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  Recent "Digital Copyright" Legislation: European Union

Directive on Copyright and Related Rights in the Information Society

In November 1996 the European Commission adopted a communication concerning the follow-up to the Green Paper on copyright and related rights in the information society. The proposed Directive aims at transposing into Community law the main international obligations arising from the two treaties on copyright and related rights adopted within the framework of the WIPO in December 1996 (WIPO Performances and Phonogram Treaty and WIPO Copyright Treaty). It applies to provisions relating to:

- the legal protection of computer programs

- rental right, lending right and certain rights related to copyright in the field of intellectual property

- copyright and related rights applicable to broadcasting of programs by satellite and cable retransmission

- the term of protection of copyright and certain related rights

- the legal protection of databases

The proposal was first presented by the Commission in January 1998, amended in May 1999 and currently is at second reading before the Parliament. Final adoption of the Directive could take place at the end of 2000 or the beginning of 2001 respectively.

A full-text version for download (pdf file) of the amended proposal for a Directive on copyright and related rights in the Information Society is available on the website of the European Commission (DG Internal Market): http://www.europa.eu.int/comm/internal_market/en/intprop/intprop/docs/index.htm

General critique concerning the proposed EU Directive includes:

- Open networks
The new law could require (technological) surveillance of communications to ensure enforcement. Also because Service Providers might be legally liable for transmitting unauthorized copies, the might in turn have to deny access to anybody who could not provide them with financial guaranties or insurance.

- Interoperable systems
The draft could negate the already established right in EU law for software firms to make their systems interoperable with the dominant copyright protected systems. This would be a threat to the democratic and economic rights of users.

- Publicly available information
It is yet unclear whether new legal protections against the bypassing of conditional access technology apply only for content with an exclusive right. If the content is already in the public domain, then there can be no possible violation of copyright law just from gaining access to it.

Comments from the library, archives and documentation community on the amended Directive embrace:

The Library Association

EBLIDA (European Bureau of Library, Information and Documentation Associations)

Society of Archivists (U.K.) and Public Record Office (U.K.)

EFPICC (European Fair Practices In Copyright Campaign) http://www.eblida.org/efpicc/comments.htm

browse Report:
    Intellectual Property and the "Information Society" Metaphor
-3   Copyright Management and Control Systems: Post-Infringement
-2   Problems of Copyright Management and Control Technologies
-1   Recent "Digital Copyright" Legislation: U.S.
0   Recent "Digital Copyright" Legislation: European Union