Ukraine Open Access Initiative Roils Local Authors Seeking Copyright Protection 28/07/2015 by Eugene Gerden for Intellectual Property Watch 1 Comment Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)It may be an open access initiative, but Ukrainian writers and authors are on the verge of massive protests, due to a recent initiative of the Ukrainian Parliament (Verkhovna Rada) to conduct digitalisation and online publishing of all of the books and documents stored in the national archives and libraries. Vladimir Groisman, head of Ukraine’s Verkhovna Rada and an author of the new initiative According to an official spokesman of Vladimir Groisman, head of Verkhovna Rada, the initiative is very useful as it will provide a free access to local population to the Ukrainian national libraries and books. It is planned that the new state initiative may be approved in the form of amendments to the existing law, which is known as “On Copyright and Related Rights”. Victoria Ptashnik, member of the Ukrainian Parliament and one of the initiators of reforming of the Ukrainian legislation in the field of copyright, commented: “During the Soviet times, the Soviet government mostly focused on the protection of an author itself (even in cases when he did not want to), which took place at the expense of the market, which was very small at that period of time. This was a kind of involuntary care of the state for the author, while the government did not pay enough attention to the commercialization of authors’ works and its further use in market conditions.” In the meantime, the new state initiative has already been criticised by some leading Ukrainian authors and writers, who say its approval will result in huge losses to them and copyright infringement. According to Alexandra Odinetsk, a well-known Ukrainian lawyer for copyright and related rights, online publishing of books without the consent of the author is prohibited by the current Ukrainian legislation and can be contested in the court. The same position is shared by the Ukrainian writers. Vladimir Danilenko, a well-known Ukrainian writer and author, commented: “The initiative of books digitalisation is important, however its implementation should take place very carefully. At the initial stage, this should mainly apply to blackletter books, the current condition of which remains poor. Among the other priorities should be digitalisation and online publishing of books which are not subject to copyright. At the same time, the books of contemporary writers can be digitised and published only in accordance with the written consent of the author.” In addition to Ukrainian writers and public, it is expected that the initiative will be sharply criticized by the European Union, as it will be seen as not complying with EU legislation in the field of copyright. Ukraine recently signed an agreement “About the Association” with the EU. It is a base agreement, but imposes obligations on Ukraine not to approve laws which directly contradict basic EU principles and norms. Some Ukrainian writers have already announced their plan to submit a petition to the European Commission, asking to take measures for the blocking of the new proposal by the Ukrainian government and the national Parliament. Possible Alternatives Meanwhile, according to Alexander Brigints, member of Verkhovna Rada and a well-known Ukrainian writer, the Ukrainian Parliament and the national government are aware of the protests of the writer community, and are considering several options out of the current situation. The state plans may include the provision of compensation to authors and writers whose books will be subject to online publishing and digitalisation. It is planned that this compensation may be in the form of royalties to authors. Another option may involve publishing of books only on paid online resources. Finally, the government has not ruled out the possibility of digitalisation of only those books whose copyright has already expired or is not applied. It is planned that a final decision on the new state initiative will be taken by the Ukrainian government in mid-September. New Anti-Piracy Legislation In addition to planned legislative initiatives, some new laws in the field of copyright have already been taken. For example, several weeks ago the Ukrainian Parliament completed the design of a law aimed at tightening copyright protection on the internet. The new law is known as “On the protection of Copyright in the Internet” and provides additional powers to the Ukrainian government to close and block those web resources, which are involved in the violation of authors’ and inventors’ rights. It is intended that introduction of the new law will allow the Ukrainian government to more efficiently fight piracy in the internet. Reform of the national legislation in the field of copyright and related rights is part of obligations of Ukraine to Western countries and some international organisations that were involved in the provision of financial support to the country in the form of the loans from the International Monetary Fund. To date, the EU and US have repeatedly criticised Ukraine for a high level of piracy and regular violations of copyright. At the same time, due to current tensions with Russia, the Ukrainian government has rejected implementation of its earlier plans for the establishment of a joint body for brand protection among Ukraine, Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan, with headquarters in Kiev. According to the Ukrainian law “On Copyright and Related Rights”, the duration of copyright in Ukraine is currently set at 70 years. 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