Commission official urges EU policymakers to act on copyright


If European policymakers do not act to harmonise their approach to copyright in EU member states, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) will lead the way instead, a European Commission official warned today, June 19.

“If we don’t do something in a meaningful way, the CJEU will set the agenda. It’s pushing the boundaries of copyright law,” said Maria Martin-Prat, head of the copyright unit in the Commission’s internal market directorate general.

Speaking at the Westminster Media Forum keynote seminar, she agreed that “there’s a certain degree of analysis paralysis” and that while the drive towards harmonisation within the EU is very strong, it is the CJEU that is leading the way.

Asked specifically whether the UK is holding up the process, Martin-Prat said that some issues the UK wants to be discussed should be talked about at a European level. “We do need to inject a degree of harmonisation into the system,” she said.

European Commissioner Michel Barnier announced in February that the Commission will release a white paper on copyright before the summer break to identify solutions based on problems where there are any, and if there are any.

Meanwhile, a batch of changes to UK copyright law designed to bring it up to date for the digital age has been approved and entered into force on June 1 this year, based on the recommendations of the Hargreaves Review of Intellectual Property and Growth, an independent review of the entire UK IP system.

On copyright policy, the UK government’s priority is economic growth, Nick Munn, deputy director, copyright, at the UK Intellectual Property Office, told the seminar. “The government believes modern, robust and flexible laws are the best way to achieve that, and the changes based on Hargreaves are almost complete,” he said.

As for the forthcoming Commission white paper, “the UK government will want to see proposals that are good for growth and, frankly, good for the UK,” Munn said. The government will continue to engage with the Commission but its most important objective is to support growth in the UK,” he added.

However, other speakers at the seminar questioned whether copyright law reform was necessary at all. “The [territorial] system we have is not as broken as some would pretend. The case for reform has not been made. Copyright reform is not going to lead to economic growth,” said Charlotte Lund Thomsen, director general of the International Video Federation.

“Simple solutions often have dangerous and unintended effects. There’s a very regrettable tendency to look at this in isolation,” she said.

Philip Pilcher, head of European policy at the broadcaster BSkyB agreed. “The question is whether now is the right time for reform. No, we don’t think so. We hope the EU will take note of the UK’s scepticism about EU copyright reform,” he said.


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