Europe updates content copyright laws for the Digital Single Market

The European Commission has outlined its vision for modernising EU copyright laws concerning digital content. The intention is to address the inconsistencies of outdated single nation copyright laws in a community characterised by freedom of movement across borders.

It’s an issue that affects more than 7 million jobs in copyright-intensive publishing industries such as TV, books publishers, films and music. Since most copyright rules date back to 2001 many are not ‘fit for purpose’ as a Digital Single Market is created for the EU, the EC argued.

In May the EC unveiled its first legislative proposals to be presented as part of the Digital Single Market strategy and promised 16 initiatives will be presented by the end of next year. As part of its Digital Single Market strategy, the EC has presented 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.

“People who legally buy content such as films, books, football matches and TV series, must be able to carry it with them anywhere they go in Europe,” said Andrus Ansip, VP for the Digital Single Market.

With 22% of Europeans believing that illegal downloads are acceptable if there is no provision in their own country, according to the EC, copyright must be properly enforced across the EU. The Commission’s action plan is built on four complementary pillars of equal importance: widening access to content across the EU, creating exceptions to copyright rules for an innovative and inclusive society, creating a fairer marketplace and fighting piracy.

Access to content needs to be widened because under current copyright rules a French commuter on the Eurostar is breaking the law if they’re still watching their film on MyTF1 by the time the train has crossed the channel. The EC said it wants a better circulation of content with clearer rules. The legal uncertainty for internet users who upload their photos of buildings and public art works is to be addressed in the DSM, it says.

The DSM strategy aims to protect consumers and widen their choices through two stated ambitions: a reversal of the burden of proof for consumer and clearer more specific rights for digital content. Meanwhile, a new directive promises to harmonise several exclusive rights and exceptions to copyright.

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