29 December, 2015

A Rosey Future Ahead? - EU Commission Addresses Copyright for 2016

As the year is nearly coming to a close, this writer thought it would be pertinent to set our sights for the coming year. 2016 will hopefully be one of further advancement, change and full of cases detailing the law in more intricate, nuanced and better ways. It is always interesting to get perspectives on future changes from the legislature, and such thoughts were shared by the EU Commission and its initiatives on copyright for copyright.

A more modern, more European copyright framework

The framework where copyright operates has gone through a massive sea of changes, not only in terms of the media covered and people's interaction with that media, but also the technological advancements that have effectively redefined human interaction, media consumption and our perception of the world. With this change a strong, but malleable approach to reform would need to be adopted, and as countries have taken their steps towards a newer copyright regime, a EU-centric change was also needed. The EU Commission, as stated above, has brought forth several points of reform, introduced in their press release only a handful of days ago, aiming to modernise the copyright rules in the Union.

Widening access to content across the EU

The Commission envisions the enablement of EU citizens to take their paid-for (or subscribed-to) content with them in the Union, or as the press release states: "[the] aim[] [is] to allow a better circulation of content, offer more choice to Europeans, to strengthen cultural diversity and provide more opportunities for the creative sector". Arguably this would be a tremendous improvement and a move for the harmonization of copyright within the EU, accessibility to content, and to expand the markets beyond their respective national borders.

This, per the proposal released some time ago, would be achieved through an obligation on Member States to enable their citizens to access online content services (defined the same as in Directive 2010/13/EU or as a service, both paid for or not, whose main feature is the provision of access and use of copyright works) when they are temporarily out of the country the service originally is provided.

How this is implemented in each Member State, and whether any restrictions will be added to post-proposal, will remain to be seen, but this writer believes this would be a huge leap forward in harmonizing the internal market, and to enable paying customers to access the services and/or content they have duly paid for.

Exceptions to copyright and creating a fairer marketplace

The Commission also sets out an intent to assess the exceptions that apply to copyright protected works, specifically in relation to education, research (data mining, specifically) and the use of such works by disabled individuals. They also aim to provide further clarity to the legal standing of images uploaded by internet users of monuments (this issue discussed more here).

It was the day that Sally had foreseen, and was dreading, all along
It is hard to say what the Commission is set to change or clarify, but this writer will express his concern for the latter point on images featuring monuments and their possible status as infringing or non-infringing works. The spread and dissemination of information is important, as well as individual expression through photographical works, and the dissuasion or illegality of such expression would be worrisome.

The Commission also wants to tackle the remuneration of content creators in the online sphere, specifically in relation to news aggregators, and will "...analyse whether solutions are needed at EU level to increase legal certainty, transparency and balance in the system that governs the remuneration of authors and performers in the EU, taking EU and national competences into account".

This was addressed in more detail in their communication as an examination of "...whether action is needed on the definition of the rights of ‘communication to the public’ and of ‘making available’... [and] whether any action specific to news aggregators is needed, including intervening on rights". This area of the law is still quite murky, and further clarification and potential legislation might be needed to balance the current arguable free-for-all in the online space regarding news aggregation.

Fighting piracy

Finally, the Commission wants to go further in the enforcement of copyright against possible pirates, engaging in a public consultation on the matter with all stake-holders (focusing on the efficacy of Directive 2004/48/EC). Additionally it will include considerations on "...how to make the removal of illegal content by online intermediaries more efficient".

Their objective is clearly a 'follow-the-money' approach, however a strict, DMCA style weaponry could leave legitimate entities and/or fair dealing without proper protection. As their communication states: "...the Commission will assess options and consider by autumn 2016 the need to amend the legal framework focussing on commercial-scale infringements, inter alia to clarify, as appropriate, the rules for identifying infringers, the application of provisional and precautionary measures and injunctions and their cross-border effect, the calculation and allocation of damages and legal costs".

This writer hopes that the review process proposed by the Commission above remains fair and balanced, and remains hopeful things will be fine down the line. Nevertheless, 2016 should be an exciting time for copyright, and we will all undoubtedly stay interested in the proposed regulations that will be put forth.

Source: IPKat  

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