural material and digital preservation, OJ L 236, 31 August 2006, p. 28.

22 See ERC Scientific Council Guidelines for Open Access, 17 December 2007.

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