Allegorie op het onderwijs

Clear statement from educational sector: we need a better copyright reform

Yesterday COMMUNIA sent a joint letter to MEPs working on the copyright reform dossier. It is supported by 34 organisations and 17 individuals, all advocates of quality education. In the letter we note our concerns on the phrasing of a new education exception to copyright, as included in the proposal for a directive on copyright in the Digital Single Market.

You can find the full letter, including signatories here. 

We believe that educators should be provided with the autonomy necessary for them to give the best possible learning opportunities for students, and that students and other learners should have the freedom required for effective independent learning. The choice of resources that an educator uses should only be dependent on the need they see in their students. The current proposal from the European Commission does not meet these requirements. There however changes possible to the proposed directive that will create a copyright that supports education.

We have shared three concrete recommendations:

1. Remove reference to licenses

The European Commission’s efforts to harmonise digital education at the EU level will be of little consequence if member states can ultimately decide to subject the application of the exception to the availability of ‘adequate’ licenses. The proposal (article 4) does not clarify whether this covers important factors like if the license has a reasonable price, respects other exceptions and limitations, or even provides fair remuneration to the original author. The mere theoretical availability of a license is not enough for it to be workable in an education setting. The failure of the “Licenses for Europe” stakeholder dialogue, where non-legislative solutions for copyright problems were unsuccessfully discussed, suggests that licensing is not a solution that can replace legislative change. In particular, it cannot fulfil the role of a modernised set of exceptions which offers legal certainty for teachers and students across Europe. Many educational institutions will be ill-placed to negotiate license contracts (if they have the option at all), while others will not even be able to consider purchasing a license, due to the costs involved. We therefore recommend that the reference to licenses is removed from the exception.

2. Broaden scope of exception to educational purpose

We are also worried that the proposed new exception only applies to ‘educational establishments.’ Education is understood today as a lifelong process that is conducted by a multitude of institutions, formally and informally, and includes learners themselves. This was noted in the Commission Communication ”Making a European Area of Lifelong Learning a Reality” and the subsequent Council Resolution of 27 June 2002 on lifelong learning. Yet when defining copyright law, the European Commission fails to embrace its own lifelong learning approach by limiting the potential beneficiaries of the proposed exception to ‘educational establishments’. In doing so, the proposed exception will not lead to harmonisation of digital uses for the purposes of informal education, such as offered by museums, libraries, archives, professional associations, independent learning, and civil society organisations. Examples include education about the dangers of drugs that civil society organisations provide for teenagers, or the great educational programs offered by libraries that help Europeans embrace their local culture. This limitation would also exclude employees, apprenticeships, and practical learning as a part of vocational education at their company, which is a key part of Europe’s lifelong learning goal. We therefore propose that the beneficiaries of the exception will be broadened to include all persons and entities providing an educational activity.

3. Remove artificial barrier between digital and nondigital use

Lastly, we note that education does not rely solely on digital uses, and the problems and legal uncertainty that the education community faces goes beyond the digital and online environments. The European Commission’s proposal creates an artificial division between digital and analogue uses, adding unwanted complexity to a legal framework that is already difficult to grasp. By adding a mandatory exception for digital uses without making changes to the existing exception for non-digital ones – such as distributing texts or images to students, performing a play, or screening a film in class – the Commission’s proposal creates confusion instead of clarification. We therefore recommend that the Commission removes this artificial barrier between digital resources and printed paper for educational purposes to enable much needed clarity for educators and learners on all acts and materials needed for education.

We urge the MEPs working on this dossier to consider these recommendations from this group of supporters of quality education in Europe, to make sure that we will have a copyright that supports education. If you would like to know more about the letter, its recommendations or how we can fix copyright, please contact Lisette Kalshoven (

Full list of supporters:

  • Alliance for Open Education
  • Associação Ensino Livre
  • Association for Technology and Internet
  • Centrul Pentru Inovare Publica
  • Centrum Cyfrowe
  • Centrum Edukacji Obywatelskiej
  • Creative Common Austria
  • Creative Commons
  • Creative Commons Portugal
  • Electronic Information for Libraries
  • European Bureau of Library Information and Documentation Associations
  • European University Association
  • Europeana
  • Fairkom Association
  • Intellectual Property Institute, Slovenia
  • International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions
  • Kennisland
  • Koalicja Otwartej Edukacji
  • Leuphana University of Lüneburg
  • Media and Learning Association
  • Muzeum Historii Polski
  • Nexa Center for Internet & Society
  • Open Education Working Group, Open Knowledge International
  • Open Technologies Alliance-GFOSS
  • Państwowe Muzeum Etnograficzne w Warszawie
  • PL2020
  • Szkoła z klasą (Poland)
  • The European Association for Viewers Interests
  • The European Multiple MOOC Aggregator (EMMA)
  • The Libraries and Archives Copyright Alliance
  • Wikimedia UK

And the following individuals:

  • André Isidoro Fernandes Esteves, Portugal
  • Chris Morrison, Copyright and Licensing Compliance Officer, University of Kent, UK
  • David Anderson-Evans, Chair, UUK-Guild HE Copyright Working Group, UK
  • David Farley, University Librarian, University of Winchester, UK
  • Dr Guido Noto La Diega
  • Dr Maja Bogataj Jančič, LL.M., LL.M.
  • Hans Põldoja, Estonia
  • Inga-Lill Nilson, Sweden
  • Jane Secker, Copyright and Digital Literacy Advisor, LSE, UK
  • Kate Vasili, Copyright Officer, Middlesex University, UK
  • Marcos Daniel Marado Torres, Portugal,
  • Mart Laanpere, Estonia
  • Monique Ritchie, Research Librarian and Copyright Officer, Brunel University London, UK
  • Paula Simões, Portugal
  • Peter Suber, Harvard University
  • Ralph Weedon, Information Governance and Compliance Manager, University of Strathclyde, UK
  • Teemu Leinonen, Finland
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