Law Squirrel

EU Plans Modernisation of Digital Copyright Law

EU CopyrightThe European Commission has announced plans to modernise copyright law in the European Union, particularly in the digital arena. The plans have been published by the Commission in the Digital Single Market Strategy, designed to unify the EU’s digital market to better reflect the single market principles of the Union.

The Digital Single Market Strategy primarily focusses on three core aspects of the EU’s digital market which the Commission feels need to be improved. Firstly, it aims to provide “Better access for consumers and businesses to digital goods and services.” This will involve an overhaul of copyright law, designed to ensure that users throughout the EU have free, equal access to digital products. This will, of course, need to be balanced against the needs to properly protect the rights of copyright holders – an issue which is sometimes complicated when transactions take place across national borders – and crafting a law that treads the right line between these considerations could prove a challenge.

This part of the strategy will also aim to abolish geo-blocking, where people are automatically blocked from accessing an online store based on their location. Often, would-be buyers in certain countries are either blocked from accessing the store altogether or redirected automatically to a local variant of the store with different price structures and a different selection of products. According to the Commission, this is often done without any justification or any legal consideration, such as copyright law, driving the decision. “Such discrimination cannot exist in a Single Market,” the Strategy concludes.

The second key aim of the strategy will be to “[shape] the environment for digital networks and services to flourish.” Part of this will involve tactics such as investment in better communications infrastructure. However, there will once again be considerations relating to pertinent legal issues. This could potentially involve amendments to current data protection laws, which some feel disproportionately favour business interests over consumers at present, as well as a rethink about current media and telecoms regulations.

The Digital Single Market Strategy’s final aim is “Creating a European Digital Economy and Society with long-term growth potential.” This is the section which has the least bearing on the EU’s legal systems. Rather, it involves ensuring that physical infrastructure and digital services such as the cloud are kept up to date, and that digital systems are able to work together throughout the EU.

The timetable for the implementation of the strategy is very uncertain at present. It is likely that different aspects of the strategy will be implemented at different times, largely depending on how quickly the pertinent issues can be resolved. Legal aspects such as copyright and data protection reforms may take longer than other aspects of the plan due to the number of different interested groups to consider.

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