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Implementing the European Union Copyright Directive

Ian Brown

Directive 2001/29/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 22 May 2001 on the harmonisation of certain aspects of copyright and related rights in the information society has proven more contentious than its drafters foresaw. This EU Copyright Directive (EUCD), as it is commonly known, allowed only 19 months for implementation by Member States. But controversy in many of the fifteen States meant that only Denmark and Greece met this deadline.

Given the experience in the United States with a similar piece of legislation passed in 1998, this may be less surprising than it seems. The EUCD and the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) both give new protection to “technological measures” — systems that restrict the use of literary and other works in digital form based on instructions from their owners. Even legitimate users of such works are forbidden from circumventing such measures. Tools that facilitate circumvention are also banned. This has led to problems in the US for innovators, researchers, the press, and the public at large.

This guide describes the debate that has occurred within each of the EU states during this process of implementation. It also describes the options that are available in implementation, and how these options have been exercised across the EU. Our aim is to provide information to government and civil society bodies in the countries that will be joining the EU during 2004, and hence who must also transpose the Directive into national law as part of that process. These organisations will then be in a better position to represent the views of copyright users in the debate over transposition, in order to ensure a proper balance between the rights of rightsholders and users.

The European Commission is due to report on the operation of the Directive in December 2004, after which amendments may be made by the Parliament and Council. Until then, careful use of its flexibility in implementation may prevent the recurrence in Europe of some of the problems seen in the US as a result of the DMCA.

The guide will be updated to provide further information as the legal situation evolves, particularly in those countries that have only very recently, or are yet to, publish draft legislation (Ireland, Luxembourg and Sweden.)

You can download the entire guide in PDF format (1.01MB), or browse each section below.


Country reports

The Copyright Directive

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