A Unilateral Declaration of the Digital Human Rights Dangerously Mistakes Personal Data and Creative Work

French civil society organisations April, Creative Commons France, Framasoft, La Quadrature du Net, Libertic, Open Knowledge Foundation France, République Citoyenne and SavoirsCom1 denounce Forum d’Avignon‘s Preliminary Declaration of the Digital Human Rights which dangerously confuses personal data with creative work.

Paris, 8 October 2014 — In November 2013, the French think tank Forum d’Avignon published a manifesto entitled, “Principles for an universal declaration of the Internet user and the creator in digital times” in which it attempts to associate personal data with creative work by defining the concept of “digital cultural data”: “The digital cultural data belongs to each individual. They have It has a patrimonial and moral value which he is the only one able to negotiate”.

During its last Assembly, on 19 September 2014, the Forum d’Avignon reasserted its stance in a column entitled, “Preliminary Declaration of the Digital Human Rights”. In its fifth paragraph, the Declaration attempts once again to tie down personal data and creative work: “Any exploitation of the data or creative works of any individual requires his free, prior, informed, time-bound and reversible consent”.

It is worth noting that the Forum d’Avignon is a French think tank whose main goal is to deepen the links between culture and economy. We hereby denounce the Forum’s use of digital privacy’s debate to its own profit, that is in order to reinforce copyright.

More specifically, Article 5 of the Declaration poses that “any use of the data as a creative work” is subject to prior consent of the individual. Such a formulation completely ignores the fundamental role of the public domain as well as the exceptions and limitations to copyright, which are all essential in balancing and preserving the system.

Similarly, the application of copyright law to personal data is a dangerous solution for it is based on the sole individual responsibility and control of the use of data which identify oneself. The French State Council and the National Digital Council rightly warned against such a conceptual framework as it could lead to greater discrimination and therefore inequalities in the protection of privacy. We are not all equal with the exploitation and protection of our data and it is essential that common rules exist.

We therefore emphasise that personal data is not a form of creative work and must not be considered as such. Equally, a form of creative work is not personal data and must not be considered as such.

The protection of personal data is a fundamental stake in the digital age. It needs to be balanced with freedom of expression and the right to information.

Debates dedicated to the aforementioned issues at stake are complex, and we primarily need clear definitions and arguments to enable the widest majority to partake. Contrastingly, the unilateral, bombastic and misleading Declaration of the Forum d’Avignon only blurs these serious challenges.


April is a pionneer of free software in France. April has 4150 members and since 1996 is a major player in the democratization and dissemination of free software and open standards to the general public, professionals and institutions in the Francophone world.

Creative Commons France is a nonprofit organization whose purpose is to facilitate the dissemination and sharing of works while supporting the creation of new practices in the digital age.

Framasoft is a network of popular Free education in general and Free Software in particular. contact@framasoft.org

La Quadrature du Net is an organization of human rights and freedoms on the Internet. As such, La Quadrature du Net engages in debates on freedom of expression, copyright, regulation of telecommunications or respect for privacy. Contact: Philippe Aigrain, co-founder and strategic advisor pa@laquadrature.net +33 6 85 80 19 31

LiberTIC is a French association, independent and non-partisan, which aims to promote e-democracy and open government data. Contact: claire.libertic@gmail.com

Open Knowledge Foundation France (OKF France) is a local group of the Open Knowlegde, an international non-profit network founded in 2004 that promotes free culture in all its forms. OKF France actively participates in initiatives of international significance such as the Open Data Index and develops digital tools like the Public Domain Calculator. Contact: contact@okfn.fr

République Citoyenne is an association helping citizens to form opinions on Open Government and to assert them. Contact: contact@republiquecitoyenne.fr

SavoirsCom1 is an association that focuses on knowledge commons policy. SavoirsCom1 defends the views expressed in his manifesto. Contact: savoirscom1@gmail.com