EU Copyright Directive Adopted by the European Parliament

By Hackett, Teresa | Information Outlook, July 2001 | Go to article overview

EU Copyright Directive Adopted by the European Parliament

Hackett, Teresa, Information Outlook

THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT IN STRASBOURG VOTED ON 14 FEBRUARY 2001 to adopt the draft EU Directive on copyright in the information society, with overall minor modifications. This is almost the final stage before the Directive officially becomes European law. Parliament's second reading opinion has now been forwarded to the European Commission and the Council of Ministers. If the Commission and the Council agree with Parliament's amendments, the Directive could become official as early as 2001.

Commission welcomes Parliament's vote

Commissioner for the Internal Market, Frits Bolkestein, welcomed Parliament's vote. "I am delighted that the European Parliament has voted overwhelmingly to endorse the compromise amendments to the EU copyright Directive that reflect the delicate balance of interests catered for in the Council's Common Position", said Mr Bolkestein after the vote. "Parliament's vote should help to ensure the rapid adoption of this important measure to bring European copyright rules into the digital age, as requested by the EU's Heads of State and Government at the Lisbon Summit. The rapid implementation of this Directive will facilitate the development of electronic commerce and so increase the competitiveness of the European economy."

Maintaining the Common Position

The text before Parliament was the so-called Common Position, achieved after nineteen months of negotiation by diplomatic representatives of the EU member states (see Information Europe, Autumn 2000 vol. 5, issue 3). Although there were still concerns, EBLIDA gave a cautious welcome to the Common Position, as it was a good improvement over the outcome of the first reading in the European Parliament and gave a more balanced approach as envisaged by international treaties (see Information Europe, Winter 2000 vol. 5, issue 4). Above all, the main concern was to maintain this balance. During the weeks when the Directive was actively under discussion in Parliament (8 January-14 February 2001), the library and user communities had to call on all their resources as they faced a powerful rightholder lobby, making the copyright Directive described as the most lobbied piece of European legislation.

Compromise amendments

The Committee on Legal Affairs and the Internal Market, one of seventeen standing committees of the European Parliament, was responsible for making voting recommendations on the copyright Directive to Parliament as a whole. The Committee appointed the Italian MEP Enrico Boselli as the rapporteur to draw up a report on the issue which he presented to the full committee. Mr Boselli, who belongs to the Group of the Party of European Socialists (PES) and has been an MEP since 1999, described the passage of the Directive during its second reading as "the mother of all battles" Mr Boselli presented his report (Boselli report) to the Legal Affairs Committee on 8 January 2001, with recommendations for four amendments, essentially maintaining the spirit of the Common Position. MEPs on the Committee then had one week. in which to submit their own amendments, provoking an unprecedented 197 amendments, the majority in favor of rightholders. These included proposals to attach compensation to the library 'fair dealing' pr ovisions and to narrow the library copying right to archiving and conservation purposes only, as it was during the first reading in Parliament in 1999. These and other amendments would have seriously unbalanced the delicate compromise of the Common Position and would, in all likelihood, have delayed adoption of the Directive.

In an attempt to rescue the situation, Mr Boselli proposed nine compromise amendments. In return, some MEPs withdrew their amendments and others agreed to support Mr Boselli. When the Committee voted on 5 February, the nine compromise amendments were accepted as well as six others. The proposals damaging to libraries were rejected. The Common Position, plus the fifteen amendments, were then submitted for debate by the whole Parliament on 13 February. …

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