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European Commission outlines plans to revise IP frameworks

The European Commission will draft new laws next year that will enable music fans to pay for music through a pan-EU cross-border licensing system.

The Commission has previously outlined its support for a pan-EU licensing system but has now announced that it plans to draft new laws around its creation within the first three months of next year. The Commission outlined the plans in its Work Programme for 2012.

Among its other work for next year the Commission also plans to introduce new laws around electronic transactions (e-payments) and make changes to EU trade mark regulations, intellectual property (IP) rights enforcement laws and copyright law relating to rights holder compensation for private copying, it said.

The new legislative proposals around cross-border licensing will centre on collective rights management for music online, the Commission said.

"The uptake of electronic services is crucial, and e-commerce will be actively promoted," the Commission said in its 2012 Work Programme (11-page / 57KB PDF).

"The proposed instrument will have a double focus: first, a general level of governance and transparency to apply to all collecting societies; and second, specific rules aimed at licensing of online music in order to foster the digital single market and provide more cross-border services to customers across the EU," the Commission said in the Annex (45-page / 294KB PDF) to its Programme.

The initiative will help "facilitate multi territory licenses", whilst new laws that "ensure mutual recognition of electronic identification, authentication and signatures will aim to build consumer confidence and make online payments and electronic transactions easier" will be drafted "in parallel," the Commission said.

The Commission said that the development of a pan-EU framework around 'eSignatures' should enable them to be "as easy to use as hand written signature" in electronic transactions.

"The mutual recognition and acceptance of national eIDs throughout the EU would enable all citizens and businesses to use their national eIDs in all Member States to access online services of national public administrations and public authorities and speed up procedures significantly," it said.

The Commission said legislative changes would be drafted around IP rights enforcement to update the existing EU laws to "make sure that intellectual property rights can be protected effectively and uniformly in the EU, in particular in a digital environment". It also said the "several provisions" of the existing laws need clarified "in order to achieve consistent interpretation and enforcement".

Changes to copyright law around the "fair compensation" rights holders are due for unauthorised private copying of their works, will also be announced, the Commission said. The proposals will "provide that schemes for fair compensation under the [Copyright] Directive operate in a way which provides the revenue due to right holders while not hampering the functioning of the internal market for electronic media and equipment," it said.

Some European countries allow the unauthorised copying of material that a person legitimately owns, as long as that is for private use. Under the EU's Copyright Directive this is permitted as long as there is 'fair compensation' to the copyright holders. In a ruling by the ECJ last year, the Court said that what constitutes 'fair compensation' must be determined by the "harm suffered by the author". Countries which allow private copying ensure this fair compensation by charging a levy on the media – discs and media players for example – that material is typically copied on to. That levy is then distributed through collection societies to rights holders.

A new "initiative" will also be outlined next year on 'notice and takedown' (NTD) procedures around the removal of illegal content available on the internet, the Commission said.


"The main policy objectives are: contribute to a good functioning of Digital Single Market, contribute to combating illegality on the internet, ensure the transparency, effectiveness, proportionality and compliance with fundamental rights of notice and takedown procedures, ensure a balanced and workable approach towards NTD procedures, with focus on fundamental rights and the impact for innovation, growth," the Commission said.

New legislation modernising the EU's Community Trade Mark Regulation and Trade Marks Directive will be drafted with the aim to "upgrade, streamline and modernise both the EU Regulation and Directive, where appropriate," the Commission said. The draft will include proposals that the Office for Harmonisation for the Internal Market (OHIM) work more closely with national trade mark offices across the EU "with the purpose of making the trade mark system in Europe, as a whole, more effective, efficient and consistent," it said.

The Commission also said that it would draft new measures aimed at "strengthening customs compliance ... and ... ensuring an equal treatment to the economic operators with regard to customs penalties".

The Commission's Work Programme also laid out its plans to form a 'European Strategy' around internet security, whilst non-legislative measures will be announced that inform citizens, EU member states and the European Parliament "on the prerequisites needed to ensure an effective response to cybercrime".

New EU data retention laws will also be announced next year. The current Data Retention Directive was established in 2006 to make it a requirement for telecoms companies to retain personal data for a period determined by national governments of between six months and two years. The Commission decided to regulate following terrorist attacks in Madrid in 2004 and London in 2005.

Under the Directive telecoms firms are required to retain identifying details of phone calls and emails, such as the traffic and location, to help the police detect and investigate serious crimes. The details exclude the content of those communications.

The Commission will propose revisions to those laws that enable law enforcement to access the data that is "strictly necessary" to tackle crime, whilst ensuring "appropriate limitations" on how long data can be stored for are proscribed, it said. The Commission's drafts will also include "safeguards against unnecessary infringements of right to privacy and the protection of personal data," it said.

The regulatory framework around cloud computing will also be addressed with data protection and data retention issues in mind, the Commission said. Cloud computing refers to the storage of files and programs on an internet-based network rather than on local computers.

Earlier this month EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding said new EU data protection laws, expected to be proposed before the end of January, would force non-EU based companies to comply with EU laws if they store EU citizens' data in 'the cloud'.

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