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Copyright law needs overhaul to meet Internet needs, says EU lawmaker

Loek Essers | Jan. 20, 2015
European copyright laws are too fragmented and ill-suited to online usage today: Legislators drafting new rules should limit copyright terms; allow unrestricted hypertext linking; exempt public-sector works from copyright; harmonize rules to simplify cross-border commerce, and restrict the use of DRM.

Meanwhile, the varying lengths of copyright protection in the EU should also disappear, Reda said, proposing that copyright terms should be harmonized at the minimum established by the Berne convention. That treaty protects works for 50 years after an author's death, except in the case of cinematographic or photographic works. In the case of cinematographic works, protection would expire after a minimum of fifty years after the work has been made public. For photos, the Bern convention proposes a expired protection of twenty-five years from the making of the photo.

Reda also wants to make the common practice of sharing holiday snaps legal. Some countries have enacted laws to protect the images of certain public buildings from exploitation by postcard makers — laws that could also trip up people posting holiday photos to social media.

"Copyright law can only be practical and fair if the depiction of public buildings and sculptures is exempt from copyright protection," Reda wrote, calling on the Commission to exempt photos and videos of such works located in public places.

To make the rules more in line with the current digital reality, Reda for instance called on the Commission to phrase copyright exceptions in a more technology-neutral and future-proof way.

In online quotations for example, people increasingly use audio-visual material like animated GIF images of popular TV series, movies or sports events. Rules that protect the freedom of expression and information in the digital environment should not be limited to the written word, but explicitly include audio-visual material, while allowing for possible future developments as well, Reda said.

The Legal Affairs Committee will now discuss and amend Reda's report, before voting in April on a final version to submit to the Parliament. The Parliament is set to vote on the report in May, around the time the Commission is scheduled to present its plans for an EU Digital Single Market.

 

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