On 4th April 2013 the government passed a bill to Parliament containing a number of proposals that would make it easier for rights holders and users of copyright-protected works to license such materials. The proposals aim to improve the ways in which different players on the market can, through a single licence agreement, resolve the difficulties that may occur when large amounts of material are used and many parties are involved. If the bill is accepted by Parliament, the government has suggested that the proposed amendments to the Copyright Act come into force on 1st November 2013.

Extended collective licensing
The government's latest proposal suggests a new general collective licensing possibility, which gives players on the market the option to identify situations where individual agreements are not suitable and to use collective licences instead. This option will be applicable in all situations where large amounts of copyrighted material will be used by the same user and where the user cannot determine in advance which works will be used. Earlier legislation in Sweden on extended collective licences permitted such solutions only in certain areas which had been identified by the legislature as suitable for extended collective licences.

Under an extended collective licence, the user of the copyright-protected work enters into an agreement with an organisation representing a substantial number of the rights holders in the respective area. The general collective licence covers both members and non-members of the organisation. However, if a rights holder has opposed such use, or there is reason to believe that the rights holder would have opposed such use, it shall be excluded from the collective licence.

Amended requirements for rights holder organisations
Under the existing Copyright Act, only organisations representing a substantial number of Swedish rights holders in the relevant area are allowed to enter into a collective licence agreement with extended effect (ie, which is also binding on non-members). The proposed bill suggests that organisations representing a substantial number of the rights holders of works used in Sweden in the relevant area shall enjoy this right. This means that organisations with a large number of international rights holders whose works are used in Sweden will be allowed to enter into extended collective licences.

Other proposed changes
The proposal also includes a possibility for companies and governmental organisations to enter into extended collective licensing agreements to tackle the need to use copyrighted works in the workplace. It is proposed that the licence right cover all forms of copying and allow for the transfer and display of the works within a company or organisation. However, the licence must have the purpose of satisfying the need for information within the respective company or organisation.

Radio and television companies are also affected, as the new licensing opportunities would give them the rights not only to broadcast works, but also to communicate to the public works contained in a radio or television show in such a way that individuals can access the works at both a place and time of their choice. For example, people will be able to access programmes online. It is proposed that this option be limited to cases where the rights holder has not opposed such use or there is no reason to believe that the rights holder would have opposed such use.

In addition, the bill proposes changes affecting libraries and certain archives, giving them increased rights to make copies and make works available to the public.

Authors' comment
The proposal shows that the Swedish government - which, together with the other Nordic countries, fought hard for the extended collective licensing model during negotiations over the EU InfoSoc Directive - is still eager to simplify situations involving many rights holders through the extended collective licensing model. The proposal can also be seen as an attempt by the government to listen to industry players and their need for increased simplicity, considering general technical and market developments. 

It will be interesting to see how the proposal is received by Parliament. Both rights holders and users of copyright-protected works should monitor the final outcome of the proposal in order to be able to use the new licensing possibilities to the full extent and, if needed, to exercise their right to opt out of the extended collective licensing model.

This article first appeared in IAM magazine. For further information please visit www.iam-magazine.com.