C4C London event – February 2011

The future of copyright in Europe

On February 11th, a cross-party group of European Parliament members and their staff, members of the UK House of Lords and Commons and their staff, UK government representation and representatives of industry, libraries and research institutions, and world-renowned musical performers and composers met at the British Library to discuss the future of copyright in Europe.

As the European Union’s digital single market initiative enters its final phase, the question of copyright reform has become more pressing than ever. The current copyright framework is widely considered to be outdated and not fit for purpose in the digital age, and there is growing pressure on the European Commission to take action.

There are a number of key issues that need to be addressed in any future copyright reform. Firstly, the rules on copyright duration need to be updated in light of the fact that works are now available online indefinitely. Secondly, the rules on copyright infringement need to be clarified and made more effective. Finally, the rules on copyright exceptions need to be reviewed and updated to take into account the changing ways that people use and access content.

The European Commission is currently undertaking a review of the copyright rules, and is expected to publish its proposals for reform in late 2018. Here we take a look at the key issues that are likely to be addressed in the reform process.

Copyright duration

Under current EU law, the copyright in a work expires 70 years after the death of the author. This means that works by authors who died before 1948 are now in the public domain. However, for works published after 1948, the copyright will not expire until 70 years after the death of the author.

This system is widely considered to be unfair and outdated. The problem is that most works are now published online, and will remain available indefinitely. This means that the current copyright duration is effectively infinite. As a result, authors and their heirs are able to control and monetise their works long after they have died.

There are a number of possible solutions to this problem. One option would be to reduce the copyright duration to, for example, 50 years after the death of the author. This would bring the EU into line with many other countries, including the United States.

Another option would be to introduce a system of compulsory licensing, under which authors would be paid a percentage of the revenue generated by their works after a certain period of time. This would ensure that authors are fairly compensated for the use of their works, while also ensuring that works do not remain in copyright forever.

Copyright infringement

Another key issue that needs to be addressed in any future copyright reform is the issue of copyright infringement. Under current EU law, copyright infringement is a criminal offence, punishable by a fine or imprisonment. However, the rules on copyright infringement are complex and often unclear. As a result, there is a great deal of confusion about what does and does not constitute an infringement.

This confusion is compounded by the fact that there are a number of exceptions to copyright infringement, such as the fair use exception. This exception allows for the use of copyrighted material without the permission of the copyright holder, provided that the use is for a limited and transformative purpose, such as criticism or commentary.

The problem with the current system is that it is often hard to know whether or not a particular use of copyrighted material falls under the fair use exception. This has led to a great deal of uncertainty, and has resulted in a number of disputes between rightsholders and users of copyrighted material.

One possible solution to this problem would be to introduce a clear and unambiguous fair use exception into EU law. This would remove the confusion and uncertainty surrounding the issue, and would allow users of copyrighted material to rely on the exception with confidence.

Copyright exceptions

Another key issue that needs to be addressed in any future copyright reform is the question of copyright exceptions. Currently, there are a number of exceptions to copyright infringement, such as the fair use exception discussed above. However, these exceptions are often out of date and do not take into account the changing ways that people use and access content.

For example, the current exception for private copying does not take into account the fact that people now often copy content from one device to another, such as from a laptop to a smartphone. As a result, many people are breaking the law without even realizing it.

Another example is the exception for educational use. This exception allows for the use of copyrighted material for educational purposes, such as in a classroom setting. However, it does not take into account the fact that many people now access educational content online. As a result, many educators are using copyrighted material without the permission of the copyright holder.

The problem with the current system is that it is often hard to know whether or not a particular use of copyrighted material falls under one of the exceptions. This has led to a great deal of uncertainty, and has resulted in a number of disputes between rightsholders and users of copyrighted material.

One possible solution to this problem would be to review and update the existing copyright exceptions. This would ensure that they are fit for purpose in the digital age, and would remove the confusion and uncertainty surrounding their use.

Conclusion

The question of copyright reform is a complex and controversial one. There are a number of key issues that need to be addressed, such as the duration of copyright and the rules on copyright infringement. However, finding a solution that is acceptable to all parties is likely to be difficult.

The European Commission is currently undertaking a review of the copyright rules, and is expected to publish its proposals for reform in late 2018. It is hoped that this process will result in a copyright framework that is fit for purpose in the digital age.

Stay tuned for the next C4C event – this time in Brussels!