On 9 December 2015, as part of the implementation of the Digital Single Market Strategy, the European Commission published its first legislative proposal aimed at modernising the copyright framework in Europe. The proposal for a Regulation on the portability of online content services focuses on ensuring "that users who have subscribed to or acquired content in their home country can access it when they are temporarily in another Member State". While the text of this proposal has been well received by consumer organisations, it has already raised certain concerns amongst industry stakeholders, who for example claim a lack of legal certainty. The inter-institutional dialogue on the Commission's proposal has yet to be started, as the European Parliament and the Council of the EU will have their say in the decision-making process. For this reason, industry stakeholders still have ample opportunity to have their voice heard during the legislative process.

The abovementioned proposal is one of the many initiatives included in the Commission's Communication, setting out how it intends to achieve the goal of 'a more modern, more European copyright framework'. The document includes a targeted action plan with proposals to be implemented in the course of 2016. Take a look at the full political preview below:

Ensuring wider access to content across the EU

Full cross-border access for all types of content across the EU needs to be balanced with the readiness of the market to respond to legal and policy changes.

As a first step the European Commission presented the regulation on ensuring the cross-border portability of online content services in the internal market. The aim of the regulation is that users who have subscribed to or acquired content in their home country can access it when they are temporarily in another EU Member State.

Furthermore, the European Commission will consider the following legislative proposals for adoption in spring 2016:

  • Enhancing cross-border distribution of television and radio programmes online in the light of the results of the review of the Satellite and Cable Directive;
  • Reaching an agreement on licences that allow for cross-border access to content, including catering for cross-border requests from other Member States;
  • Making it easier to digitise out-of-commerce works and make them available, including across the EU.

The Commission will also provide support via its 'Creative Europe' programme and research and innovation funding, notably the 'Horizon 2020' programme.

Adapting exceptions to digital and cross-border environment

The aim of the Commission is to take action to increase harmonisation and ensure that the EU framework on exceptions that is relevant for access to knowledge, education and research is effective in the digital age and across border.

Firstly, the Commission will propose legislation that is required to implement the Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works by Visually Impaired Persons and Persons with Print Disabilities.

Furthermore the Commission will propose legislation in view of:

  • Allowing public interest research organisations to carry out text and data mining of content they have lawful access to;
  • Providing clarity on the scope of the EU exception for ‘illustration for teaching';
  • Providing a clear space for preservation by cultural heritage institutions;
  • Supporting remote consultation of works held in research and academic libraries and other relevant institutions, for research and private study;
  • Clarifying the current EU exception permitting the use of works that were made to be permanently located in the public space (the ‘panorama exception’), to take into account new dissemination channels.

Achieving a well-functioning marketplace for copyright

The possibility for right holders to license and be remunerated for the use of their content, including content distributed online, is a prerequisite for a well-functioning market for copyright. By Spring 2016 the Commission will consider whether:

  • Action is needed on the definition of the rights of 'communication to the public' and of 'making available';
  • Any specific action to news aggregators is necessary, including intervening on rights;
  • Solutions at EU level are required to increase legal certainty, transparency and balance in the system that governs the remuneration of authors and performers.

Providing an effective and balanced enforcement system

Respect for copyright is a necessary element to promote innovation and create trust in the market. This requires an effective and balanced civil enforcement system that, while taking into account fundamental rights, reduces the costs of fighting infringements.

With regard to enforcement the Commission will:

  • Engage with the parties concerned in setting up and applying the 'follow-the-money' mechanism;
  • Analyse the legal framework for the enforcement of intellectual property rights, including copyright, and come forward with a possible revision of this framework in 2016;
  • Carry out a comprehensive assessment and a public consultation on online platforms, which also covers the swift and efficient removal of illegal material, 'notice and action' mechanisms.