Just in time before the end of the year, on 16 December 2014, the European Commission adopted its 2015 Work Programme (Link: http://ec.europa.eu/atwork/pdf/cwp_2015_en.pdf). Encouraging the “Digital Market” is amongst the topics high on the agenda. Particularly, the Commission plans to finalize negotiations on the proposed General Data Protection Regulation and Connected Continent package, while also introducing legislation on copyright in a digital world.
By way of background, at the end of each year, the European Commission specifies its priorities for the coming twelve months. The agenda is not legally binding. It is only a list of targets outlining where the Commission’s resources will be focused. The Work Programme for 2015 is primarily based on the ten points of the Political Guidelines previously announced by the new Commission President Juncker. (Link: http://ec.europa.eu/priorities/docs/pg_en.pdf)
A central aspect of next year’s agenda is establishing and deepening “A Connected Digital Single Market“. Its aim is to finalize negotiations on the telecommunications (Connected Continent) and data protection proposals, as well as launch new legislation on copyright. The work programme refers to the feedback the Commission received in the course of the Public Consultation on the Review of EU Copyright Rules in July 2014. Although the expected White Paper has not been published, the Commission affirms the need for reform.
In October 2014, the new Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society, Günther Oettinger, announced a comprehensive revision of European copyright law. The announcement (Link: http://www.handelsblatt.com/politik/international/schutz-geistigen-eigentums-bis-2016-eu-plant-urheberrechtsabgabe-im-internet/10900130.html) reveals that the Commission is planning to introduce copyright levies on the use of copyright-protected works on the Internet. Those levies have been suggested in such a way that companies would have to pay for the online use of works regardless of whether their headquarters is within the EU. The copyright levy seems to be inspired by the new German ancillary copyright for publishers which was adopted a year ago. This ancillary copyright can be used by publishers to charge news aggregators for publishing small pieces of articles (so-called “snippets”). Besides Germany, there will be similar rules in Spain from 1 January 2015.
In conclusion, it is fair to say that in addition to the telecommunications and data protection priorities of the Commission, considerable attention will be devoted to copyright harmonization in 2015.