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EU Parliament calls for pan-EU copyright law

Current law 'not effective'

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The European Commission should create a directly enforceable EU-wide copyright law that could be used to bring copyright infringers to book, the European Parliament has said. Current law is not closely harmonised enough, it said.

The Parliament has adopted a report from a French MEP which examined the state of intellectual property rights (IPR) enforcement and has recommended the creation of a new European copyright law to help reduce infringement.

"[The Parliament] is of the opinion that the possibility of proceeding against infringers of intellectual property rights should be created in the European legal framework," it said. The report calls on the Commission to conduct "an assessment of the ways to strengthen and upgrade the legal framework with respect to the Internet".

The report, by Marielle Gallo, asks the Commission to review the impact of 2004's Directive on the Enforcement of Intellectual Property Rights, and to propose amendments to it which would strengthen EU powers to tackle infringement.

It also said that existing legal regimes were not up to the job of punishing or discouraging infringements.

"[The Parliament] does not share the Commission’s certitude that the current civil enforcement framework in the EU is effective and harmonised to the extent necessary for the proper functioning of the internal market," it said.

The report was adopted by the Parliament today by a vote of 328 to 245.

European countries, including France and the UK, are considering or have recently passed laws that deal directly with the problem of copyright infringement and the internet. The Commission is negotiating on the EU's behalf with a selection of countries on a new international treaty on copyright laws, the Anti Counterfeit Trade Agreement (ACTA).

The Parliament's report said that one major potential solution to online piracy of copyrighted content was the creation of better legitimate content markets.

"Support for and development of the provision of a diversified, attractive, high-profile, legal range of goods and services for consumers may help to tackle the phenomenon of online infringement," it said. "In this respect that the lack of a functioning internal European digital market constitutes an important obstacle to the development of legal online offers and that the EU runs the risk of condemning to failure efforts to develop the legitimate online market if it does not recognise that fact and make urgent proposals to address it.

"[The Commission should] propose a comprehensive strategy on IPRs which will remove obstacles to creating a single market in the online environment and adapt the European legislative framework in the field of IPRs to current trends in society as well as to technical developments," it said.

The report said that "multi-territory licences" would help. Along with harmonised legislation, those licences would "complement this existing growth in services which are legal and which meet consumer demand for easier ubiquitous, instant and customised access to content".

The European Commission has itself identified the differences in national copyright regimes as a barrier to the creation of working international markets for copyrighted material. Digital Agenda Commissioner said earlier this year that pirates had managed to do what legitimate business never had – establish an EU single market for cultural material.

"There is a huge Digital Single Market for audiovisual material. The problem is that it's illegal, and it's not monetized," she said. "We have effectively allowed illegal file-sharing to set up a single market where our usual policy channels have failed."

Like the Parliament's report, Kroes advocated the creation of a 'multi-territorial' licence for material. "Creating the legal Digital Single Market will lead to a wealth of options for citizens. It will strike a blow against piracy and benefit authors and artists," she said. "And it will do this without endangering the open architecture that is essential for the internet. It is obviously common sense to fix problems like this."

Copyright © 2010, OUT-LAW.com

OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.

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