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EU copyright reforms to be 'gradual, balanced and targeted', says Ansip

EU copyright laws will not be overhauled completely but rather reformed in a gradual, balanced and targeted way, EU commissioner for the digital single market Andrus Ansip has said. 25 Nov 2015

Proposed changes to EU copyright laws will be set out in a "strategy paper" next month, Ansip said. In a speech in Strasbourg he revealed some of the changes the Commission intends to table.

"We will propose to give cross-border portability of online content to Europeans," Ansip said. "Put simply, this means allowing people who subscribe to online content services in one EU country – for books, music, games, films, drama, sport – to use those services when they are travelling in another country. Often this is not possible today. This will create more rights for consumers straightaway. Real benefits and impacts for people and their daily lives." 

Ansip said that other plans to cut the flow of money to operators of copyright infringing websites would be outlined too. It was unclear from his comments whether the plans would be legislative in nature or follow the example of voluntary initiatives already in place in the UK.

"According to a recent survey, 22% of Europeans think it is acceptable to download or access copyright-protected content illegally when there is no legal alternative in their country," Ansip said. "This clearly shows how important it is to give people a legal alternative, by improving cross-border access. In parallel, we plan to tackle piracy by using a 'follow the money' process with the industry, for instance working with the big brands and advertising professionals. Our aim is to deprive commercial-scale infringers of their revenue flows." 

The EU's copyright reforms will also look to ensure that exceptions to copyright are "more closely aligned" across the trading bloc, Ansip said. He described "the mess of exceptions to the rules that apply across the EU's 28 countries" as one of the "serious problem areas" that the reforms will address.

Last week the UK government confirmed to Out-Law.com that it does not intend to reintroduce proposed new regulations to legalise private copying in the UK after previous rules on the issue were ruled unlawful by the High Court in June. In its statement the government said it is instead "focussing its resources on the upcoming European copyright reforms".

The new EU copyright framework will also make it easier for out-of-commerce works to be digitised, Ansip said. Out-of-commerce works is a term that refers to copyright-protected material which is no longer published or generally available to the public, aside perhaps from in libraries or second-hand shops.

"Why accept their limited availability in the national market and in other EU countries?" the commissioner said. "We will make it easier to digitise these works and make them more available, including across the EU." 

Ansip also said that the European Commission wants to "improve access to online services from other EU countries", but that it has yet to finalise how to do this. One of the options under consideration is to reform the EU's Cable and Satellite Directive, he said.

The Commission opened a review of the EU Satellite and Cable Directive in August. The Directive sets rules on what broadcasters need to do to obtain the necessary copyright clearance to broadcast via satellite or through cable retransmissions. Separate rules apply to each form of broadcasting. Ansip said that the Commission's review is looking at how the Directive "can be extended to online TV and radio programmes".

Ansip also said that "the relationship between the creative sector and digital platforms" is under examination by the European Commission and urged stakeholders to engage with its ongoing consultation on platforms.