EU Closes In on Net Copyright Protection Accord

BRUSSELS (06/08/2000) - The European Union, in principle, has approved a proposal to adapt copyright protection to fit the requirements of the Internet, an EU spokesman said today. Last month, EU ministers delayed voting on the proposal due to lack of agreement on the necessary level of protection.

"Member states have now resolved all their differences, notably as regards private copying of digital transmissions," Jonathan Todd, European Commission spokesman for the EU's internal market, said here today. The Commission first put forward the proposal in 1997 as a way to try and ensure a single European market for all digital transmissions.

The proposal aims to harmonize existing national copyright protection laws in relation to the reproduction, communication to the public and distribution of protected works. It also attempts to clarify the exclusive rights of copyright owners over digital transmission and reproduction. Additionally, the proposal tries to strike a fair balance between the rights of content owners and of telecommunications and ISPs (Internet service providers), who fear that overprotection of Net content will hinder future technology developments.

The proposal would also make it illegal to bypass the technological measures taken by equipment manufacturers and content producers to prevent copying.

Late last month, EU industry ministers failed to reach agreement on the proposal, which is seen as being essential to the Union's drive to promote the development of electronic commerce. Ministerial negotiations faltered over the exceptions that could be granted to a owner's exclusive control of his or her copyright, with private copying the major problem.

Over the last ten days, however, national experts have worked feverishly to overcome French-led resistance to the majority position that not only should individuals be allowed to make copies for private use, but that each EU member state can decide whether or not to impose a charge for private copying and for copies used by libraries and/or universities.

The proposal is now on track to be formally adopted by the Council of Ministers before the end of the year, as long as no further stumbling blocks appear.

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