The digital IP battle in Europe

Hammer Books Law Court

Changes to copyright law could be on the way thanks to a British court ruling that has overturned exceptions to digital copyright rules made by the government last year as well as the contents of a new report presented to the European parliament Legal Affairs Committee.

What are the changes?

Regular readers of this blog will know that the UK government outlined some exceptions to private copying rules last Autumn, these allowed music purchasers to copy content onto other devices such as CDS and MP3 players without permission as long as the copies were for their own use. However, following objections from the music industry it was ruled on June 19th that these exceptions would “damage rightsholders” because measures had not been put in place to adequately compensate them, which is a condition of the EU Copyright Directive that allows EU States to make such exceptions. A plenary vote on the matter is now scheduled for July 9th.

European reforms

Whatever next steps the British government decides to take, the EU Copyright Directive (2001) is likely to undergo changes in the not too distant future, with a proposal to modernise EU copyright law due to be presented by the European Commission before the end of 2015. An own-initiative report written by German MEP Julia Reda and adopted by the European Parliament Legal Affairs Committee on June 16th is expected to feed into those reform proposals. With regards to copying recordings for private use, Reda’s report says that individuals should not be “technically limited”.  At the moment some states such as Germany and France impose levies on recording devices to balance the losses of right holders, though the report does not suggest this should be rolled out across Europe.

The report touches on other digital aspects beyond copying of music, including improving individuals access to content in their native language from elsewhere in Europe, when it is free or paid for. Geoblocking stops people viewing things like music videos, catch up TV and subscription TV services based on location. The report says therefore that solutions should be sought to allow cross-border accessibility for consumers.

In addition, draft rules concerning legal redress for theft and misuse of trade secrets in business, authored by French MEP Constance Le Grip, have also received backing and could make their way into end of year reform proposals. Though JURI has stressed they should incorporate safeguarding for whistleblowers and respect freedom of information. MEPS recently agreed that greater coordination on intellectual property is needed in order to tackle both internal and external infringements.