EU Copyright directive
On 8 June 2004, the European Court of Justice issued an opinion on four (similar) cases regarding the database directive 'sui generis' right. The opinion seems to grant perpetual protection to databases, and confirms grave public concerns about the impact of the directive on the use and re-use of online information. Though the opinion of the Advocate General is not binding on the court, it is persuasive and often mirrored in the final verdict.
The parties are the British Horseracing Board (BRB) versus William Hill and Fixtures Marketing Ltd (football fixture lists) versus football pools operators in Finland, Sweden and Greece. Advocate General Stix-Hackl found that the database rights of the plaintiffs (BRB and Fixtures Marketing) were infringed. "'Bookmakers' use of data constitutes a prohibited re-utilisation even if they do not obtain the data directly from the database but from other independent sources such as print media or the internet."
The annual 'New Directions in Copyright' conference was held 29 and 30 June 2004 at University of London, organised jointly by the Arts and Humanities Research Board and the Birckbeck School of Law. The focus was on legal issues pertaining to recent developments in copyright. The flat fee / compulsory licensing was under serious debate and also otherwise the user rights-angle was prominently present. Especially Professor David Vaver's 'User Rights vs. User Exceptions: Reconceptualising the Public Domain' was a very strong presentation about the need to change the language used in copyright debates. Another very interesting presentation was given by Professor Peter Jaszi, who has been fighting for balanced copyright long before the current generation of copyright fighters. He showed how best practices can be used to shape fair use in his presentation 'The Crisis in Fair Use and the Potential of a 'Best Practices' Approach'. Professor Lisa Maruca's 'Cultures of Copying, Cultures of Copyright: Academic Anxiety and the Plagiarism Panic' was also fascinating and scary at the same time, because it demonstrated how companies like TurnItIn can misuse other persons' copyrighted material to fight overly broadly against plagiarism cases.
Eight Member States were referred by the Commission in December 2003 to the Court of Justice for failure to transpose the Copyright Directive (2001/29/EC) into national law. The deadline for implementation was 22 December 2002, but was only met by Greece and Denmark. Italy, Austria, Germany and the UK transposed the Directive into national law in 2003, while Ireland and Luxembourg implemented the Directive in 2004.
The remaining seven original states - Belgium, Spain, France, the Netherlands, Portugal, Finland and Sweden - have all published draft legislation. Controversy over the Directive has ensured a rocky ride for these laws, most of which have now been rewritten at least once after negative comment on the initial drafts. Implementation continues in the 10 new member states.
The case against DVD-Jon (Jon Johansen) finally ended on 5 January 2004, when the Norwegian Economic Crime Unit (Okokrim) confirmed it would not appeal the upholding of his acquittal on copyright charges to the Supreme Court of Norway. DVD-Jon won the first trial on the 6th of January 2003. The Norwegian Okokrim appealed but Jon also won the new trial on 22 December 2003.
The case started in 1999 when the Norwegian teenager reverse-engineered DVD-technology and wrote DeCSS software, in order to build an independent DVD player for the Linux operating system (See EDRI-gram nr. 23).
Second acquittal by the Borgarting Appellate Court in English (22.12.2003)
In an important victory for Italian consumer rights, an Italian court has rejected the seizure of Sony PlayStation game consoles that use modified chips to permit unauthorised uses of the game systems. The case is one of the first to be brought in Italy under the new European Union Copyright Directive (EUCD).
In December 2003, the Public Prosecutor of Bolzano issued a search and seizure warrant against companies that purchased modified consoles from another company previously investigated by the Public Prosecutor of Bassano del Grappa. On 13 December this warrant lead to the seizing of a PlayStation and some modified chips from a company in Rimini.
This company took the case to the (civil) court to decide whether the producer of a device or computer, such as the Sony PlayStation Console, "to which extent a machine seller can forbid the modifications allowing a use different than the ones he likes." According to this court’s decision under Italian civil law, the answer is no.
European citizens could find many common activities banned as the EU Copyright Directive becomes law, a new report reveals. Transferring songs from a copy-protected CD to a Walkman or computer could be illegal, as could watching a DVD on a computer running Linux.
'Implementing the EU Copyright Directive', published 8 September 2003, reports on legal developments across the EU as member states change their laws to comply with the Directive (2001/29/EC).
It finds that it is now illegal in several countries such as Greece and Germany to use copyrighted works such as CDs, films or electronic books in ways restricted by the publisher.
An international coalition of 39 civil liberties groups and consumer rights organisations sent a letter to the European Union on 11 August urging rejection of the proposed intellectual property enforcement directive. The coalition warns that the proposed Directive is over-broad and threatens civil liberties, innovation, and competition policy.
A recent verdict from the European Court of Justice implies that all EU countries should choose the same legislative translation of 'equitable remuneration', a crucial formula in the European Copyright Directive. Weighing the case of the Dutch copyright collecting society SENA versus the national broadcasting organisation NOS, the Court explains how the 1992 EU directive on rental and lending rights should be interpreted.