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 Katerina Fabmank 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 education. As researchers, faculty, and students want to return to lecture halls and laboratories, post-pandemic science will continue to benefit from many of the results 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 amendment to the Copyright bill, the federal government has introduced impractical and uncontrollable confusion of digital use regulations, especially copyrighted works in education and research, which will be passed by the Bundestag in due course. The design goes back to the time of copy-counting, examination of seminar machines, and court transcripts split into individual percentage points.
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 sees the Internet as an uncharted area of the scientific sphere, 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 design is a natural thing
Since the introduction of the first digital chart twenty years ago, there has been debate about the conditions under which text and images can be used for research and education in the way the Internet allows – unlike bookshelves and copiers. From the start of the discussions, federal states and science experts have demanded that copyright be digitally applied so that the opportunities provided by digitization can be used for research and education.
The most important condition 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 collector’s 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 “difficult to understand legal text” and which “could only be made available with the help of interpreted literature,” there were more explicit rules.
But even then, these requests had not met the requirements of scientific experts and the Federal Council. Biggest problem: The regulation was limited to five years and its indefinite duration was assessed. Even before that, the regulations had only been in effect for a limited time since the start of the first decade – the ability to plan for digitization looks different.
Permanently and completely remove the time limit from the flag
Changing the current copyright in line with the bill to adapt it to the European DSM directive provides an opportunity to further the current digital boom. Instead, the legislative proposal for governmental parliamentary groups says goodbye to its constructive view on science copyright and only states that the minimum obligations imposed by Brussels will end with the DSM directive.
Several shortcomings: Design change provides access to text and data extraction (algorithm-based methods of analysis for small or disorganized amounts of data), which 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 major projects could be omitted
Time limit threatening the security of investment planning: Federal states have already invested large sums of money in digitizing science and research to make digital knowledge available. More investments are planned to make universities and libraries fit for the digital age. Under the current plans of government groups, the legal basis for these projects will likely expire from 2023. This makes the investment risky and slows the progress of science and research.
The epidemic has shown that we can only manage the major crises of our time with excellent research, solid science and excellent education. The policy should create the best possible framework for this. That is why the government factions must now, at least permanently and completely, withdraw from the Flag Wall. We need to join our efforts to finally introduce copyright into the digital age. It is time for a country to create incentives to invest in digitalization rather than slowing it down due to opaque regulations.