If you ever thought that no one would ever actually legally attack Creative Commons and, if they did, you’d hear about it, consider this the article you “hear about it”. A draft copyright bill from the Czech Republic has leaked online and it may be one of the most disturbing copyright bills ever created.
One of the key aspects of Creative Commons is the ease to obtain a license. You just browse to the Creative Commons website, select the license you want by answering a few simple questions, and then you get a block of code you can paste on any HTML website you are building to tell everyone what you can and cannot do. This is one of many reasons Creative Commons is so successful.
Now, it seems, the Czech Republic is working to end this practice altogether. According to a very disturbing report by Czech media site Piratske Noviny. A manually translated version to English is available here.
The leaked draft of the copyright bill would put a whole new set of restrictions on public licensed materials (licenses include Creative Commons). Under the draft text, anyone who wants to use a public license must report to a copyright collective administrator. The administrator would then review the work in question and the creator would have to prove that he or she has created that work in the first place. Then, and only then, can a creator legally use a public license of their choice.
It takes away a creators freedom of choice to license their work as they so choose – works they own the rights to in the first place. Things get exponentially more complicated with GNU licenses because there are numerous projects in existence today that are open collaborations with people all around the world. Public licenses are explicitly designed to not be given out on a moderated basis and now the government is intervening in all of this.
EDRI managed to translate the relevant section of the draft:
The draft states that: “If a right holder not represented on the basis of the agreement expresses his will to exclude the effect of cumulative agreement while providing gratuitous license, the effect of cumulative agreement is excluded to the extent of provided license in respect to the collective administrator at the moment when the collecting administrator is provably notified of the provided license.”
That means that in order to achieve free distribution of copylefted work, the author has to notify the collecting society and he carries the burden of proof, that is, he has to prove that license has been provided, or if you like, the user of gratuitous license has to prove the collecting society has been notified, which is even harder. The amendment draft thus violates the declared support of public licenses.
If such a law were to take effect, then many people who want to conveniently get a public license for their work will simply opt to not get it because the government made it too difficult to obtain one.
Another disturbing set of provisions is the legal mandating of chopping down authors royalty rates by nearly half. Libraries that lend copyrighted material apparently are able to collect money on behalf of content creators. Originally, all the money made was forwarded to the creators of the work. The new amendments will make it so authors only receive 60% of the royalties while the remaining 40% of the money will be funneled directly to publishers.
I am not an expert on Czech Republic law, and I don’t normally advocate contract law in this manner, but seriously, why can’t there be contract law being put in play here rather than what is being seen here? If creators have a system that is better than 60%, why pass a law that mandates that creators have to reduce their royalty rates down to 60%? This move seems to be quite archaic.
Overall, I am absolutely floored a government is even thinking about a copyright law like this. The question is whether or not the public backlash will prevent the government from tabling the law.
If you understand the Czech language, the draft of the law is available here.
ZeroPaid happily greets Richard Stallman.