Horia Varlan / Flickr
Horia Varlan / Flickr

EU Copyright Directive: mixed outcomes for educators

published 1 April 2019 updated 3 April 2019

On March 28, the European Parliament adopted the much discussed EU copyright directive, which will have an impact on teaching and learning.

Within the next two years, the new legislation will have to be implemented by EU member states. Since the beginning of the discussions on the now adopted text, numerous stakeholders have raised concerns over how this new framework will affect freedom of expression. Negotiations will certainly continue at national level on what the best solutions for education and research will be.

A genuine exception

The European Trade Union Committee for Education (ETUCE), Education International’s (EI) European regional organisation, has voiced its position on behalf of European education and research unions at different stages of this copyright reform. While ETUCE has welcomed the text and the data mining exception for research contained in article 3 and other articles that facilitate the work of cultural heritage organisations as well as some EU-wide exceptions, it has stressed that teachers collaborate and exchange materials across borders and that it is important that they do not have to work in legal grey zones.

European teachers remain concerned about the fact that the adopted article 4 on education does not establish a genuine EU-wide mandatory copyright exception for education and research purposes have not been incorporated. Although it is mentioned in the text, the exception as it has been defined can be easily overruled by commercial license contracts.

If member states choose to replace the exception with licenses teachers would continue to face challenges when working with digital works at national or EU level. According to EI, if the exceptions were protected from commercial contracts, article 4 from the Directive would indeed reduce barriers for educators and facilitate cross-border collaboration and exchange.

Susan Flocken, ETUCE European Director, recommended that “the European Commission should ensure that social partners are consulted in the national implementation of the EU copyright directive.” This will ensure that education trade unions can influence the national implementation and that educators, researchers and students are equipped with the rights they need in order to fulfill their public mission: the provision of quality education for all.