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Xnet responds to the SGAE in Europe

Xnet answered the SGAE’s disastrous comments on the Draft Report regarding the harmonization of certain aspects of Copyright and related rights in the Information Society in Europe.

EXCLUSIVE: This is the anachronistic and toxic document that the SGAE has circulated.

Our answer

This is the answer we have given in an emergency meeting in the European Parliament, invited by Copyright For Creativity y junto con EDRi, Open Rights Group, organizations with which we collaborate.

From Xnet we want state that one of our main concerns is the future of the cultural business and its ability to promote economic growth and to create jobs. We observe how organizations like the SGAE, not being able to adapt to the new business models, are only seeking to keep their “status quo” and force a bottleneck situation to save their monopoly, preventing the healthy development of a new, diverse and profitable cultural business.

In the 21st century we need to stop thinking about free access and circulation of information, culture and knowledge as something that hinders economic growth and start thinking about it as something that facilitates the creation, entrepreneurship and innovation which actually drives social and economic development.

What the SGAE proposes is a business design paradigm absolutely outdated and condemned to fail. We understand that collecting societies are businesses and that they are trying to perpetuate their business model. But since it is a toxic model for the general cultural sector; we encourage the MEPs and the Commission to avoid being influenced by lobbies that try to block the development and diversity within the field of the cultural activities.

First of all, we want to point out their frontal rejection of the Draft Report on the harmonisation of certain aspects of Copyright and related rights in the Information Society in Europe; a report in fact much more restrained than the current proposals being made by civil society in this field. It shows that the SGAE is not an interlocutor open to discussion and able to join the copyright reform in a constructive and consensual way.

We now address their main objections to the report:

1-2 We consider that their statement saying that the Commission’s Consultation, with eleven thousand participants (the one with the highest level of participation last year), is not representative of the common interests of the European citizens, and suggesting that the only valid interests are those of the collecting societies, is just outraging within European institutions that claim to be democratic and that should be enoguh reason to not consider SGAE an interlocutor at all.

5- Cultural work that belongs to public entities like universities, museums or libraries, should circulate under licenses that allow a return to the society which invested in its production. On the contrary, the idea of imposing levies on them shows the complete disconnection between the greedy collecting societies and the real world, where most of the mentioned entities are literally broke and where the vast majority of the materials are produced by the institutions themselves, already financed by públic money.

Since we have already paid, all of this material must remain accessible to citizens and researchers.
The five euros per student levy that CEDRO and other collecting societies want to impose, amounting to millions per year and university, is again outrageous and does not provide any return for the public access to cultural goods. It is a bottomless pit.

6- The mere proposal to reduce even more the freedom of rightholders to voluntarily relinquish their rights and dedicate their works to the public domain, so that the collecting societies can manage them, just exposes again huge and irrational greed.

7- We defend the economical benefits of copyright within the limits of logic and decency. The idea of further extending the copyright protection only benefites inflexible old businesses, once again, totally disconnected from the real world and unable to understand nowadays entrepreneurial speed. Dozens of reports have vastly demonstrated that excessively prolonged copyright is completely uneconomical, antisocial and a brake for innovation and culture.

Regarding the exceptions and limitations, the usual demagogic argument saying that “civil society claims for copyright reform”, benefits technological companies (an argument that usually opens the doors for setting useless levies on technological companies which end up being paid by the users) is arguing on a point which is not the issue being discussed right now.

Moreover, it is necessary to leave an open door to exceptions and limitations of future fair “uses” that cannot be foreseen at the present moment. Not understanding this necessity once again shows the complete disconnection between the collecting societies and the rapidly changing digital environment on which they pretend to legislate from an absolute ignorance.

And if they defend that exceptions and limitations are not an obstacle, we point out that many online ventures can not be established in Spain because of the legal uncertainty generated and because of the astronomical levies imposed by the SGAE and other collecting societies. Some astonishing examples are Google and Netflix; it must be understood that if Google and Netflix can not bear this kind of gangster regime, there is not a chance that other countless local venture businesses can do it. Therefore, Spain can serve as an example for the MEPs of a model defended by collecting societies and lobbies that leads to failure and that should NOT be followed.

Finally, creators are not protected by forcing them to join collecting societies “de facto”, thereby violating freedom of association.

As anyone can see taking a look into the results of the European Commission’s consultation on copyright, what civil society is proposing is a healthy balance between the rights of the creators and entrepreneurs and the rights of the citizens to access information, culture and knowledge which is the only possible framework for a sustainable economic model for the cultural business. We require:

  • More legal certainty and security for those who start a business on the Internet or using the Internet. That is totally the contrary of what the SAGE is proposing
  • Instead of trying to criminalize and forbid the distribution of culture, information and knowledge between individuals on the Internet, what we need to do is to normalize it. That means, if the sharing activity produces benefits, it should be considered a legal business and, therefore, be subject to taxes, as any other economical activity. Part of these taxes could be then, easily distributed between the creators in a fair way, using an algorithm that proportionally revenues the more successful work but also promotes the diversity of artists and culture and with no need of the obsolete, expensive and corrupt bureaucratic structure of collecting societies as they are designed now. On the other hand, if it is a service that does not generate benefits; it should not be subject to taxes or levies, since it is a free altruist activity which promotes and generates more culture in return
  • Protect the tools and places for sharing culture, information and knowledge, not only because it is a right, but because they are the broth for the emergence of cultural creations and the industry of the future

Finally, we actually do not consider the SGAE as a valid interlocutor, not only because its former director, Teddy Bautista, and the whole direction were on trial for speculation and corruption in 2011, thanks to the efforts we have made as citizens to expose them, but because there has not been any improvement in this area in the organization that still to this day has failed to pass its budget for 2013 owing tens of millions to their own members.


That said, Xnet calls for a positive reform of the Copyright [see paragraph 1 below] and believes that pressing from Europe we can overcome the new intellectual property law of the Spanish government [see paragraph 2 below], possibly the most stupid law in the world.

A positive reform of the Intellectual Property Law

Civil society has been for years developing proposals and concrete content to replace the ossified measures and points of view of our representatives and reach a fair balance between the rights of creators and entrepreneurs and the rights of citizens to access and share knowledge, information and culture.

No more excuses. A fair reform of the Copyright, beneficial for everybody, is absolutely feasible.

Here you can see the programmatic, concrete and sustainable proposals from the civil society -> Positive Agenda.


Act in Europe to overcome the new intellectual property law of the Spanish government

As said, we will overcome this anachronistic law from Spain, hacking and disobeying, and from Europe, making them to declare it obsolete before it is born responding with our Positive Agenda.

A reminder of which are the main aberrations of the new Copyright Law – possibly the mot stupid law in the world. We can also win in the legislative field for international laws and treaties will help us to:

  • Prevent back-steps again on levis
  • Prevent the restriction of our right to copy
  • Prevent excessive charges from collecting societies, their monopolies and corruption networks
  • Prevent automatic self-incrimination, an aberration that denies the presumption of innocence (this is how we won against Sinde’s Law, although it reappears in the new reform)
  • Defend and extend the right to quote
  • Defend and extend the right of association and to earn a decent wage for the work carried out
  • As confirmed by several sentences, the circulation on the Internet can not be compared with public communication [Linking is not an act of public communication; according to the ECJ, it can not be considered an infringement of copyright]

In addition, and against the looting of public educational resources by the collecting societies, we invite and support educational institutions, as a great sources of creation and knowledge, to take direct control over the knowledge created and distributed by them, to make it free and also paid equitably among all who create it without it being a business.

We are putting an end to this monopoly.
Free Internet or barbarism.


Note: There were 11.000 responses to the consultation on the Copyright reform (one of the consultations with higher participation in 2014) where citizens made clear that they demand:

  • A unique Copyright Law, easily understandable and common throughout Europe to eliminate discrepancies between countries and uncertainties for users.
  • Shorter duration of copyright, which is currently 70 years after death.
  • Clear definition of the rights of non-commercial use. The right to quote, criticism, parody, research, education and lending by libraries must be protected.
  • Exceptions and protection for user generated content which may contain third party content subject to copyright and for file sharing between individuals.
  • The possibility to link content without being responsible for the copyright that may be impossible to determine by users.
  • Leave an open door to exceptions and limitations for future “fair uses” that can not be foreseen at the present day.

EDRi analyzes and responds to SGAE’s position paper: