Intellectual property/telecommunications: Proposed Copyright Directive

United Kingdom

Proposed copyright Directive

The Commission has tabled a draft Directive on harmonising aspects of rules on copyright and related rights in the information society. One key feature is a proposal to harmonise authors' rights to approve or prohibit copying of their works by "new" techniques, such as electronic and digital distribution.

The draft Directive would give authors, performing artists, phonogram and film producers and broadcasting organisations an exclusive right to authorise or prohibit reproductions of their work. This would include all types of direct or indirect reproduction, whether temporary or permanent, on-line or off-line, or in material or written form.

Other key provisions include:


  • Communication to the public right
    Authors would be provided with a general exclusive right to authorise or prohibit any communication to the public of originals or copies of their work by wire or wireless means. Exceptions to this rule include use for teaching and scientific research.

  • Distribution right
    The distribution right would give authors the exclusive right to control any type of distribution to the public by sale or otherwise of the original of their work or tangible copies of their works eg. on paper, CD or CD-ROM. This would not apply to services in general or on-line.

  • Legal protection of anti-copying systems
    The Proposal would require Member States to provide adequate legal protection against any activities which would enable or facilitate the unlawful circumvention of measures designed to protect copyright or related rights.

  • Liability
    The Proposal incorporates the international WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organisation) obligations approved during the 1996 conference (see our July/August Newsletter)

    The European Publishers Council and International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) are opposed to the Proposal. The IFPI believes the Directive could erode the music industry's protection from copyright infringements and piracy.

    In its defence, the Commission explains that the aim of the Directive is to encourage creativity and investment in the products and services involved with a view to boosting job creation and long-term competitiveness. The Proposal is based on extensive consultation on a 1995 Green Paper and is intended to update protection in the light of information society developments, such as on-line services, CD ROMs, the Internet, digitalisation and other electronic systems.