EU adjusts copyright rules to the digital age

The EU is amending its legal framework on copyright to make it fit-for-purpose in today’s digital environment. The Council today adopted a directive that modernises existing EU copyright law to pave the way towards a true digital single market. The new rules ensure adequate protection for authors and artists, while opening up new possibilities for accessing and sharing copyright-protected content online throughout the European Union.

I am very glad that we have achieved a balanced text, creating multiple opportunities for Europe’s creative sectors, which will thrive and better reflect our cultural diversity and other European common values, but also for the users, whose freedom of expression on internet will be consolidated. This is a milestone for the development of a robust and well-functioning digital single market.

Valer Daniel Breaz, Romanian Minister for Culture and National Identity

The directive addresses a variety of issues, which can be grouped together under three categories:

A) Adaptation of copyright exceptions/limitations to the digital and cross-border environment
The directive introduces mandatory exceptions to copyright for the purposes of text and data mining, online teaching activities and the preservation and online dissemination of cultural heritage.

B) Improvement of licensing practices to ensure wider access to creative content
The directive provides for harmonised rules facilitating the:

  • exploitation of works that have stopped being commercialised (out-of-commerce works),
  • issuing of collective licences with extended effect and
  • rights clearance for films by video-on-demand platforms.

C) Achievement of a well-functioning marketplace for copyright
The directive introduces a new right for press publishers for the online use of their press publications. Authors of works incorporated in the press publication will be entitled to a share of the press publisher’s revenue deriving from this new right.

As regards online content sharing platforms, which are based on the “user-uploaded-content” model, the directive clarifies the legal framework within which they operate. Such platforms will in principle have to obtain a licence for copyright protected works uploaded by users unless a number of conditions provided for in the directive are met.  Rightholders will therefore be able to better negotiate the conditions of the exploitation of their online works and be remunerated for the online use of their content by these platforms. At the same time, the directive allows users to generate and upload content freely, for purposes of quotation, criticism, review, caricature, parody and pastiche. To that effect, it transforms these exceptions, currently optional for member states, into mandatory exceptions for this particular type of use.

The directive also enshrines authors’ and performers’ right to appropriate and proportionate remuneration upon the licensing or transfer of their rights and introduces a transparency obligation concerning the exploitation of licensed works, as well as a remuneration adjustment mechanism, accompanied by a dedicated alternative dispute resolution mechanism. Software developers are excluded from these rules.

Next steps

Following the signature and publication of the directive in the Official Journal of the EU, member states will have 24 months to transpose the new rules into their national law.

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