Archive for the ‘copyright’ Category

New EU Copyright Proposal

10th December 2015 by Maura McHugh

In relation to its Digital Single Market strategy, the European Commission delivered today a proposal to allow Europeans to travel with their online content and an action plan to modernise EU copyright rules.

At present, Europeans travelling within the EU may be cut off from online services providing films, sports broadcasts, music, e-books or games that they have paid for in their home country. Today’s proposed Regulation on the cross-border portability of online content services addresses these restrictions in order to allow EU residents to travel with the digital content they have purchased or subscribed to at home. Cross-border portability, a new EU right for consumers, is expected to be a reality in 2017, the same year as the end of roaming charges in the EU (press release). Since it is a proposal for a Regulation, once adopted it will be directly applicable in all 28 EU Member States.

In addition, the Commission today outlines its vision of a modern EU copyright framework. This “political preview” will be translated into legislative proposals and policy initiatives in the next six months, taking into account all inputs from several public consultations.

The SAA, FERA, and FSE have broadly welcomed the European Commission’s commitment to go beyond political declarations and take action on authors’ remuneration.

They said:

In addition to action on authors’ remuneration, the Commission’s communication Towards a modern, more European copyright framework rightly identifies other areas where it can make a difference:

  • Effective enforcement: tackling commercial-scale piracy, which discourages new businesses based on the online exploitation of protected works that are essential to the development of the European online content market;
  • Fostering accessibility, availability and circulation of European works through a range of measures using the review of the Satellite and Cable Directive, the Creative Europe programme and, although not mentioned in the Communication, the Audiovisual Media Services Directive review.

Furthermore, the Commission’s communication shows that copyright and authors’ rights are certainly not broken but can be adapted in specific areas to cope with the challenges of the online environment. SAA, FERA and FSE welcome the fact that the Commission does not directly question the territoriality principle and recognizes the flexibility of copyright and authors’ rights to adapt to any market structure and business model, whether territorial or pan-European.

However, some measures could still inadvertently question the territoriality principle and need to be reconsidered. While we can support portability of subscription-based online content services, poor drafting that would not limit the portability in time could allow cross-border access through the back door. The same applies to a unified copyright title, considered as the long-term goal by the Commission, and any review of the Satellite and Cable Directive that seeks to extend the country of origin mechanism of direct satellite broadcasting to online transmissions.

In addition, cross-border access still seems to be mistaken for the silver bullet to enhance accessibility of European works. While FERA, FSE and SAA support the objective of improved circulation of European works, we consider that only active promotion which brings European works to European citizens’ direct environment will make a difference in a highly competitive market dominated by Hollywood productions.

Finally, we are surprised by the inclusion of private copying levies in the communication and the negative approach. This sits in stark contrast to the European Parliament’s 2014 resolution which underlined the continued relevance of the system to the digital age and its importance to Europe’s creators. It also seems to contradict the Commission’s insistence that authors’ remuneration is one of its priorities. The levy system is a virtuous cycle, which provides freedom to copy for consumers, a contribution from manufacturers and importers who sell copy-making devices and fair compensation for creators.

Barbara Hayes, Chair of the SAA board of directors said:
“Action on authors’ remuneration is very much linked to the fostering of a sustainable online marketplace for European works by enabling screenwriters and directors to receive continued royalties for previous works while working on the development of future projects.”

Cécile Despringre, Executive Director of the SAA added:
“We do not understand the Commission’s long-term vision of a unified copyright title as if it was in its DNA to harmonise everything. This simplistic and bureaucratic vision is in clear contradiction with the EU’s political motto “United in diversity” which acknowledges exactly what the EU is about.”

Pauline Durand-Vialle, CEO of FERA said:
“Any actual improvement of authors’ remuneration will require a thorough approach by the Commission based on improved contractual practices as well as increased collective bargaining and collective management of rights”

Here are some responses from members of Creativity Works!:

David Kavanagh, Executive Officer, Federation of Screenwriters in Europe, said:
“Authors are at the roots of the creative industries’ value chain. We are hopeful that the European Commission will promote a legal environment with fair remuneration of all right holders safeguarding creativity and ensuring the continued investments which are vital to Europe’s economy.”

Anne Bergman, Director of the Federation of European Publishers, said:
“Exceptions to copyright need to be just that – exceptions, not the rule. It’s a positive sign that the Commission says it will take market specificities and existing practices into account regarding exceptions to copyright. The current system enables respect for cultural and national diversity, flexibility and an appropriate degree of EU harmonization and has led to more creative works being available than ever before. Licences can and are already addressing many issues. Any new exception would therefore have to be justified by very strong evidence of market failure, and consider the incentives for investments by writers, publishers and booksellers in order to ensure the creation, publishing and distribution of new books.”

European Commisson Tackles Digitisation and Copyright

21st October 2009 by Maura McHugh

The European Commission had adopted a Communication on Copyright in the Knowledge Economy, which aims to tackle the issue of legal challenges of mass-scale digitisation and dissemination of books, particularly in relation to the European library collections.

The Communication was jointly drawn up by Commissioners Charlie McCreevy and Viviane Reding. Digital libraries such as Europeana will provide researchers and consumers across Europe with new ways to gain access to knowledge. For this, however, the EU will need to find a solution for orphan works, whose uncertain copyright status means they often cannot be digitised. Improving the distribution and availability of works for persons with disabilities, particularly the visually impaired, is another cornerstone of the Communication.

On adoption, Commissioners McCreevy and Reding stressed that the debate over the Google Books Settlement in the United States once again has shown that Europe could not afford to be left behind on the digital frontier.

“We must boost Europe as a centre of creativity and innovation. The vast heritage in Europe’s libraries cannot be left to languish but must be made accessible to our citizens”, Commissioner McCreevy, responsible for the Internal Market, stated.

Commissioner Reding, in charge of Information Society and Media, said: “Important digitisation efforts have already started all around the globe. Europe should seize this opportunity to take the lead, and to ensure that books digitisation takes place on the basis of European copyright law, and in full respect of Europe’s cultural diversity. Europe, with its rich cultural heritage, has most to offer and most to win from books digitisation. If we act swiftly, pro-competitive European solutions on books digitisation may well be sooner operational than the solutions presently envisaged under the Google Books Settlement in the United States.”

The Communication addresses the actions that the Commission intends to launch: digital preservation and dissemination of scholarly and cultural material and of orphan works, as well as access to knowledge for persons with disabilities. The challenges identified by the Commission today stem from last year’s public consultation on a Green Paper ( IP/08/1156 ), the Commission’s High Level Group on Digital Libraries and the experiences gained with Europe’s Digital Library Europeana (IP/09/1257).

The recent information hearings held by the Commission on the Google Books Settlement Agreement highlighted the anomalous situation that would arise were the

Settlement to be approved, namely that the vast number of European works in U.S. libraries that have been digitised by Google would only be available to consumers and researchers in the U.S. but not in Europe itself. Ensuring that Europeans are given access to their own cultural heritage, while European authors are fairly remunerated, is therefore of immediate concern and will require European responses, as recently stressed jointly by Commissioners Reding and McCreevy (MEMO/09/376)

Digital Preservation and Dissemination

The Commission will now engage in a stakeholder dialogue to find viable solutions for simple and cost-efficient rights clearance covering mass-scale digitisation and the online dissemination of library collections still protected by copyright. This concerns both out-of-print works and orphan works, i.e. works whose owner cannot be identified or located.

Orphan Works

The digitisation and dissemination of orphan works pose a particular cultural and economic challenge – the absence of a known rightholder means that users are unable to obtain the required authorisation, e.g. a book cannot be digitised. Orphan works represent a substantial part of the collections of Europe’s cultural institutions (e.g., the British Library estimates that 40 percent of its copyrighted collections are orphan 1 ). The Commission will now examine this phenomenon more in detail via an impact assessment. The aim is for an EU-wide solution to facilitate the digitisation and dissemination of orphan works and the establishment of common ‘due diligence’ standards to recognise orphan status across the EU. First progress in this respect has already been made by the ARROW (Accessible Registries of Rights information and Orphan works) project which gathers national libraries, collective management organisations and publishers and is co-funded by the European Commission under the eContent plus programme (€ 2.5 million). This project (launched in November 2008 ) is aimed at identifying rights holders and clarifying the rights status of a work, including whether it is out of print or orphan: “The EU-funded ARROW project is a first step to link Europe’s different rights registries and make it easier to identify rights holders,” said Commissioners Reding and McCreevy today: ” We call on national libraries, collective management organisations and publishers to build on this good start and work with the Commission to develop a pro-competitive and pan-European system of book registries that will allow for cross-border licensing under a transparent and affordable pricing system, while ensuring a fair remuneration of authors.”

Access for Persons with Disabilities

Persons with disabilities experience obstacles in accessing information. In particular, visually impaired people experience a “book famine” – only 5% of European publications are available in accessible formats, a situation compounded by restrictions on cross-border distribution, even between countries sharing a language. A stakeholder forum on the needs of disabled persons, in particular visually impaired persons, will examine policy responses, including ways to encourage the unencumbered EU trade of works in accessible formats.

YouTube Addresses Copyright

26th August 2009 by Maura McHugh

Wired has an interesting article on how the issue of copyright infringement on YouTube is being tackled.

Its ContentID program was initially designed to discover and delete copyrighted material from YouTube. Now, it can also compensate artists whose work is being infringed:

YouTube’s database of audio and video fingerprints is learning how to deal with the fact that the guy who added a saxophone part to a particular song deserves a certain minute percentage of revenue when the song appears in your YouTube video. When you upload a video with someone else’s song as the soundtrack, you infringe on two exclusive rights of the copyright holder: the right to to distribute the work and the right to synchronize it to video. Nobody cares.

YouTube’s database pays the saxophonist (and everyone else with a stake in the song) a percentage of ad revenue, depending on the way their contracts worked out. This explains why the JK Wedding Dance video was able to feature Chris Brown’s “Forever” without permission, without being taken down.

That said, you can’t please everyone. Warner Music Group thinks YouTube’s revenue-sharing deal is too paltry and refuses to participate. The label also has a problem with guitar-themed videogames and a longstanding quarrel with YouTube.

But Warner’s in the minority here. Other major (and independent) labels have embraced YouTube’s partner program, so that in many cases, you can put entire copyrighted songs in your videos and upload them to YouTube. Just one caveat: If it becomes a hit – as the folks behind the JK Wedding Video found out – the rights-holders of the music will get paid while you, most likely, will not.

Copyright Talk

12th May 2009 by Maura McHugh

The Irish Writers’ Centre in Dublin is running a Writing Week from 18-22 May, during which there will be a variety of writing courses, readings, seminars, literary events and workshops.

An event that should be of interest to many writers will be taking place on Thursday May 21st at 3 pm. Samantha Holman, the Director of the Irish Copyright Licensing Agency, will be giving a talk on the subject of “Copyright, PLR & The Google Book Settlement”.

Admission is free.

From 50 to 70 in 2 Years

29th April 2009 by Maura McHugh

Bill Jones, writing on the Copyright and Technology Blog, has a useful summary of the recent decision by the EU parliament to extend the copyright term for music recordings from 50 years to 70 years.

To ensure that performers benefit fully from the additional royalties thanks to the copyright extension, MEPs amended the original text to prevent the use of previous contractual agreements to deduct money from the additional royalties.

Also included in the legislation is a dedicated fund for session musicians. This fund will be financed by contributions from producers, who will be obliged to set aside at least 20% of the revenues gained from the proposed extension of copyright term. The fund will reward session musicians who gave up their rights when signing the contract for their performance. Collecting societies, which represent performers’ and producers’ interests, will retain the right to administer the annual supplementary remuneration.

Member States will have two years to incorporate the new legislation in their respective countries.

The Parliament also asked the Commission to launch an impact assessment of the situation in the European audiovisual sector by January 2010, with a view to deciding whether a similar copyright extension would benefit the audiovisual world.