The European citizens’ initiative “Freedom to Share” seeks to legalise file sharing for personal purposes by changing copyright and related rights and setting up a mechanism to remunerate fairly the authors and other rights holders.

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We are citizens from eight different EU countries and we requested the registration of the European citizens' initiative (ECI) "Freedom to Share" claiming the right to share files including creative works. We believe that sharing is a fundamental right and deserves the same dignity as the right of the authors. We are working and soon we will start collecting signatures: if we collect one million signatures, the European Commission will have to take a position on our initiative. Get ready to support the initiative "Freedom to Share" and put people's right to share back at the heart of European politics!

Sharing is nice, it makes us feel good and improves our lives; it is a deeply human, natural act. It is the same also for file sharing. This is why, starting from the 90s, when the new file sharing technologies (Napster, Gnutella, Freenet, BitTorrent, etc.) made it very easy for people to share files, many enthusiastically greeted this innovation. Finally, you were allowed to find on-line your preferred song, download it and listen to it. Or find a movie and watch it; or find a book and read it. All without having to ask permission to anybody! And, even more exciting, if you loved a song, a movie or a book, you could make it available to others sharing your passion.

Not everyone was happy for this innovation, however.

The Majors, worried by the risk of losing profits and losing their role as controlling intermediaries, firmly opposed the sharing of files containing works protected by copyright and related rights (music, films, books, etc.). They have on their side a “bug” in the laws: copyright and related rights laws, designed in past centuries for the analog world, and gradually adapted over time, do not allow file sharing. So today it is forbidden to share files that contain works protected by copyright and related rights through file sharing technologies.This is so, even if copyright and related rights should be implemented taking into account the fundamental rights of users of the works, particularly the right to science and culture, balancing them with the fundamental rights of the authors of the works.

This is what we claim with the initiative "Freedom to Share".

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We want a copyright that regulates file sharing by implementing in a balanced way the two paragraphs of art. 27 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights proclaimed on 10 December 1948 by the United Nations General Assembly, the first, providing for the right to science and culture for everyone, and the second, providing for right of authors:
"(1) Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits.
(2) Everyone has the right to the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production of which he is the author.".

Many scholars agree: file sharing can be legalized by changing copyright and related rights. It's simple: if authors and other rights holders (including Majors) are fairly remunerated, file sharing for personal purposes can be allowed. In other words, it is possible to provide for a waiver of copyright to people that share files for personal purposes if the right holders receive money. Remuneration of the right holders could be achieved in different ways. For instance, by providing for a small overcharge when people pay Internet connection; or by requiring that people willing to use file sharing technologies pay collecting societies that represent right holders. Yet, to date, this simple change in copyright and related rights, which would benefit everyone, has not materialized anywhere in the world.

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File sharing technologies allow the works to be distributed in an extraordinarily efficient way; nevertheless, rights holders have never been able to take advantage of the potential of these technologies. Unfortunately, we are faced with a typical example of market failure: rights holders are in a "prisoner dilemma" situation, and fail to agree to allow users to share their works. Legislative action is therefore necessary to solve this situation, which harms society at large, by forcing rights holders and users to resort to unnecessary intermediaries. The issue is even more relevant today. 20 years of file sharing prohibition fostered market players to establish on-line content service providers (Spotify, Netflix, etc.) that have privileged access to users’ data and therefore have the power to control and profile EU citizens. Unfortunately, the situation didn't change after the approval of Directive (EU) 2019/790 on copyright and related rights in the Digital Single Market, a directive that was adopted in 2019 with the aim of solving copyright problems in the digital but which has disappointed many people. This directive regulates the provision of on-line content sharing services, but does not allow file sharing among EU citizens. The price we pay today is an unacceptable inclined plane in favor of distribution platforms, which have the power to control and profile users.

File sharing is our right. We claim it!

We will start soon collecting signatures so that the EU Commission has to take a position on our initiative.

Visit our website and leave us your contact details. We will notify you when the signature collection will begin. Tell us too if you want to contribute to the campaign: it will be a pleasure to share this fight to claim the right to share!

Story by Marco Ciurcina, on behalf of the organisers of the European citizens' initiative "Freedom to Share"

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Contributors

Marco Ciurcina

Italian lawyer, working in the field of commercial and contractual law, Information Technology law, Copyright, Patent, Trademark, and Privacy law, particularly, with special focus on free software licenses, open content and open data. He teaches "Law and ethics of communication" at the Politecnico di Torino. He is a free software and digital fundamental rights activist.

You can get in touch with him on the European Citizens’ Initiative Forum, or by clicking here!

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