Early next year, the Legal Affairs (JURI) Committee of the European Commission will vote on a new directive concerning the use of copyrighted materials for educational purposes across the EU. The directive, in theory, aims to expand upon existing exemptions from copyright legislation in education at an EU level. While this sounds desirable, in reality the directive falls short of this goal, and contains numerous caveats that would in fact hinder the continuous development of high quality, cross-border educational resources. In response to this, EuroClio, in partnership with COMMUNIA and the Lifelong Learning Platform, amongst others, are advocating for the development of a more open and effective copyright framework that would allow educators the freedom to fully take advantage of the technologies available to them, thus making high quality education more accessible for all.
Representatives from EuroClio and a variety of other institutions including COMMUNIA, Wikimedia, and SPARC Europe, met at the offices of the Lifelong Learning Platform in Brussels in November to strategise and streamline these advocacy efforts for better copyright in education. As it stands, the directive would serve to allow for the sharing of copyrighted materials for educative purposes, but only under certain circumstances that we believe to be inadequate for the modern teaching and learning environment, and the meeting provided a space to articulate the most pressing of these concerns.
The meeting arrived at the identification of the following primary concerns with the current directive:
- Limited scope and clarity of the exception: in order for the exception to be effective and beneficial in a practical learning environment, it needs to apply across the board, and make clear to educators what they can and cannot do. Currently, the directive does not do this. Instead, it allows for the exception to be overturned by certain licenses, and essentially provides an "exception to the exception", maintaining an unclear and fragmented system that would not allow educators the freedom needed to deliver high quality education in a digital world.
- Exclusion of key educational stakeholders: The exception remains limited to "formal" education institutions, meaning that professionals from museums, libraries, civil society organisations, and other organisations providing "non-formal" and "informal" education, would still be limited in what materials they can use. This would be harmful to the development of adult education and the work of those providing useful workshops in the voluntary sector, for example.
- Closed Networks: Under the current directive, the exemption to copyright legislation would only apply within the boundaries of formal education institutions, including online materials (so, materials could only be shared through an internal network). This is unrealistic in the 21st century, where education takes place in a multitude of locations, and across many different platforms. With technology that allows for EU-wide accessibility to high-quality education, it is detrimental and illogical not to take advantage of this and to restrict the sharing of materials to an internal process.
The issue was highlighted further by EuroClio Deputy Director Steven Stegers when collecting the award for Best Practice in Education and Innovation Pedagogy for Historiana's eLearning Environment at Lifelong Learning Week, as the current directive would seriously impact the efficacy and quality of the Historiana platform, and received further support from various people present at the awards.