The Committee on Legal Affairs of the European Parliament recently approved an amended EU copyright evaluation report (the “Report”) by its member Julia Reda outlining a reform of copyright law in the European Union. The Report aims at evaluating the current legal framework (especially Directive 2001/29/EC, “InfoSoc-Directive”; Directive 2004/48/EC, “Enforcement Directive”; and Directive 2009/24/EC, “Software Directive”) ahead of the upcoming EU copyright reform.

Content and rationale

The Report recommends strengthening artists, harmonizing EU copyright laws and updating them to reflect current cultural practices. Therefore, the Committee notes that “cross-border access to the diversity of uses that technological progress offers to consumers” may require evidence-based improvements to the current legal framework to “further develop the legal offer of diversified cultural and creative content on-line, to allow access to European cultural diversity.”

Proposed amendments

During the so-called compromise stage, 566 amendments were made to the Original Report by Julia Reda from January 19, 2015. The Report then passed the Committee and calls for, inter alia:

  • Improvements to Contractual Position of Authors and Performers – The Report calls for improvements to the contractual position of authors and performers in relation to other right holders and intermediaries, notably by considering a reasonable period for the use of rights transferred by authors to third parties, after which those rights would lapse, as contractual exchanges may be marked by an imbalance of power.
  • No Ancillary Right for Press Publishers – Unlike the national copyright laws of Germany and Spain the Legal Committee rejected the idea of an ancillary right for press publishers. Such “neighboring right” protecting mere news snippets was also subject of controversial discussions within Germany and Spain.
  • Limitation of Geoblocking Services – The Report recalls that consumers are too often denied access to certain content services on geographical grounds, which runs counter to the objective of the InfoSoc-Directive of implementing the four freedoms of the internal market and urges the Commission, therefore, to propose “adequate solutions for better cross-border accessibility of services and copyright content for consumers.”
  • Freedom of Panorama – The Report includes a limitation of the freedom of panorama exemption currently included in various EU Member States’ copyright laws (including Germany and the UK, however, not France) permitting creating images of buildings and other art which are permanently located in a public place only for non-commercial use potentially affecting use by online services as Wikipedia.
  • No “Fair Use” Exemption – The Report rejects the idea of a blanket exemption clause similar to the fair use provision in US copyright law.
  • Text- and Data-Mining – The Report considers text and data mining to be subject of copyright law, a view currently disputed in legal literature. Accordingly, the Report provides for an exemption for research purposes.

Next steps

The Report does not have any direct legislative effect. However, after being approved by the plenary session of the European Parliament (expected to vote on the Report on July 9, 2015), the European Parliament can ask the European Commission to draft a proposal on copyright reform. Thus, the Report and its content are likely to influence the copyright reform discussion already initiated by the European Commission promising to provide specific proposals to further promote a Digital Single Market by fall 2015.