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One European copyright law-to-rule-them-all? EU launches review

Commish seeks 'industry views' on harmonising IP laws across Europe

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The European Commission is seeking industry views on whether to completely harmonise copyright laws across the EU.

The Commission has launched a consultation in an effort to gather views on how to modernise the existing EU copyright framework (36-page/223KB PDF). Respondents are being asked for views on matters ranging from the accessibility of digital content across the trading bloc, limitations and exceptions to copyright protection and remuneration for rights holders.

However, it is also consulting on whether to set copyright rules that apply consistently across the whole of the EU. At the moment there are a number of EU laws governing copyright but which each EU member state have implemented differently.

"The idea of establishing a unified EU Copyright Title has been present in the copyright debate for quite some time now, although views as to the merits and the feasibility of such an objective are divided," the Commission said in its consultation paper. "A unified EU Copyright Title would totally harmonise the area of copyright law in the EU and replace national laws. There would then be a single EU title instead of a bundle of national rights."

"Some see this as the only manner in which a truly Single Market for content protected by copyright can be ensured, while others believe that the same objective can better be achieved by establishing a higher level of harmonisation while allowing for a certain degree of flexibility and specificity in Member States’ legal systems," it added.

Rights holders and other industry stakeholders have also been asked to detail their experiences in the licensing of rights across national borders within the EU. The Commission said that the EU might need to take "further measures", either by introducing new laws or encouraging non-legislative solutions, to balance the desire for greater accessibility of content services across the EU with the need to provide "an adequate level of protection for right holders".

The Commission has also asked whether the act of linking to copyrighted material should require the permission of rights-holders. A number of cases are due to be ruled on by the Court of Justice of the EU on this developing area of law, but the Commission has asked whether it should set rules out around linking within new legislation.

"Should the provision of a hyperlink leading to a work or other subject matter protected under copyright, either in general or under specific circumstances, be subject to the authorisation of the right holder?" the Commission has asked.

Respondents are also being asked if EU member states should be required to implement certain limitations or exceptions to copyright rules within national laws. Some of the exceptions that apply allow copyrighted material to be used within certain parameters for purposes such as private copying and news reporting without that use being deemed an infringing act.

At the moment most of the limitations and exceptions set out in the EU's copyright framework are optional to implement. The UK government has recently set out its intention to expand the number of exceptions acknowledged under UK copyright laws, such as by introducing a right to parody copyrighted works.

The Commission's consultation is open until 5 February 2014.

Copyright © 2013, Out-Law.com

Out-Law.com is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.

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