Avalanche of intellectual property initiatives on the way in EU

By EDRi · March 9, 2011

This article is also available in:
Deutsch: [EU steht vor einer Flut von Gesetzesinitiativen in Sachen geistiges Eigentum | http://www.unwatched.org/EDRigram_9.5_Flut_an_Initiativen_f%C3%BCr_geistige_Eigentumsrechte]

In the course of the next few months, the European Commission will be
launching a flood of intellectual property initiatives, some aiming at
repression, some at restricting access to culture and some at feeding
uncreative intermediaries.

Work is now underway on an “impact assessment” which will assess the
various options available to address the problem of collective rights
management. These are the bodies which collect royalties from anyone who
uses music and have become a growing barrier to effective reform of European
copyright. The problems in this policy area were starkly illustrated in
Belgium recently, when a team of undercover reporters showed that the
Belgian collecting society Sabam was collecting royalties for artists that
did not actually exist. A legislative proposal is expected in June.

Another upcoming initiative is on digital libraries and orphan works. Orphan
works, which are works for which the author is not readily identifiable, is
an interesting phenomenon because copyright essentially serves to restrict
access to culture as part of a strategy that ostensibly serves to protect
culture. The likely result is an excessively complicated process of trying
to identify authors (best suited to large corporations that can absorb the
cost) before orphan works can be made available in digital libraries. It
appears that the Commission is unwilling to require authors of digital works
to embed identity information in their digital content, in apparent fear
that this would be in breach of Article 5 of the Berne Convention of

The Commission is also working on several initiatives with the positive aim
of reducing barriers to online content, including measures on country of
origin licensing, pan-European licensing and a European database of

Separately, the Commission is working on a review of the IPR Enforcement
Directive. Its Communication suggests measures such as a reduction in
privacy protection for citizens, in order to increase respect for the “right
to property”. A concrete example of the Commission’s intentions on this
point is shown in its input to the European Court of Justice “Scarlet/Sabam”
case where it argued that Internet providers should filter all peer-to-peer
traffic, searching for what rightolders have a right to or what they claim
to have a right to (paragraph 58 of the link below).

The Communication also suggests an explicit de-coupling of injunctions from
ISP liability, which would expressly encourage injunctions for
filtering/blocking of content, filtering of uploads and the imposition of
monitoring obligations on Internet providers. However, there is still the
small matter of the Charter of Fundamental Rights, the European Convention
on Human Rights as well as data protection and free speech legislation
standing in the way of the European Commission turning the European Internet
into Minitel / Bildschirmtext.

BASTA TV Show on Sabam (only in Flemish)

Scarlet/Sabam case (only in French)



Commission Communication on IPR Enforcement

(contribution by Joe McNamee – EDRi)