Copyright Law in EU
March 28, 2004 8:09 PM   Subscribe

I"ve been reading Free Culture and fuming about copyright law. Something's been puzzling me: why is copyright law in the E.U. even more stringent than the U.S.? The E.U.'s generally more liberal and closer to me on almost every major issue; this is a glaring exception that I can't quite figure out.
posted by Tlogmer to Law & Government (4 answers total)
The formation of the EU was an opporunity to form a new superstructure for European law. Well-heeled media and IP-holding multinationals, fresh from kicking off a sea change in copyright and patent law in the US, turned their attention to this grand opportunity to have a say in how a major market worked.

Quite a lot of EU law appears to have been built on the US model: sold to the highest bidderbiggest lobbyists.
posted by majick at 8:15 PM on March 28, 2004

This is a complicated area without a lot of black and white answers. Rights clearance in parts of Europe is a major hassle. I think part of this (and trust me, this is truly only part of the story) has to do with the convergence of two copyright philosophies. Many european countries come at copyright from the creator's point of view and and have strong "neighboring" or so-called moral rights, whereas the UK and US treat copyright more as an economic right and emphasize copyright ownership and the divisibility and disposition of such as a basic property right. Further, international agreements such as TRIPS and the Berne Convention which strive for harmonization among member countries have generally strengthend copyright protection in much of the world. Of course there is an ongoing debate whether or not the US is actually in compliance with Article 6bis of Berne which covers moral rights for creators of copyrightable works....Anyway, the first thing that comes to mind is that many european countries have had to adopt two regimes to remain competitive, while the US still hedges on the droit moral. Why? Because copyright owners are are scared of copyright creators. And because we can. These are just some initial thoughts off the top of my head, it's a complicated subject.
posted by anathema at 8:30 PM on March 28, 2004

Implementation of the EU copyright directive by member states is a whole other matter. It is still up to individual states to harmonize their internal laws which is often a bumpy process.
posted by anathema at 8:39 PM on March 28, 2004

I'm not sure that there is really harmonisation to speak of wrt copyright, nor a consistent approach across the EU. I know a little bit about copyright with respect to journalism in Europe, but not much about other media. I'm not speaking from a legal background, but rather operational: where I've had to deal with - in particular - copyright restrictions over the reproduction of media content.

My understanding is that copyright in this area at least is governed by national law, which is projected internationally by treaty (possibly one of the ones that anathema talks about). This means that a Swedish newspaper is treated under Swedish copyright law in any country which is signatory to the treaty (including the US I believe). Swedish law says that you may not for example photocopy and distribute without the express written permission of the publisher.

On the other hand, other countries in Europe are far more liberal, although this is often because - although their law is quite clear that reproduction is forbidden without permission - there is a laissez faire understanding that publishers generally will not enforce their copyrights. As a result, in Italy for example, press clipping agencies will fax clips to you even though it is strictly speaking illegal. German press clipping agencies will not.

As a more ideological point, I think some of the time the reason can be attributed to who holds and maintains the copyright to an item. Copyright is often retained at least in part by the journalist in some European countries, and it makes economic sense for them to try to benefit from reproduction royalties. It is less clear that there is an economic case for publishers to try to exercise reproduction royalty rights where they hold the copyright (they would have to create a market for something for which people are generally strongly culturally indisposed to pay). Some countries have tried this (eg the Newspaper Licensing Agency in the UK), with a level of success that is - at best - unclear.
posted by bifter at 1:25 AM on March 29, 2004

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