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Oettinger sketches out EU copyright reforms timetable

The European Commission will work on plans to reform EU copyright laws over the next year, the incoming new EU Digital Commissioner Günther Oettinger has said.31 Oct 2014

Oettinger said a new tax on the display of copyrighted works by search engines could be imposed as part of the proposals, according to a report by German business news publication Handelsblatt.

In Germany, copyright rules already require search engines and content aggregators to pay publishers in order to display snippets of their content in certain circumstances.

Under the German Copyright Act, the "producer of news materials" has the general "exclusive right to make said materials publicly available, in whole or in part, for commercial purposes".

Others are permitted to provide "public access" to the publishers' material unless those providing that access are "commercial operators of search engines or commercial providers of services that aggregate this content in a respective fashion".

News publishers' right to control the commercial exploitation of their work in this regard only extends for a year after publication, although very small snippets of content can be utilised by the search engines or content aggregators prior to that. Authors of the work are entitled to be "provided with a reasonable share of the remunerations issuing from the author’s work".

Oettinger, who takes up his new role on 1 November, said there was a need for "uniform rules" on copyright across the EU.

"I must find a balance between user interests, intellectual property and artistic works on the internet”, Oettinger said, according to an unofficial translation of the Handelsblatt report. "This is a difficult task, for which I’m going to need at least all of next year."

The European Commission launched a review of EU copyright laws late last year. Its consultation asked stakeholders for views on matters ranging from the accessibility of digital content across the trading bloc, limitations and exceptions to copyright protection and remuneration for rights holders.

It also consulted on whether to set copyright rules that apply consistently across the whole of the EU. At the moment there are a number of EU laws governing copyright but which each EU member state have implemented differently.

A number of changes to UK copyright laws were implemented earlier this year.