IGF 2021 - Day 3 - Lightning Talk #79 Legalize File Sharing! The Case of European Citizen Initiative "Freedom to Share"

The following are the outputs of the captioning taken during an IGF virtual intervention. Although it is largely accurate, in some cases it may be incomplete or inaccurate due to inaudible passages or transcription errors. It is posted as an aid, but should not be treated as an authoritative record.



>> GREGORY ENGLES:  Good morning.  Good afternoon.  Now it's noon.

>> We all live in a digital world.

We all need it to be open and safe.

We all want to trust and to be trusted.

We all despise control and desire freedom.

We are all united.

>> GREGORY ENGLES:  Hello.  Do I share my screen currently?

This is the legalize file sharing, European Citizen Initiative Freedom to Share lightning talk, IGF 2021.  Thank you for coming right before lunch.  I want to briefly talk about the European citizen initiative, then specific about what we want to achieve.  The European citizen initiative is a legal instrument implemented in the European treaties that allow for European citizens to ask European Commission for new legislation or to change existing legislation.  So far, it's been quite seldom used, but it has been used more and more.  We saw about 20 initiatives in the area of environment and climate.  About the same number of justice and rights.  And then social, education and lastly health, but we saw this year some COVID-related initiatives started.

I want to point out most of the initiatives have been unsuccessful.  Some of them have been withdrawn, so only a small portion go forward.  Only a couple of them had been really successful, so like six successful out of 102 registration requests.  To be successful, the organizers need to collect 1 million signatures inside of a year.  And this time, in time of COVID, recollection is complicated.  The Commission extends the time if countries have been affected by lockdown; so currently, our initiative have time until like another twelve months to collect 1 million signatures.  There is a second requirement that needs to be a quorum in at least seven countries.  The quorum is a number of members of European Parliament from that specific country, multiplied by total number of members of European Parliament.  It's for Luxembourg, 4,200.  For Germany, it is about 53,000, the biggest number.

The process of launching the ECI is quite complicated, a multilevel process and European Commission have to agree the matter that formulated by the organizers is inside the legal framework of the European Union.

If the signature collection been admitted, it means the European Commission already have checked in detail if the matter at hand can be implemented as proposed, so it legally possible to do that.

If it is not legally possible, then it's been not admitted for signature collection in the first place, so I want to point that out.  That's a little important for what we will talk.  First, and this was one of the motivation to talk here, I want to point out that nobody knows what the European citizen initiative is.  I mean it's 2.4% who do know what the initiative is, and I think in the room, we have a higher percentage.  This data had been researched, in appraisal and May.  In Germany, 2,057 people, in Italy, 1,034.  And we have picked these countries as being geographically diverse and also in terms of population.  So we don't have numbers for Poland, for example, but we expect to be in the similar range.

To show you the difference like in Germany, 1.4% knows what ECI is.  The first question was do you know what an ECI is, yes or no.  And then the second question had been offered multiple choice for options.  One of them had been correct, and the other three had not been correct.  So the someone who said in the first round no, I do not know what an ECI is, but still fixed correct version of the answer in the second answer is not counting, because it is pure luck, or they don't know that they know.  So people who said they have -- they know what an ECI is and have answered it correctly among four different options, that's the number.  So that's 1.4% for Germany.  In Italy, it is 3.4%, but not really something to be really proud of.

Portugal, even better, 4.1%.  And Finland, it is 1.5%.

That's why it is important to promote this instrument.  It is a legal instrument inside the European treatises, and it is a possibility for European citizens to propose new legislation.  That's the specific one is Freedom to Share ECI.  Freeshareing.edu.  It is about making copyright right again.  We saw a growth towards protecting the rights of distributors and somewhat degree rights of others too.  We think it created an unbalance with interest of consumers and Internet users.

The current legislation bans sharing of files containing copyrighted material.  We think that is in conflict with the freedom of access to science and culture as laid out in Article 27 (1) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  We started this initiative that calls the Commission to change the rule in such a way it would be allowed to share files that contain copyrighted materials directly or with peer-to-peer networks.  And new legislation that would enable this would be completely compatible with international law if the rights-holders were given a fair compensation.  The second part is part of the proposal.  The compensation has to happen.  Otherwise, there is no way to implement it correctly.  So we have to say if we allow file sharing, we need to compensate the authors in a fair way, or right-holders.

This is the official text of the proposal we are collecting signatures for, to legalize file sharing for personal use and non-profit purposes, of files containing works and other material protected by copyright, related rights, with a view to striking a balance between the rights of authors and other rights-holders.

So we have a supporting network of currently 19 organizations across Europe, and that includes my organization, so we have a scroll copied from the website.  We have a booth in the exhibition village, and that's why I am -- this organization, we have a lot of Pirate Parties, but we have Wikimedia Italy, some organizations from Spain and the Czech party are on board, so we look for more organizations that would support the citizen initiative.

There is a link to a Google form that you can submit details, if you want to help us.

If the collection would be successful, then there would be no need or justification for upload filter how they are implemented today.  The upload filter prevents the upload of copyrighted material, but if it is allowed, we don't need upload filters and don't need censorship mechanism.  So the fair compensation of authors should be installed.  This is a necessity for it being legal.  If we allow file sharing, we need to think about compensation. 

The initiative doesn't say which solution the commission should implement, so there are several ideas floating around or several proposals been made over the years, so one is a possibility to introduce a new tax on Internet advertisement, because that's where the money has been made.  The whole networks, all the eyeballs interested -- interesting for the networks because they pay advertisement.  Advertisements get paid for that, so this is where the money flows, so why not tax that and give a share of the Internet advertisement to the authors.  We could introduce a levy on Internet access.  There's already a levy on digital cameras and printers.  The money from that go into collecting society -- we could introduce that levy.  Or this is a proposal floating around called the culture flat rate, which is that countries would dedicate part of the taxes into supporting culture in a flat rate.  So you would pay a yearly part of your taxes, taken out and put into the culture.

All of these sessions have pros and cons, and I would be interested to hear if you have other ideas how this could be implemented.  And for today, I would like you to go and sign the European citizen initiative.  It is on the freesharing.edu.  The number of personal data collected is different from country to country.  In some countries, they -- the local authorities ask for document ID number, like in Italy.  In other, like Germany, they only ask for air dress where the person is registered.  And the signature's been checked for correctness.  They will be checked by local data protection authorities, if we get to 1 million, then transmitted to the European Commission.  That's why this is an excuse why they collect a lot of personal data sometimes, because we have to.

Another way you can help is like make a donation.  We have open finances, and we use open collective platform for making a transparent spending, to document where the money is going, and it's a platform used by open source project, and we have costs to run infrastructure to collect 1 million signatures.  They have to be certified.  Our platform is certified.  And it is quite a lot of hardware and system to run, and it is complete lit non-profit, so we don't have a big sponsor yet, so it would help if you would -- you could help us with a small donation.

That's my presentation.  We would like to have a Q&A afterwards, and I can stop the presentation mode, and I would love to hear your thoughts, ideas or questions.

Do we have anything in the chat?  You are also there managing, so you could -- okay.  Sorry.  Yes.

>> Is this initiative open only for European Union citizens?

>> GREGORY ENGLES:  Yes.  It is a legal instrument in European Union.  They can only be signed by people who are allowed to vote for European Parliament election, so that is European citizens in most countries.  In some countries, they have to actually live in that country.  In some countries, they can live abroad, but since it is a legal instrument, it asks for European signatures.  I would love to see similar petitions or legal undertakings to try to introduce that kind of provisions in different legislations too.  That would actually help, if you could make it global, but it would also work if it would be just European for now.

>> Not global, but maybe we have to -- another level of European integration, maybe the council of Europe, there are much more countries that could participate.

>> GREGORY ENGLES:  Well, yes, much more countries participating, but to my understanding, the copyright in Europe is something that is managed on the European level through European Parliament and Commission.  The other countries, the members of the European Union have given competency to make rules around copyright to European level.  In other countries, it may be different, but there would -- there is no legislation on the council of Europe level.  It would be needed to change nationally.


>> Hello.  You mentioned the European Union levy on storage devices.  I think there is no need for additional money collection, because any data transferred free, stored somewhere.  It is not very proprietary to suggest new levies by government, but usage of previous funds would be reasonable.  And do you have an idea of this initiative to be successful in collecting signatures with local legislators or European legislators on texting formal implementation of this initiative?  We hope it will be successful.

>> GREGORY ENGLES:  Well, thank you very much.  Of course, we hope that we'll be successful, but even if the may not point, also to bring this topic into public debate, so this agenda setting is a major part of the European citizen initiative.  Even if we only had six initiatives successful in collecting the signatures, some of public debate can change the legislation or bring results even before it had been finished.  We saw the collecting of signatures is a complicated way, and often happens in exponential curve.  We all know what exponential curve now looks like with COVID, so it starts very slow, but at some point, it basically explodes.

We saw just recently, there had been citizen initiative on farmers that's been successfully finished, and they had collected more than a third, like 400,000 signatures of their collection had been collected in the last week of the run time, so we are laying a foundation here, look for more organization to support and join, so I hope in the end it will be successful, but main point is to bring this point into the public debate. 

In regards to levies on storage devices, those funds are already transferred to collecting societies.  So if we say we want to limit the sales of copyright material maybe, because this is the argument, that if they were shared freely, there will be losses in sales, so this needs to be compensated, so either the actual levies that we have on storage devices, the levies needs to be adjusted probably, because they had already been distributed to right-holders through collecting societies.  At least that's where they are for.  I think that if I look into the -- I see that many of them thinking they are not compensated fairly, so there's definitely an adjustment needed in that area.

We have an online moderator in Zoom, my colleague Bailey Lamon, from Canada.  I have trouble following the chat.  So do we have anything in the chat?

>> BAILEY LAMON:  No, we currently do not have any questions in the chat.  So if anyone has any -- we do have one question now from Carol. 

Hello, everybody.  There's a question from Carol.  She said sorry if I didn't hear right, but is putting in my personal information into the petition completely safe?

>> GREGORY ENGLES:  Okay, thank you for that question.  Yeah, I will try to address that.  The collecting system has been certified by the German data protection agency, and it is run on a separate service where we, as organizer, only have access to encrypted data.  We get encrypted data, and we transfer it to the data protection agencies, then they can decrypt it and they can see if the data is correct.  The data is stored and processed in a very secure way, and we have 19 pages of certification for that.  The certificate is also linked somewhere on the website, so yes, it is entirely safe, and I apologize for asking for that much of personal data, but this is legal requirement for the ECI.

Thank you for that question.

We have another question here from the gentleman on the microphone.

>> Yeah.  I have a question about the borders between compensation and the earnings.  If artist create masterpieces, for example, I'm from Soviet Union and we have an example of a masterpiece which demonstrates many, many times what will be maturation for artists.  I think the possession is one point, and then the royalties another point.

Thank you.

>> GREGORY ENGLES:  Well, this is not really connected to file sharing, I would say, because the series you are referring to, the 17 moments of spring, it is a masterpiece made for television, in a country that doesn't exist anymore, Soviet Union, and they had a different system than we use in the civilized world.  The old system -- under the old rules, should not participate in the showing of television of that work, because they had been compensated at the time of creation back then, so not participating in royalties at all.

Now we have a problem that old pieces that had been distributed over new networks, for example, old movie made in the 1950s, put on DVD, with old contracts the authors have, they have not been compensated for new distribution methods anyway.  So that's been a big point in the artists' strike in the United States, a couple years ago, they changed that. 

We don't have that automatically in Europe, so this is completely different area.  Some things not regulated very well in copyright legislation, and we need to change that, too, to make better participation of artists, if someone making profit with their work, but if you talk about file sharing, file sharing answer in the non-profit area.  People who consume a lot of media, they still go to cinemas.  There's research papers saying people who do file share a lot, they are also the ones who spend a lot of money on paying for music or paying for cinemas, to watch they will on streaming services or to go to cinemas.  The people who consume a lot, they also spend a lot of money on that.  The people who just do it occasionally, they are probably not a big loss in the system anyway.  And today, modern ways to monitor the distribution of digital work, so to see how often has something been shared.  If you go, you can see how many -- you can try to make statistics, so this isn't a task for society where to distribute to the money.  That would be measure of popularity of some works and I see that as a possible way.

I see a question from Alexander.

>> It's a reply to previous question.  I welcome the question.  Gregory will explain more about free information flow, because current intellectual property legislation comes from publication legislations, but such legislation was invented to provide availability of intellectual property.  So inventions or masterpieces are not being lost with the death of the their authors.  And now we know intellectual property regulations actually being used for cheating or even -- what unites Pirate Parties all over the world is changing these outdated legs.  So welcome, and let's discuss.

>> GREGORY ENGLES:  Well, we are now on time for the end of the session, so you are still free to come by the booth, ask me a question or to send something online.  There is a submit feedback function on the website for the session, and you can use that.  I would love to answer your input.  And now, for people here, I wish you a pleasant lunch and a good appétit.

(Meeting concluded at 12:31 CET)