Brexit sees UK diverge on EU copyright reforms

Out-Law News | 23 Jan 2020 | 9:28 am | 2 min. read

Controversial new EU copyright laws will not be implemented in the UK despite it having previously voted in favour of the reforms, a government minister confirmed earlier this week.

Chris Skidmore confirmed the UK government's new policy position on the Digital Single Market Copyright Directive on Tuesday in response to a written question posed in the UK parliament.

Connor Iain

Iain Connor


It could mean UK consumers will find it harder to use their streaming services while travelling abroad 

Skidmore, who is minister for business, energy and industrial strategy, said: "The deadline for implementing the EU Copyright Directive is 7 June 2021. The United Kingdom will leave the European Union on 31 January 2020 and the Implementation Period will end on 31 December 2020. The Government has committed not to extend the Implementation Period. Therefore, the United Kingdom will not be required to implement the Directive, and the government has no plans to do so. Any future changes to the UK copyright framework will be considered as part of the usual domestic policy process."

Intellectual property law expert Iain Connor of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law, said: "This could be the first example of substantial divergence between EU and UK laws as a result of Brexit. Ironically, given the compromises required to pass the Digital Single Market Copyright Directive meant that the new regime has critics on all sides, it might mean that the UK can deliver a legal framework more fit for purpose. Having said that it could also mean UK consumers will find it harder to use their streaming services while travelling abroad in the EU27."

The new Copyright Directive was finalised last year following a period of intense lobbying.

The new rules provided content creators with rights to exercise greater control over where their copyrighted material appears online, and require online platforms to cooperate with rights holders to intervene to tackle unauthorised use of the material by users if they want to avoid being held liable for copyright infringement themselves.

The European Commission set up a forum last year enabling discussions to take place between online content-sharing service providers and right holders over how they might cooperate under the new framework.

Other reforms that the Directive provides for also proved controversial. They will require website operators and social media companies, among others, to make a 'fair and proportionate' payment in remuneration for the digital use of press publications, subject to certain limitations.

The new rules also provide for a number of new exceptions to copyright, including on text and data mining, and the use of copyrighted materials for illustrative purposes in the context of online teaching, and they also contain provisions on copyright levies.

The reforms were not universally supported by all EU member states, with the Netherlands, Poland and Italy among those that voted against the new measures. However, at the time the UK, along with Germany and France among others, voted in favour of the reforms. The UK's Intellectual Property Office previously told Out-Law that the outcome of Brexit will dictate the UK government's approach to implementation of the new EU copyright regime.

Frankfurt-based technology law expert Dr. Nils Rauer of Pinsent Masons said Germany is moving forward with its implementation process.

"A draft bill has already been prepared by the German legislature. Most recently, a confidential sounding process has been kicked-off involving a committee of copyright experts which I sit on," Rauer said. "We are currently digesting the content. The committee is asked to render its recommendations by the end of the month. This process of prior consultation with stakeholders is common in Germany before legislation is made available for public review. I would anticipate that an official first draft will be published in Germany before the end of March."