Digital technologies have radically changed the way creative content is produced, distributed and accessed. We are adapting the EU copyright rules to new consumer behaviours in a Europe which values its cultural diversity.

Copyright ensures that authors, composers, artists, film makers and other creators receive recognition, payment and protection for their works. It rewards creativity and stimulates investment in the creative sector. 33 sectors of the EU economy are considered copyright-intensive, accounting directly for over 7 million jobs, or 3% of employment in the EU.

Copyright in the Digital Single Market

Delivering on its Digital Single Market Strategy, the Commission is rolling out an ambitious modernisation of the EU copyright framework. The objective is to make EU copyright rules fit for the digital age.

The Communication on a modern and more European copyright framework adopted on 9 December 2015 sets out the main political objectives and areas of action as well as the timeline, based on a step-by-step approach.

White Copyright Symbol Shape on Wooden Floor Against Grey Wall with Copyspace 3D Illustration

A first legislative proposal was adopted on 14 June 2017, the regulation on cross-border portability of online content services, which aims at ensuring that consumers who buy or subscribe to films, sport broadcasts, music, e-books and games can access them when they travel in other EU countries.

A Directive and a Regulation implementing the Marrakech Treaty in the EU were adopted on 13 September 2017. People who are blind, visually impaired, or otherwise print disabled within the European Union and from other countries will be able to access more books and other print material in accessible formats, including adapted audio books and e-books, from across the European Union and the rest of the world.

A second set of legislative proposals was presented by the Commission in September 2016. The aim of it was to modernise the copyright framework, focusing on allowing for wider online availability of content across the EU, adapting exceptions and limitations to the digital world, and achieving a well-functioning copyright market place. The new Directive on copyright in the digital single market was agreed between the Council of the European Union, the European Parliament and the Commission on 13 February 2019. It was then approved by the European Parliament on 26 March 2019 and endorsed by the Council on 15 April 2019. The Directive was published in the Official Journal of the EU on 17 May 2019. 

The new Directive on television and radio programmes, laying down rules to facilitate access to online TV and radio content across borders was agreed between the  European Council, the European Parliament and European Commission on 13 December 2018. The Parliament voted in favour of these rules on 28 March 2019 and the Council endorsed them on 15 April 2019.The Directive was published in the Official Journal of the EU on 17 May 2019. 

What are copyright and related rights ?

These are rights granted to authors (copyright or authors’ rights) and to performers, producers and broadcasters (related rights). They include:

  • Economic rights which enable rightholders to control the use of their works and other protected material and be remunerated for their use. They normally take the form of exclusive rights, notably to authorise or prohibit the making and distribution of copies as well as communication to the public. Economic rights and their terms of protection are harmonised at EU level.
  • Moral rights include the right to claim authorship of the work and the right to object to any derogatory action in relation to the work. They are not harmonised at EU level.

Licensing is the main mechanism for the exercise of copyright and related rights. Depending on the relevant right, the type of use and the sector, licences are most often granted directly by the right holder or collective management organisations. The EU has recently adopted legislation to improve the functioning of collective management organisations including through facilitating the provision of multi-territorial licences.

Exceptions to these rights

Copyright systems balance the recognition of exclusive rights in order to facilitate the use of protected content in specific circumstances. The EU copyright rules set out an exhaustive list of exceptions to rights accross various copyright directives. Exceptions allow beneficiaries to use protected material without authorisation from the rightholders. Enforcement of procedures and remedies against infringements of copyright have been partly harmonised at EU level.

The EU’s role

EU actions have led to more harmonised protection of rightholders, lower transaction costs and greater choice for users of content, notably through:

  • a European regulatory framework for copyright and related rights;
  • the promotion of inclusive and dynamic stakeholders dialogues on copyright and related issues, to seek views, concrete experience and contributions from all interested parties;
  • a leading role in international negotiations and discussions on copyright and related issues.

Steps have already been taken to facilitate the digitisation and dissemination of cultural heritage (Orphan Works Directive) and the management and licensing of rights (Collective Rights Management Directive and Licenses for Europe stakeholder dialogue). Two international treaties in the area of Copyright, the 2012 Beijing Treaty on Audiovisual Performances and the 2013 Marrakesh Treaty on visually impaired persons have been adopted in WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organisation). A factsheet summarising the actions taken by the European Commission in copyright legislation is available for download.

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