Intellectual Property |  Dec 10, 2012

European Union may soften Copyright law on the Internet

On the 5th December 2012, the Commission of the European Union announced that it will begin the process of reviewing existing EU copyright laws. The aim of this review is to better define what is considered fair use of copyrighted material on the internet. This, in turn, would further clarify what constitutes piracy on the web.

As matters stand, the internet is rife with reports of people being fined for reproducing copyrighted material like videos, pictures or text on various sites. The review seeks to create a situation where the law is no longer so heavy handed in its approach. The reasoning that is being adopted is based on the concept of “fair use” that is normally applied in the case of reviews. Given the current situation, when someone writes a review of literature, copyright law allows the reproduction reasonably short extracts from literary texts to be quoted within the review itself.

The Commission is currently looking to take this concept a step further and try to create standards for fair use in respect of other forms of material which may be used on the internet. This concept is already quite developed in the United States where video game or film reviewers nowadays create collages of video footage of the product that they are reviewing in order further illustrate the opinions of the reviewer. With an appropriate framework, this would also give some measure of freedom to individuals creating similar material on social networking sites or even posting videos on sites like Youtube.

The “stakeholder dialogue” will be held by the Commission in early 2013 and will begin by addressing the short term issues first. Reports indicate that these will include the portability of copyright across borders of EU Member States as well as the appropriate taxes such movement of copyrighted goods may incur. Entertainment and software companies have already demonstrated a measure of resistance to this approach.

This move has been considered by some to be the EU’s first action in reply to the defeat of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) earlier in 2012.

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