Copyright in an Age of Access: Alternatives to Copyright Enforcement

Principal investigator:
Prof. dr. P.B. Hugenholtz
Prof. dr. Natali Helberger
Dr. Lucie Guibault
Drs. Joost Poort
In the digital networked environment the exclusive right (i.e. the right to restrict use of a work) that has always been considered an essential feature of copyright has become practically unenforceable and is rapidly losing moral support among the general public. Nevertheless, the rights of creators to fair remuneration appear to be generally supported. The questions thus arise: how to (re)construct a legal system that reconciles this new social reality? Is a legal system that allows unfettered access to copyright works while guaranteeing fair remuneration for authors legally and economically conceivable, and socially acceptable? Among the several reform proposals debated to answer these questions are Alternative Compensations Systems (ACS). Put simply, these are legal mechanisms that forsake the need for direct authorization of end-user acts (downloading, uploading, sharing, modifying), while simultaneously ensuring some level of economic consideration to creators or all rights holders. Since the early twenty-first century legal and economics scholars, advocacy groups and even political parties have come forward with ACS proposals under different labels: tax-and-royalty systems, license globale, content/culture flat-rate, creative contribution, file-sharing levy, sharing license or alternative reward systems. The project will consider several possible models of remuneration that underlie ACS: levy schemes (i.e. private taxes), state funding, voluntary collective licensing, statutory licensing with government-set tariffs, and variants or combinations of these models.

The main scientific aim of the project is to examine possible compensation schemes as alternatives to copyright, and assess their legal, social and economic viability. The project thus requires interdisciplinary cooperation between scientists from the fields of law, economics and social sciences. It comprises three interrelated parts: (1) a legal study (PhD, 3 years) that describes, compares and normatively assesses possible models of alternative compensation; (2) an economic study (postdoc, 1.5 years) that assesses the welfare effects of various models, and estimates possible remuneration rate(s); and (3) a sociological part (postdoc, 1,5 years), which conducts survey research to establish the level of public support for different policy alternatives and understand the value of different policy components.
The project is financially supported by The Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO).
See also:

Additional Project Information:

– Public communication of TOP grant award to IViR (09.03.2012) in Dutch;
NWO project webpage (Project number 407-11-050);
– Excerpts from the TOP grant application submitted in 2011 to The Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO).


Copyright in the Age of Online Access: Alternative Compensation Systems in EU Law

Quintais, J.

<p>This book examines pragmatic legal solutions that enable Internet users to access works in the digital environment by exploring the flexibilities in EU copyright law in search of a consistent regulation of non-commercial online use. In addition to proving virtually impossible, online enforcement of copyright may be undesirable because it risks encroaching upon fundamental rights and freedoms. However, the problem remains that creators are often not fairly remunerated for the online use of their works. This book addresses the need for legalisation schemes that favour remunerated access over exclusivity and enforcement for large-scale online use by individuals, while assuring remuneration to rights holders and promoting the development of the information society.</p>


Knocking on Heaven's Door - User Preferences on Digital Cultural Distribution

Bodó, B.

Handke, C.W.

Quintais, J.

Vallbé, J.

<p> 14 July 2015.<br /> This paper explores the social, demographic and attitudinal basis of consumer support to a change from the status quo in digital cultural distribution. First we identify how different online and offline, legal and illegal, free and paying content acquisition channels are used in the Dutch media market using a cluster-based classification of respondents according to their cultural consumption. Second, we assess the effect of cultural consumption on the support to the introduction of a Copyright Compensation System (CCS), which, for a small monthly fee would legalize currently infringing online social practices such as private copying from illegal sources and online sharing of copyrighted works. Finally, we link these two analyses to identify the factors that drive the dynamics of change in digital cultural consumption habits.</p>


Going means trouble and staying makes it double: the value of licensing recorded music online

Bodó, B.

Handke, C.W.

Vallbé, J.

<p> This paper discusses whether a copyright compensation system (CCS) for recorded music—endowing private Internet subscribers with the right to download and use works in return for a fee—would be welfare increasing. It reports on the results of a discrete choice experiment conducted with a representative sample of the Dutch population consisting of 4986 participants. Under some conservative assumptions, we find that applied only to recorded music, a mandatory CCS could increase the welfare of rights holders and users in the Netherlands by over €600 million per year (over €35 per capita). This far exceeds current rights holder revenues from the market of recorded music of ca. €144 million per year. A monthly CCS fee of ca. €1.74 as a surcharge on Dutch Internet subscriptions would raise the same amount of revenues to rights holders as the current market for recorded music. With a voluntary CCS, the estimated welfare gains to users and rights holders are even greater for CCS fees below €20 on the user side. A voluntary CCS would also perform better in the long run, as it could retain a greater extent of market coordination. The results of our choice experiment indicate that a well-designed CCS for recorded music would simultaneously make users and rights holders better off. This result holds even if we correct for frequently observed rates of overestimation in contingent valuation studies.</p>


Remunerating creativity, freeing knowledge: File sharing and extended collective licenses

Ciurcina, M.

Margoni, T.

Martin, J.C. de

Morando, F.

Ricolfi, M.

<p> Position Paper Nexa Center for Internet and Society, 2009.</p>