The Czech Parliament is currently discussing a Government proposal for changes to the Copyright Act. In the area of collective management, there is an amendment from the Ministry of Culture, primarily as a response to the European Directive on collective management, which the Czech Republic had to transpose into its national legislation no later than April 2016. After the implementation of this Directive, all EU Member States will harmonise laws regulating collective management. This is to lead to the greater protection of the interests of copyright holders.
The new regulation aims to resolve some of the current application problems, improve the level of collective management, streamline financial management, and increase the transparency of collective rights management. It also provides for improving public access to cultural heritage, particularly by simplifying the forms and procedures used for the granting of licenses to users. This should also facilitate music services online, thanks to the cross-border licensing of music for online use.
The current regulation of collective management, contained in eleven paragraphs of the Copyright Act, is replaced in the Government proposal by a much more detailed treatment, in a total of sixty paragraphs. It also demonstrates the effort to more strictly regulate collective management. We introduce the most important points of the proposed amendment below.
The general provisions on collective management have been extended, detailed provisions for membership in the collective manager and its organisational structure have been added. The performance of collective management will also be subject to detailed amendments. Except in the cases provided by law (i.e. with the exception of obligatory collective management), collective management will be based on written contracts. The amendment to the Act also imposes fairly extensive information obligations of collective managers on the copyright holders.
Allowing cross-border selection of a collective manager by this amendment will lead to widening the range of legitimate collective managers authorised to entrust each other with the exercise of collective management. Therefore, the amendment contains new provisions regarding the obligations among collective managers.
The amendment also provides for the creation of a register of works unavailable on the market, which will be operated by the National Library and which will be made available to the general public via the Internet. This register will include verbal works for which it is possible to conclude bulk license agreements for access between the National Library and a collective manager. This extended collective management aims to make available in all libraries digitised verbal works which are unavailable in the market, and also provide other services in the digital environment, such as remote access, printing, etc.
Remuneration will also undergo major changes. New fee rates are to be set in a tariff based on objective and non-discriminatory criteria, and must be reasonable in relation to these criteria. The collective manager will be obliged to take into account the purpose, scope, and circumstances of the use of the subject matter of protection, and even of the comparable remuneration in other European countries, along with the development of inflation. The Ministry of Culture will then publish the valid fee tariffs on its website.
This amendment tries to achieve greater transparency of collective management by imposing an obligation to disclose certain information about collective managers, and activities which they deal with, on their website. This concerns e.g. a duty to publish the by-laws (statutes) of collective managers, membership terms, and conditions of termination of collective management, as well as a master license agreement, fee tariffs, lists of agreements concluded with other collective managers, lists of members of the collective manager’s managing body, etc.
The amendment to the Copyright Act will therefore bring a number of changes in the area of collective management which should not be overlooked. However, the question remains as to how long the legislative process will take, and when the amendment will finally come into force.