Sunday, 14 July 2024

#HumansOfCopyright: Interview with David Lopez, Lifelong Learning Platform

Alongside threats from the upload filter (Article 13), the snippet tax (Article 11), and the limits on text and data mining (Article 3), there’s another part of the proposed Copyright Directive that has serious problems. Article 4 covers “Use of works and other subject-matter in digital and cross-border teaching activities”, and calls for a copyright exception for certain kinds of educational use. Although that is welcome, there are issues with the details of the proposal. For example, the Lifelong Learning Platform, a Europe-wide umbrella organisation active in the areas of education, training and youth, is concerned that non-formal and informal learning would be unable to make use of the exception. The group’s President, David Lopez, explains why the draft text of the Copyright Directive’s Article 4 needs to be revised.

GM: Could you please introduce yourself and your organisation a little – its history and its aims?

DL: My name is David Lopez and I am President of the Lifelong Learning Platform (LLLP) which is a network of over 41 European organisations active in the field of education, training and youth, coming from all over Europe and beyond. We stand for a truly holistic approach to education, which can be seen in in our membership: we have adult education, vocational education and training (VET), youth organisations, volunteers, scouts, sports organisations, university, schools, teachers, parents, early-childhood, covering the full spectrum of education sectors and age groups.

These networks represent more than 50,000 educational institutions and associations in formal, non-formal and informal learning. Their members reach out to several millions of beneficiaries. Since it was established in 2005, LLLP’s mission has been to voice citizens’ concerns on lifelong learning issues towards the EU institutions and promote more complementarity between all types of learning – formal, non-formal and informal. For us, education is really the key to foster equity, social cohesion and active citizenship.

GM: How does copyright pose a problem for lifelong learning – for example, outside formal educational establishments?

DL: Copyright has always been a contentious issue in formal education but the implications go beyond schools and universities to affect organisations such as libraries, museums, community centres and civil society organisations including NGOs, youth and student organisations. The professionals and volunteers working in such organisations are also providing education through free courses, peer-to-peer or community learning.

The problem is that in many countries the copyright exemption for education only applies to schools or other formal educational establishments. So, in order to comply with the law, other organisations providing education are in fact required to seek permission before making certain use of copyright-protected material in their educational programmes. These provisions severely limit the pool of resources to which these educators have access – as easily accessible sources on the Internet are often still copyright-protected and cannot be used in practice.

Hence, the burden to the work of teachers and educators of all types is considerable – they have to figure out whether a specific resource is copyright-protected or not, whom to contact for permission, wait for a response, see if any costs will be involved, etc., or face anxiety for being fined should they choose to bypass copyright. This situation, with the limits that it puts on the learning experience, contradicts the imperative to provide a high quality provision of education and lifelong lifelong in Europe.

GM: Which parts of the proposed EU Copyright Directive particularly concern you and your organisation, and why? What are the problems?

DL: Article 4 of the Copyright Directive pertaining to the mandatory exception for education is of major concern for LLLP and its members. The proposal grants the exception only to formal education establishments, which is an outdated approach given that the future of learning lies in accessing it anytime, anywhere and delivered in a variety of spaces beyond the classroom.

Moreover, the provision for licensing schemes – overriding the education exception – that the proposal allows Member States to set in place, creates a dangerous precedent because it will cause further uncertainty for educators, not to mention potentially unaffordable costs. Many educational institutions, both formal and non-formal such as NGOs, adult learning centres or other small community-based organisations, are ill placed to negotiate a licence contract or are not even able to consider the possibility of purchasing a licence due to limited resources.

A further problem is the potential implications for the cross-border exchange of educational resources. The proposal would restrict access to materials to a “secure electronic environment” to which only the students and teachers of the specific educational establishment would have access. This goes against the reality that many teachers are constantly and very gladly sharing their own materials with their peers from other institutions and in other European countries.

GM: What would you like to see happen with those parts?

DL: Article 4 needs to be re-thought from the perspective of how it can serve as an enabler, not a barrier to high quality education. We would therefore prefer to see a comprehensive exception that applies to the educational purpose underpinning the use of copyright-protected material, rather than the type of user providing the education; that covers both digital and non-digital educational activities; that cannot be superseded by licensing arrangements; and that also supports the cross-border exchange of educational materials.

GM: What do you think might happen in the EU lifelong learning field if these problems aren’t resolved?

DL: I am afraid that it will lead to more frustration and uncertainty for teachers and educators and, worst of all, contribute to the growing trend of commercialising the learning experience. Education in all its forms is a public good and the proposed Directive risks to undermine that.

GM: Any other comments?

DL: Just to conclude by stressing again that in the copyright debate EU policymakers need to recognise the nature of education and lifelong learning in the 21st century – the fact that it occurs across borders, across a variety of spaces and is provided by a diverse range of actors. The new directive should adapt to that reality, balancing the rights of copyright owners with the public interest of helping education in all its diversity to move forwards, not backwards.

Featured image by Lifelong Learning Platform.

Writer (Rebel Code), journalist, blogger. on openness, the commons, copyright, patents and digital rights. [All content from this author is made available under a CC BY 4.0 license]