On 14 September, the European Commission unveiled the new package of copyright reforms. 

Before these were published, several documents had already been leaked including drafts of:

  • the Directive on copyright in the Digital Single Market,
  • the Regulation laying down rules on the exercise of copyright,
  • the Commission’s impact assessment and Commission communication promoting fair, efficient and competitive European copyright-based economy.

The package also includes one further Directive and Regulation on the implementation of the Marrakesh convention regarding the use of copyrighted and other protected materials for the benefit of persons who are blind, visually impaired or otherwise print disabled.

Even before the proposals were revealed, the feathers of media and sports companies in particular had been thoroughly ruffled.

A particular point they have attacked is the country of origin principle. The proposed rules would create a legal mechanism that would make it easier for broadcasters to obtain necessary authorisations from right-holders to transmit programmes online in other EU member states.  This is extremely worrying for media companies as, according to them, it risks diluting the licensing value of content and therefore undermining the way films and TV shows are financed.

Another issue with the proposed pan-European rules that is proving to be controversial is the so-called “Google tax”. Under current rules, video platforms such as YouTube and Facebook only remove material once notified on a case-by-case basis.  This new “Google tax”  would require the hosts of such content to shoulder more responsibility to detect copyright infringements themselves. This would entail a more proactive approach by the companies to run software checks to identify if they are hosting copyright material. Such software can be expensive and would be a particularly harsh  burden for smaller technology firms.  Whilst this proposal has been heavily pushed by artists and applauded by some news outlets, rather predictably, it has come under fire from the said companies.

Other areas of the reform that have been overshadowed by the above are rules on research, education and inclusion of disabled people. The proposed rules could enhance teaching and research resources. For example, they allow educational establishments to use materials to illustrate teaching through digital tools and in online courses across borders, as well as making it easier for researchers across the EU to use text and data mining technologies to analyse large sets of data. The Commission has also proposed a new mandatory EU exception, which would allow cultural heritage institutions to preserve works digitally, something that the Commission considers to be crucial for “the survival of cultural heritage and for citizens’ access in the long term.”

This is only the beginning for copyright reform as the Commission promises to bring further legislation on enforcement of intellectual property rights, including copyright.

Links to all proposals and papers: