The Internet is an incredible tool that enables people around the world to connect, share and co-create. But the ever-looming threat of big business and government putting restrictions on our freedom to share online is very real and could impede the things we value most about the Internet.

Our Digital Future, a new report released by OpenMedia, brings together the results of crowdsourcing 300,000 people from 155 countries to help define what free online expression is and to provide a roadmap for ensuring a digital future that is open to all.

To create a digital environment where “both sharing and creativity flourish,” the report offers the following three key recommendations:

1. Respect Creators

A key aspect of open culture is giving credit where credit is due. The majority of participants surveyed (67 percent) want to see creators of open works receive at least 75 percent of the revenue from their work, and over 89 percent feel that we should always credit the creator of a work when sharing. We can respect creators by ensuring they have access to:

  • New ways to share their work
  • Fair use/fair dealing
  • Any compensation resulting from copyright infringement
  • A rich public domain

2. Prioritize Free Expression

When respondents were asked what their priorities for copyright laws in the digital age are, “Protecting Free Expression” was at the top of the list. The report recommends a copyright agenda with the following four components:

  • Prevent censorship
  • Protect fair use and fair dealing
  • Promote access and affordability
  • Create clear rules to govern the sharing of knowledge and culture online

3. Embrace Democratic Processes

Rather than seeing copyright laws developed and enforced from the top down, respondents want to see copyright laws created through a participatory, multi-stakeholder process that includes Internet users, creators, and copyright law experts. The report recommends that political leaders “abandon closed-door processes like the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), and instead focus on designing participatory, democratic and transparent forums for the creation of copyright laws that can keep pace with our rapidly changing technology and culture.”

The following are concrete policy proposals of the Our Digital Future project:

1. No forced disconnections from the Internet for copyright violations; no three-strikes rules that could harm culture and knowledge creators, and everyday Internet users.

2. Protection for safe harbours, like those in Section 230 of the US Communications Decency Act, that allow creators to access new audiences / no intermediary liability for infringing content disseminated by third parties.

3. Notice-and-notice systems for preventing infringement, like that created by Canada’s Bill C-11, as opposed to notice-and-takedown systems.

4. Promotion and protection of Creative Commons – in takedown systems, no takedowns without adequate consideration of users’ rights and due process, and penalties for false infringement claims.

5. Clear process for creators to dedicate their works to the public domain.

6. Broad protections for fair use/fair dealing – in takedown systems, copyright holders required to take fair use/fair dealing provisions into consideration when issuing takedown notices.

7. Fair use/fair dealing exceptions for transformative commercial remixes; copyright exemptions for amateur and non-commercial remixes.

8. Reasonable, civil (not criminal) penalties for sharing copyrighted materials – civil liability geared towards compensation for culture and knowledge creators (i.e. warnings and fines, tied to reasonable copyright terms as in point 9).

9. Copyright terms focused on compensating creators during their lifetime, and enriching the public domain at their death.

10. No criminal penalties for DRM circumvention; no penalties for DRM circumvention to allow legal uses of content (i.e. circumvention of regional zone access protection); ensure vision-impaired Internet users are not prohibited from creating or format shifting their content.

11. Clear, simple copyright rules, designed to be accessible to the people they are intended to serve.

12. Copyright rules created through an open, transparent and democratic process.

As the digital environment plays an increasingly central role in our lives, copyright issues will become a key issue. Laying out expectations and guidelines for working and sharing in this environment is essential. As the report states, “Making rules that are fair, easily understood by everyday Internet users, and created with the input and approval of the many groups and people whose lives will be directly affected, is the best way to ensure that the digital future belongs to all of us.”


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Cat Johnson


Cat Johnson | |

Cat Johnson is a writer and content strategist focused on coworking, collaboration and community. She's the author of Coworking Out Loud, a guide to content marketing for coworking space operators. Publications include Yes!