Copyright change in Europe – Why is it important for startups?
By Luc Delany
Copyright change in Europe – Why is it important for startups?
4 Sep 2015 - AVMS

This week saw the UK – China Copyright Week, the latest in a series of high level international events to promote and protect intellectual property across borders. Both countries shared best practice on key areas of reform such as broadcasting and related rights and copyright enforcement.

It unsurprising that reform is on the agenda for many governments.

The digital economy and online space increasingly enables new ways of creating and distributing content and new possibilities to generate value. The emergence of new actors, new business models and new consumers’ expectations requires a modern and transparent copyright framework. Indeed, events in Europe over the past months show that the current European Regulatory Framework for Copyright does not take into account the changes seen over the past two decades. And yet, copyright and intellectual property remain an essential part of a startup’s ability to innovate and succeed. By updating and unifying contrasting and conflicting copyright rules, reform will help catalyse innovation and provide more consumer choice and greater access to cheaper, better services and products. European efforts then to harmonise and update rules on consumer protection, copyright and data protection are to be welcomed and will mean it is simpler for digital entrepreneurs to scale-up across Europe.

So what does the upcoming European policy landscape for copyright look like?

A central pillar of the Commission’s Digital Single Market (DSM) Strategy announced in May is copyright reform. As part of this, the European Commission aims to put forward a modernised copyright framework this month. The challenge is striking the right balance between the interests of creators and those of the users and consumers. It represents an opportunity to modify copyright rules to reflect new technologies, to make them simpler and clearer to improve new opportunities for content creators and users; and ensure better and fairer enforcement of rights. Innovation and research too are hampered by the lack of a clear EU-wide legal framework and limited to cross-border access to copyrighted content.

The Commission’s Digital Single Market proposals include on copyright:

  • Portability of legally acquired content
  • Ensuring cross-border access to legally purchased online services while respecting the value of rights in the audiovisual sector
  • Greater legal certainty for the cross-border use of content for specific purposes (e.g. research, education, text and data mining, etc.) through harmonised exceptions
  • Clarifying the rules on the activities of intermediaries in relation to copyright-protected content
  • Modernising enforcement of intellectual property rights, focusing on commercial-scale infringements (the ‘follow the money’ approach) as well as its cross-border applicability (in 2016).

How has the copyright space been heating up in Europe recently?

  1. A proposed EU law could see photographers punished for breach of copyright if they photograph famous landmarks and works of art in public spaces. The proposed changes to EU-wide law would require photographers to obtain permission from the copyright holder, even if the landmark, building or work of art is in the background of a picture.
  2. The Commission launched a consultation to review the Audio Visual Media Services Directive in July (which was out set out in the DSM). AVMS sets out minimum standards across the EU for broadcast and on-demand video content in order to protect consumers and to promote of certain types of content and services. While the current directive is only 5 years old, it was created at a time YouTube had only just launched, compared with today when Facebook serves its users 4bn videos a day. (For a full analysis, please visit our previous post here.)
  3. Earlier in August, the High Court (UK) overturned copyright legislation to make transferring copyright works from one medium to another illegal – for example, burning CDs in your bedroom, one of the main traditional uses of iTunes. The government had legalised copying for private use last year, a practice most thought was already legal. With the private copying exceptions now overturned, the Intellectual Property Office has confirmed that ripping a CD in iTunes is no longer allowed.
  4. On 24th August, the European Commission launched a public consultation on the review of the EU Satellite and Cable Directive. This is to assess the need to enlarge its scope to broadcasters’ online transmissions and the need to tackle further measures to ensure enhanced cross-border access to broadcasters’ services in Europe.
  5. During the same week, The PRS for Music, the UK’s largest copyright collective has commenced legal action against SoundCloud for copyright infringement, as the music service refused to agree a licensing deal.

Photo Credit: Harper Adams