Brussels
10 December 2012
Reporter: Mark Dugdale
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EU copyright reform to come within next two years


European copyright reform could take shape at the end of 2013, according to the European Commission.

The commission has agreed on a two-track process for looking at how the EU’s copyright laws can be modernised for benefit of its digital economy.

In a statement, it said: “The commission's objective is to ensure that copyright stays fit for purpose in this new digital context. Good progress has been made in implementing the May 2011 Intellectual Property Rights Strategy, but there remain a series of issues which need to be addressed to ensure an effective single market in this area.”

“The commission will therefore work for a modern copyright framework that guarantees effective recognition and remuneration of rights holders in order to provide sustainable incentives for creativity, cultural diversity and innovation; opens up greater access and a wider choice of legal offers to end users; allows new business models to emerge; and contributes to combating illegal offers and piracy.”

Track one will see the European commissioners Michel Barnier (internal market and services) and Androulla Vassiliou (education, culture, multilingualism and youth), as well as vice president of the European Commission Neelie Kroes, lead a structured stakeholder dialogue that will work to address six issues.

These issues include cross-border portability of content, user-generated content, data- and text-mining, private copy levies, access to audiovisual works and cultural heritage.

The discussions will explore the potential and limits of innovative licensing and technological solutions in making EU copyright law and practice fit for the digital age.

Discussions will launch at the beginning of 2013 and will aim to deliver market-led solutions at the end of the year. The European Commission was clear in stating that the discussions will “not prejudge the possible need for public policy action, including legislative reform”.

Track two will take a longer-term view and will see the European Commission working towards delivering a decision on whether it should table legislative reforms to EU copyright laws in 2014.

It will look at the same issues as Barnier, Vassiliou and Kroes, and will use market studies, impact assessments and legal drafting work to come to a decision.

Barnier recently delivered a speech on making European copyright rules fit for purpose in the age of the internet at the launch event of the CEPS Digital Forum Taskforce on Copyright in the EU Digital Single Market.

In the speech, he said that the EU’s copyright framework must pass the ‘single market test’ and break down national barriers to online content.

He said: “[I]t is unacceptable that Europeans are confronted online with the borders we have been dismantling in the physical world for 50 years. As single market commissioner, I cannot accept this. This is why I want to work with all relevant stakeholders to find concrete solutions on the ground. I have also asked my services to start assessing whether there is a need for further legislative intervention in this area.”

“Let’s face it: the digital revolution has not yet lived up to expectations in the European context. The online offer varies greatly. It depends on the sector—compare the offer of music or games with the offer of films—and it depends on the member state. And consumers are often denied access or redirected to their local websites when they try to access content across borders.”

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