Copyright experts have called for the complete unification of copyright law across the European Union (EU).
The European Copyright Society, which brings together academics from across the EU, wrote to Gunther Oettinger, commissioner for the digital economy and society at the European Commission, on 19 December, saying that more “forward looking and further reaching reform of copyright in the EU” needed to take the form of union-wide unification, not further harmonisation.
The letter added: “Despite almost 25 years of harmonisation of copyright in the EU, copyright law in Europe has essentially remained national law.
“Each member state still has its own law on copyright…This territoriality has led to fragmentation of markets along national borderlines, critically impeding the establishment of a digital single market for creative content, and undermining the union’s international competitiveness.
“While copyright unification may be considered undesirable, or perhaps too drastic, by certain stakeholders and national legislatures, this is in our opinion the only way a fully functioning digital single market for copyright-based goods and services can ultimately be achieved.”. The letter said that advantages of unification included:
- a single legal framework to replace a “multitude” of existing national laws
- creating a single market for copyrights and related rights, both online and offline
- enhancing legal security and transparency, for right owners and users alike, and greatly reducing transaction and enforcement costs
- enabling the EU legislature to re-establish itself as a global leader in copyright norm setting.
It concluded: “The fact that unification of copyright will be time-consuming is no reason not to initiate it. Quite to the contrary: given its potentially positive impact on the European creative economy, work on such a project should, in our opinion, be initiated as soon as possible.”
Some legal commentators have suggested that it could take a decade or more for full unification to be negotiated.
The UK last year introduced some significant reforms to copyright law and as the legal framework continues to evolve, expert legal advice can assist businesses in using copyright as part of wider protection of their intellectual property. For more information, please visit our website or contact BJ Chong.