As part of the EU Single Digital Market strategy, the European Commission is proposing to modernise EU copyright law to provide for the increasing forms of media through which copyrighted material is now created and shared. In recent weeks, the Commission has announced its latest package of copyright reforms and a draft of the proposed legislation setting out these changes has also been leaked (the draft Directive).

One of the most striking features of the text of the draft Directive seen by William Fry is that news organisations publishing original content will be given rights similar to those afforded to authors and performers under the existing 2001 Copyright Directive. These rights would expire 20 years after the initial posting of the "news publication" which is defined under the draft Directive as "a fixation of a collection of literary works of a journalistic nature".

This provision could pose a challenge for businesses such as online news aggregators that are reliant on amassing information published by others to populate their websites.

Another interesting area of reform is the proposed regulation of audiovisual works on Video on Demand platforms. The draft Directive provides a negotiation mechanism to make it easier for broadcasters to stream their programming EU-wide on online services (for example, RTÉ Player). The draft Directive, however, does not go so far as to place an outright ban on 'geoblocking', a form of censorship where access to content is restricted based upon the user's geographical location.

The draft Directive also provides that the permission of the right holder will not be needed for:

  • the use of data mining for scientific research;
  • the making of digital copies of works by public archives and museums; and
  • the use copyrighted digital works for educational purposes.

As the proposal is still in draft form, it is likely to be subject to further changes before being approved by the European Parliament and Council. However, the proposals have been welcomed as a step towards removing barriers to trade between EU Member States and updating copyright laws to make them more appropriate for digital platforms.