This guest contribution is written by science politicians in the Green Party: Theresia Bauer is the science minister in Baden-Württemberg, Angela Dorn is the science minister in the state of Hesse, and Katarina Väbmank in Hamburg. Anna Christman and Kai Gehring are members of the Bundestag.
The Coronavirus pandemic has led to a significant increase in digitization in education, research and teaching. Although researchers, educators, and students want to return to lecture halls and laboratories, post-pandemic science will continue to benefit from many of the achievements of this batch. Daily use of digital tools and media is more natural than ever in the scientific system, but it still appears to be the notorious “new territory” for the federal government.
With the Draft Copyright Act Amendment, the federal government introduced impractical and unmanageable confusion of regulations for digital use primarily of copyrighted works in education and research, which will be passed by the Bundestag in due course. The draft dates back to the time copies were counted, seminar machines were monitored, and texts were split into individual percentage points in court.
As a rule, this hardly helps the rights holders. But the damage from legal uncertainty is enormous. Today we need an idea of copyright law that no longer understands the Internet in the scientific sphere as uncharted territory, but as a basis. The previous draft contradicts the position of scientific organizations and the position of the Multiparty Federal Council on the bill.
Fair styling is a natural thing
Since the introduction of the first Digital Regulations 20 years ago, there has been debate about the conditions under which text and images can be used for research and teaching in the way the Internet allows – unlike bookshelves and copiers. Since the debates began, federal states and science experts have demanded copyright law applied digitally so that the opportunities offered by digitalization can be used for research and teaching.
The main requirement in discussions has always been that the regulations be fair, so that the authors are not left empty-handed, and that is rightly the status quo through the collecting community.
In 2018, the federal government took a step in the right direction and improved regulations. Instead of a network of rules, which the Alliance of Scientific Organizations at the time described as “a legal text that could hardly be understood” that could “be made available only with the help of an interpreted literature,” there were more explicit rules.
However, until then these requests had not met the demands of science experts and the Federal Council. Biggest problem: The regulations were limited to five years, and their unlimited duration was subject to evaluation. Even before that, the regulations had only been in effect for a limited period of years since the start of the first decade – the ability to plan for digitization looks different.
Permanently and completely remove the flag time limit
The current amendment of copyright law in line with the bill to adapt it to the European DSM Directive provides an opportunity to give real momentum to the current digital boom. Instead, the Government Parliamentary Groups Bill says goodbye to its constructive vision of copyright law for science, and only stipulates that the minimum obligations imposed by Brussels expire with the DSM directive.
Lots of shortcomings: The draft amendment allows access to text and data extraction (algorithm-based methods of analysis for small or disorganized amounts of data) and thus opens up entirely new possibilities for science to research through AI. At the same time, however, the permissible storage of this data or text set is very narrow.
The legal basis for large projects can be omitted
Time limit threatening the security of investment planning: Federal states have already invested significant sums in digitizing science and research in order to make digital knowledge available. Further investments are planned to make universities and libraries fit for the digital age. According to the current plans of government groups, the legal basis for these projects will likely cease to exist from 2023. This makes more investments risky and slows the progress of science and research.
The epidemic has shown that we can only control the major crises of our time with excellent research, solid science and excellent education. Policy should create the best possible framework for this. That is why the government factions must now at least permanently and completely pull back from the flag barrier. We must combine our efforts to finally introduce copyright into the digital age. It is time for an enabling country that creates incentives to invest in digitalization rather than slowing it down due to opaque regulation.