1/31/2011

Recent thoughts on European copyright

Columbia law professor Jane Ginsburg has written European Copyright Code - Back to First Principles (with Some Additional Detail). In her abstract, she explains:
The "Wittem Group" of copyright scholars has proposed a "European Copyright Code," to "serve as an important reference tool for future legislatures at the European and national levels." Because, notwithstanding twenty years of Directives and a growing ECJ caselaw, copyright law in EU Member States continues to lack uniformity, the Wittem Group’s endeavor should be welcomed, at least as a starting point for reflection on the desirable design of an EU copyright regime. Whether or not the proposed Code succeeds in influencing national or Community legislation, it does offer an occasion to consider the nature of the rights that copyright secures, and of the goals that a copyright system should serve.

The following commentary will reproduce the provisions of the proposed Code, together with annotations of particular articles. The proposed Code contains five chapters: (1) Works; (2) Authorship and Ownership; (3) Moral Rights; (4) Economic Rights; (5) Limitations. The text provides neither for remedies, nor for voluntary formalities. It also does not address neighboring rights. The five chapters vary in ambition, from cautious synthesis to radical prescription. If some timidity characterizes the chapters addressing authors’ rights, the hallmark of the chapter on limitations is its temerity, displaying an impetus to break through the rigidity of the current EU and national systems of copyright exceptions in order to favor EU-wide uses of copyrighted works in which, in the drafters’ perception, the interests of third parties, including the public, outweigh those of the authors or copyright owners. Reaction to the Wittem endeavor may turn at least in part on one’s assessment of whether the drafters have correctly stated and/or weighted the third party interests.
Queen Mary University law professor Jonathan Griffiths also comments on European copyright law in Unsticking the Centre-Piece – The Liberation of European Copyright Law?. The abstract:
Following European legislative initiatives in the field of copyright limitations and exceptions, policy flexibilities formerly available to member states has been greatly diminished. The law in this area is increasingly incapable of accommodating any expansion in the scope of freely permitted acts, even where such expansion may be an appropriate response to changes in social and technological conditions. In this article, the causes of this problem are briefly canvassed and a number of potential solutions are noted. It is suggested that one such solution – the adoption of an open, factor-based model similar to s 107 of the United States’ Copyright Act – has not received the serious attention it deserves. The fair use paradigm has generally been dismissed as excessively unpredictable, contrary to international law and/or culturally alien. Drawing on recent fair use scholarship, it is argued here that these disadvantages are over-stated and that the potential for the development of a European fair use model merits investigation.