INTERNET, COPYRIGHT & FREEDOM OF INFORMATION
Problems of the EU Directive and MAI
9 October 1998, Finnish Institute, London
by Petra Wikström, Assistant of Astrid Thors, Finnish Member of the European Parliament, Brussels.
The present Directive aims to provide a harmonized and appropriate legal framework for copyright and related rights in the information society . It adjusts and complements the existing framework to ensure the smooth functioning of the Internal Market. The other exiting Directives in the area are according to the proposal not affected by the Directive.
The existing 5 directives related to copyright are:
The Commission has identified intellectual property protection as a key issue in the future development of the Information Society. The Green Paper of 19 July 1995 (COM (95) 382 final)discussed the challenges to the copyright and related rights in the information society and the "digital world". The Commission received more than 350 written submissions commenting the Green Paper. There were also bilateral contacts with all parties concerned as well as a hearing in Brussels the 8 and 9 January 1996 and a conference organized by the Commission in Florence from 2 to 4 June 1996. Following this consultation procedure the Commission published a Follow-up to the Green Paper on 20 November 1996, which explains the reasons behind the policy approach taken by the Commission in this issue.
Action is considered necessary in two areas : through harmonized legal protection and to develop adequate technical systems allowing for electronic rights management and protection. According to the Commission there are four issues requiring immediate legislative action:
1 ) reproduction right
2 ) right of communication to the public
3 ) legal protection of the integrity of technical identification and protection schemes
4 ) distribution right.
The directive proposal originates thus in the Internal Market consultation exercise, but is also based on international standards adopted by two new WIPO ( World Intellectual Property Organization) Treaties i.e. the "WIPO Copyright Treaty" and the "WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty" both of 1996.The European Community is not part of the treaties, but this directive will implement a significant number of the obligations in the treaty.
WHAT IS HAPPENING AT THE PARLIAMENT?
The Commission submitted the proposal for a directive on the harmonisation of certain aspects of copyright and related rights in the Information Society to the European Parliament in January 1998. The President of the Parliament referred this proposal to the Committee on Legal Affairs and Citizens' Rights as the committee responsible.
The Legal Affairs Committee appointed Mr Roberto Barzanti, Italian Socialist, as rapporteur for the proposal. The Committee has discussed the Commission proposal and the draft report of the rapporteur at its meetings in May, June, July and September. The deadline for amendment to the draft report is the 14.10 and will be discussed and voted on in the end of October and will be, according to the initial time table, voted on in the Committee 24-26 November. The report should then come up to the first reading at the plenary session in December. There are however discussion about that this will take a longer time and that the votings will be postponed at least with one month. After this the report will be submitted to the working group responsible for this issue in the Council, where the discussion is going on all the time.
CO-DECISION PROCEDURE : EQUAL LEGISLATIVE POWER OF THE PARLIAMENT AND THE COUNCIL, COUNCIL COMMON POSITION IS GIVEN THEN TO THE PARLIAMENT FOR THE SECOND READING
Because of the diversity of the opinions in the Parliament this issue will still be pending a long time. According to a person in the Councils working group it might take until next autumn before the Council can give its common position. Even if the Council agrees on many points the Parliament can prolong the process by voting against many points in the common position. This means that copyright directive will go to the next Parliament that is elected in June 1999 and the rapporteur will probably change. Take into account the Amsterdam treaty that will make the process a bit faster.
Opinions are given by the Committee on Economic and monetary Affairs and Industrial Policy, the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Consumer Protection and the Committee on Culture, Youth, Education and the Media.
The opinions of these committees reflect well the different opinions of the different lobbying groups. HUGHES PROCEDURE: BARZANTI HAS TO COOPERATE WITH THE OTHER COMMITTEES AND TAKE THEIR VIEWS INTO CONSIDERATION
The economic and industrial committee finds it important to guarantee the functioning of the networks and is therefore representing the telecommunication industry that is the provider of the technical supplies. This industry is however also busy with finding control measures, ex water stamps, to avoid piracy. From the industrial point of view it is important that the possibility to make private copies is less limited than in the proposal by the Commission. They are also for the harmonisation of the regulations of remuneration so that the balance of the Internal Market keeps intact.
The cultural committee is one extreme on the scale of opinions with regard to the copyright directive. They want to have so much remuneration as possible. This committee represents the views of the artists, authors and performers in general and the most important lobbying groups here are:
They say that the authors and artists can only be creative if they are properly paid and are for remuneration schemes, technological identification and protection schemes. The lobby groups in this area have strongly criticised the opinion by the Consumer Committee and says that the Consumer Committee deprives authors etc. of the possibility for remuneration. They want to stress the difference between free access to works and access for free.
They say that the authors and artists can only be creative if they are properly paid and are for remuneration schemes, technological identification and protection schemes. The lobby groups in this area have strongly criticised the opinion by the Consumer Committee and says that the Consumer Committee deprives authors etc. of the possibility for remuneration. They want to stress the difference between free access to works and access for free .
BARZANTI'S VIEWS ARE SUPPORTED BY THESE ORGANISATIONS AS HE SPEAKS OF FAIR COMPENSATION REGARDING ALL THE EXCEPTIONS. THEY ARE ALSO FOR LICENSING ARRANGEMENTS FOR LIBRARIES
Mr Barzanti , the rapporteur of the directive in the parliament, is of the opinion that only acts of reproduction which form an essential part of a technical process can be possible , however with authorisation by the beneficiary or permitted under law . Basically Barzanti has as his main objective to always give fair compensation to the right holder . He also stresses that there should be a Contact Committee , chaired by the Commission with representatives from the Member States that check that the fair compensation is carried out and that there is enough legal protection against unauthorised behaviour.
The other side of the coin is the opinion by the Committe for Consumer issues. They want to keep the balance between the exclusive rights of the right holder and the public interest to get a hold of information through the Internet. There is traditionally no copyright on information . Access to information is important! According to them the list of exceptions should not be exhaustive and permissive. It should be mandatory for Member States to allow for exceptions. Lobby groups in this field support the European Fair Practices in Copyright Campaign (EFPICC).
There are some relating issues being prepared at the Commission at the moment. There will be a more general directive about ways to control the piracy business as well as a directive concerning the liability question . The latter is not only regarding the copyright, but the electronic trade in general. The Commission is also preparing a Green Paper about ways to combat product forgery, by decryption etc.