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Thursday, 27 January 2011

Theses and the InfoSoc Directive: dancing the Slovak Three-Step

A man of great principle and the author of one of
the world's most influential theses, Martin Luther
was not an internet user and always preferred
doors to Windows
Fellow blogger and friend of the IPKat Martin Husovec would like to know what readers of this blog think about the real or imagined compatibility of a new Slovak law with Directive 2001/29 (the information society directive).  He explains:

"At the end of last year the Slovak parliament passed (and the President signed) so called anti-plagiarism amendment of the Act on Schools of Higher Education. This basically legislates that each student at any Slovak university must consent to have his thesis published online.  Failure to grant this licence results in a student's not being able to defend that thesis and subsequently complete his university education. These provisions apply not only to bachelor and master students, but also doctoral students and habilitation works [Merpel's not too sure what these are, but they do sound grand ...].

According to the Act each student must conclude an non-exclusive and territorially unrestricted licence agreement, agreeing to have his work released and communicated to the public via the Slovak Republic (represented by the Ministry of Education) before his thesis defence. This licence agreement must be concluded without any remuneration. By default every thesis will be published with electronic information identifying rights and technological protection measures which prevent the printing and downloading of the work, but any student can consent to publish his work without these restrictions. Works will be published online on a so-called Central Register of Qualification Works (CRZP). If the thesis includes trade secrets, classified information or personal data, that part shall be embodied in a special attachment which is not subject to publication. 
In order to protect possible patentable technical solutions or some other interests, the Act provides that a student can postpone online publication within CRZP for 12 months. This period could be exceptionally extended to another 24 months (amounting to 36 months in total) under special conditions following a special procedure. 
The only works that are excluded from the online publication are those that have been already published in a periodical or non-periodical publication. There is no time limit after which thesis shall be taken down. However, every student who has published his work as a periodical or non-periodical publication after his graduation can subsequently ask for its removal. The details of this publication have to be proved to CRZP. The law will come into effect on 1 September 2011.

My primary concern is whether this law is a measure having the equivalent effect to a statutory licence? If so, is this amendment compatible with the information society directive, especially its exhaustive list of exceptions and limitations --  and the three step test?

A little bit more information (with links) is provided here".
All comments and suggestions are welcomed, as well as any clues as to whether other jurisdictions have taken -- or are thinking of taking similar measures.  Merpel says, I don't mind the compulsory publication of theses -- I'm just terrified at the thought that it might become compulsory to read them.

Dance the three-step in Sardinia here
Three steps to breakdance here (not for the faint-hearted ...)
Pathetic website offering words that rhyme with "theses" here


Anonymous said...

Seems to me like a breach of the authors droit de divulgation/publication. The condition of granting a licence in order to graduate is simple blackmale and very coercive.

Japser said...

As in most European countries, I presume the universities are well funded by tax payers. In my opinion, those people should be able to benefit from knowledge built up by means of that funding. With apparently quite some safeguards in place, like an exception for confidential information and deferral of publication to enable patent protection, I do not see this issue here.
(with a previous employer, I had some discussions with universities as I wanted publication of theses deferred and certain parts blanked out for IP/confidentiality reasons - not always very pleasant discussions).

And a bit off-topic, though within that reasoning, I do see an issue with university scientist having to assign copyrights for their publications to commercial publishers, who get the exclusive right for publication in expensive journals. And in that way, important results of research heavily funded by tax payers result in big profits of such publishers, rather than to benefit those who have already paid for the research. Well, unless they pay the subscription fees...
I see this latter discussion pop up once in a while in my own country, though I guess most people just comply to not spoil their ticket to fame and the reasons for receiving government funding (=published articles).

Anonymous said...

mountains and molehills. standard practice in the Uk. publication online no more of an issue than depositing thesis in library. can defer publication in UK (at Uni which had pleasure of my company) for 5 years simply by ticking a box. if someone doesn't want elsevier et al making a few pounds then publish work directly online without the peer review.

get a grip people. no-one's being stoned here.

Dr Mark Summerfield said...

If the Slovak government provides funding to support the students' studies/research, then it seems to me that the licence agreement is not concluded 'without any remuneration'.

If publication of the thesis is, in any event, a condition of enrolment and/or completion (as it is in many universities around the world) then one would assume that the Slovak universities already had at least an implied licence to publish. If so, then all this legislation is doing is to formalise an existing arrangement, which seems like a very wise thing to do in moving to electronic publication.

Personally, I am quite impressed by the fact that the Slovak system appears actually to be helping students to protect their rights, by making Digital Rights Management (DRM) a standard feature of the electronically published documents.

Diplom. ing., dr., dr. habil. Urheber von Copy-Righter said...

Sounds copy-leftist. The strange here is that it's official state policy. @ Jasper & Dr Summerfield: Rather the students are funding the universities and they are the 'employers'. And commercial publishers do not issue students' works.
It's not matter of free use and 3 steps test, but of free will. Some legal fundamentals have been forgotten here. If these are works for hire, why the compulsory agreement? It should be taken for granted by the law. Could achievement in education be measured by conformist attitudes (signing or refusal of something not connected to the educational standards)? In the case of scientists, ask ILO for the foundations of firing an employee.

Do you know how much national systems is violating Lessig?

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