The European Commission has launched a wide-ranging consultation on copyright law  (“Consultation”) within the European Union (“EU”), in the hope that it will be a position to propose legislative reform during 2014. The Consultation follows the Commission’s earlier reviews into how copyright and licensing are regulated within Europe. and will seek feedback from the public on these and other issues relating to copyright within the EU.

The Consultation asks:

  1. Why many online services are not equally accessible across the EU;
  2. If there is need for greater clarity as to what digital transmissions require authorisation;
  3. If difficulties are created by multiple rights applying to single acts (for example, digital transmissions involve content being both reproduced and made available to  the public);
  4. If hyperlinks and the transmission of website data should require rights holder authorisation;
  5. Whether restrictions have been encountered in trying to resell digital content and what the consequences of a legal framework allowing resale would be;
  6. What the incentives, advantages and disadvantages of a EU registration requirement for rights would be;
  7. What role the EU should play in promoting the interoperability of rights databases (for example interoperating rights between collecting societies); and
  8. Whether current copyright terms (often expiring 70 years after the death of the author) are appropriate.

The Consultation also requests data on the limited use of copyrighted material within the EU single market. Limited use may allow use without authorisation, and issues the consultation will address include: preservation/archiving; libraries (including e-lending and digitisation); teaching and research; use by people with disabilities; data mining; and user generated content.

The issue of private copying and the use of copying levies is another area to be addressed by the Consultation. Copyright levies are fees charged on goods that may be used for copying (e.g. blank CDs or other media). The use and scale of levies varies at a national level, and there are general concerns with their use, including that rightsholders may receive royalties where unauthorised use has not actually occurred, double payments may occur where the rightsholder has already received a royalty payment, and whether levies should be applied to cloud storage.

The Consultation also briefly examines various other issues, including: (i) the fair remuneration of copyright holders (particularly in relation to online exploitation of material); and (ii) whether existing provisions governing the respect for rights are still appropriate for the digital age. Finally the Consultation asks whether or not a harmonised single copyright should exist within the EU.

The Consultation document can be found here, and submissions can be made by email to markt-copyright-consultation@ec.europa.eu. The deadline for submissions is 5 February 2014.