Sociology Index

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European Union Copyright Laws

The judgments of the European Court of Justice, the Court of First Instance and the directives which the member states are obliged to enact into their national laws harmonise the copyright laws of European Union member states into the copyright law of the European Union. The main copyright directives are the Copyright Term Directive, the Information Society Directive and the Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market. Copyright in the European Union is dependent on international conventions to which the European Union is a member.

Copyright law in Europe can be traced back to the signature of the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works on 9 September 1886. All European Union Member States are signatories of the Berne Convention, and compliance with its dispositions is now obligatory before accession. European Economic Community applied common standard for the copyright protection of computer programs, enacted in the directive on the legal protection of computer programs (91/250/EEC) in 1991.

A common term of copyright protection, 70 years from the death of the author, was agreed in 1993 as the directive harmonizing the term of protection of copyright and certain related rights (93/98/EEC). The implementation of directives on copyright has been rather more controversial than for many other subjects, as can be seen by the six judgments for non-transposition of the EU Copyright Directive (2001/29/EC).

Traditionally, copyright laws vary considerably between Member States, particularly between common law jurisdictions (Cyprus, Ireland, Malta and the United Kingdom) and civil law countries. Changes in copyright law have also become linked to protests against the World Trade Organization and globalization in general.

The Information Society Directive is a directive of the European Union that was enacted to implement the WIPO Copyright Treaty and to harmonise aspects of copyright law across Europe, such as copyright exceptions.

Articles 2–4 contain definitions of the exclusive rights granted to under copyright and related rights. They distinguish the "reproduction right" (Article 2) from the right of "communication to the public" or "making available to the public" (Article 3): the latter is specifically intended to cover publication and transmission on the internet. The related right for authors to authorise or prohibit any form of distribution to the public by sale or otherwise is provided for in Article 4.

Directive 2003/98/EC on the re-use of public sector information, otherwise known as the PSI Directive, is an EU directive that encourages EU member states to make as much public sector information available for re-use as possible.