21 January, 2014

Public Consultation on EU Copyright Law

Copyright reform seems to be on everyone's mind, with reviews being or having been undertaken in the United Kingdom, Australia and Ireland in the past year. Even in this writer's mind copyright has been in dire reform in many jurisdictions, and the calls for change are a welcome change of pace. In conjunction with the aforementioned two EU common law jurisdictions' reform thoughts, the Union itself has set up consultations on the review of its copyright rules. The harmonization of copyright across the EU is something that is desired, especially in the current copyright climate, which is seeking to fit the laws with modern uses of copyrighted material.

According to the European Union's press release this is in response to "...the completion of its on-going efforts to review and modernise the EU copyright legislative framework as announced in the Intellectual Property Strategy "A Single Market for Intellectual Property Rights", while facilitating practical industry-led solutions through the stakeholder dialogue Licences for Europe to issues on which rapid progress was deemed necessary and possible". What this revision will change will ultimately be left to the EU; however the consultation does indicate certain desired changes or directions which the Union may take in the future.

In setting out the reasons for the consultation, the EU was very clear in the background and needs for reform:
"Over the last two decades, digital technology and the Internet have reshaped the ways in which content is created, distributed, and accessed. New opportunities have materialised for those that create and produce content... for new and existing distribution platforms, for institutions such as libraries, for activities such as research and for citizens who now expect to be able to access content... regardless of geographical borders... This new environment also presents challenges. One of them is for the market to continue to adapt to new forms of distribution and use. Another one is for the legislator to ensure that the system of rights, limitations to rights and enforcement remains appropriate and is adapted to the new environment."
Indeed the changes in the environment where copyright functions on a day-to-day basis have drastically changed since the emergence of the Internet and a heavier emphasis on the consumption of digital goods as opposed to their physical counterparts. How the aforementioned issues will be tackled leaves a lot of room for discussion in submissions; however this writer will endeavor to give his insight on some of the solutions or questions posed by the Union.

The EU in this process would want to unify the approach to copyright within all of its territories; which currently is a process which takes place in each nation individually, hindering licencing or forcing partial or separate EU-whole licences to be created. Arguably such a licencing scheme would be desirable, but whether this requires legislative action is questionable. The Union should offer an easy way to licence content all over Europe, providing all of its citizens access to the same or most of the content others have access to. The Single Market in this regard needs to be encouraged, not necessarily further legislated on.

The EU also wants to further clarify the position the law holds with digital content; more specifically the making available of content and what that entails; the rights relating to the making available of content (its reproduction and the right to make it available) and their split nature between different parties; the complexity of linking on the Internet and browsing content on it (and issues that might arise relating to temporary copies thereof); and the ownership of downloaded content. Some of these questions, as pointed out by the consultation paper, have been referred to the Court of Justice of the European Union, and those decisions will undoubtedly influence the changes that might be needed after, if at all.

The paper also seeks to further clarify, and potentially unify, the approaches taken by Member States to exceptions in relation to copyrighted content and their use. Although several a Directive has been issued pertaining to exceptions particularly, for example in terms of research and teaching, there is a clear need for uniformity and the extension of new exceptions in this regard, at least in this writer's opinion. A clear and concise regime of legitimate use of copyrighted content all over the EU would be beneficial to users, and enable the Single Market to function more consistently and easier. As the paper points out, user-generated content is an important consideration, which is yet to be legislated on, among a few other exceptions. As said, this is one area where the EU should step up and give further guidance and unification, purely due to the international nature of digital content especially, easing the modern markets and unifying their approaches within the Union.

The consultation paper contains much more than what has been discussed above, and all parties which can participate in this process should voice their opinions. Although the EU has been far from complacent in recent years in terms of copyright review, this process gives the ability for others to directly influence this process, and therefore improve the current Single Market. Copyright has been a hot-button topic, and seems to keep as such for the foreseeable future.

Source: TorrentFreak

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