Blog Intellectual Property and Knowledge Management

Brussels calling: EU Copyright review

January 5th, 2016 by IPKM blog

Just a few days before the European Commission (“EC”) announced its action plan in modernising EU copyright framework on 9 December 2015, IPKM Class of 2015/16 was the first to hear all about it from Kristina Janušauskaitė, a lobbyist in Brussels for IFPI[1], the international non-profit organisation representing the recording industry worldwide.

Kristina Janušauskaitė gave a topical overview of the present state-of-play and timetable of the legislative initiatives. This is of the EC as part of the Digital Single Market Strategy the Commission adopted in light of internet and digital technology developments in May 2015. Legislative changes in the field of copyright should therefore be expected soon. The EC has singled out a number of focal points of focus to which initiatives are directed. The EC is tackling the issue of amending copyright licensing rules – based on the principle of territoriality – which should allow cross-border access of copyright-protected content. On 9 December 2015, the EC has announced its proposal for a Regulation that deals with portability of files. A Dutch subscriber to copyright protected content, for instance, would then be able to also access the subscribed content when living abroad temporarily. This is at present not possible without circumventing protection settings. Another initiative of the EC in this area will for instance be to amend and extend the Cable and Satellite Directive to allow cross-border access of content. Overall, there is a desire to unify copyright titles for ease of control of the content owners, as well as the ease of access for the users.

Additionally, the EC will undertake initiatives in the area of “exceptions to copyright rules” in order to bring existing copyright rules more in line with the realities of present-day technology (e.g. relating to freedom of panorama, as in taking photographs of artworks that are permanently located in public spaces), stimulate research, education and innovation, and enable people with disabilities to access more works. Although these issues may seem minor, as it stands, many photos taken in public amount to infringement without the photographers being aware.

Furthermore, the EC has put the fair remuneration on its agenda. Are creators or performers of copyright protected work still being fairly remunerated given the developments in the digital age? This question is particularly important for authors who recorded their content before the onset of online media. Kristina has given the example of “YouTube” that has evolved from being a plain service platform to being an active content provider. The EC will look into whether the value gap perceived by artists and performers is indeed present and the possible (areas of) solution(s) e.g. in the area of copyright or e-commerce.

Finally, enforcement is also an area that has the attention of the EC. Initiatives are on the way for dealing with improving enforcement in the form of cross-border measures, faster recognition in a Member State of a judgment on the merits received in another Member State, and the development of rules of conduct by all commercial parties on a self-regulatory basis that are in one way or another involved with enabling piracy activities on the internet.

The expert lecture from Kristina Janušauskaitė made clear that although the EC has acknowledged the need for a complete reform and harmonisation of copyright in the EU, it is believed that it may be too soon to undertake such a vast project successfully. The speaker stated that the EC is trying to avoid the idea of complete copyright reform: the system has, for the most part, performed its task and veering too far from the working system would be frowned upon. When you consider that the principle of territoriality is so engraved in the essence of copyright, picking and choosing certain copyright key areas for review first may be a sound strategy for achieving a Community Copyright in the long run. Small steps may get one further, in this case, than one giant leap would do.


By Sil Hu and Mzolisi Mtshaulana

[1] International Federation of the Phonographic Industry registered in Switzerland and having offices in London, Brussels, Hong Kong and Miami, plus a representative office in Beijing.

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