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Tuesday, January 23, 2001
Copyright law near in Europe


"...At a final hearing Wednesday on updating European copyright laws for the digital age, music industry lobbyists will be arguing for last-ditch language to restrict private copying. Industry officials argue that the shape of the final directive, which as been hotly debated for more than three years, will determine in part the viability of selling music online in Europe. The tussle over what constitutes copying for private use - which is permitted under current law - is "very important and very disputed", said Nikos Tziorkas, spokesman for the European Parliament's Legal Affairs and Internal Market committee.

"We don't have a problem if someone copies a piece of music for their car or summer house or teen-age daughter. We don't consider it to be private copying if you copy a piece of music and then e-mail it to 100 contacts on the Internet," said Francine Cunningham, spokeswoman for the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry in Brussels.

Europe's major music companies and other rightsholders are pitched against hardware manufacturers, telecommunications companies and CD makers on other issues as well, including how much leeway individual countries will have to grant exceptions to the rules. Copyright holders, such as the record industry, the software industry and performers, want amendments that would allow an EU committee to oversee the practice. They argue that otherwise, there won't be a true single copyright standard for Europe, and hardware and content producers will have to cater for 15 different markets.

European lawmakers have been sympathetic to copyright holders in past debates, viewing such a stance as a way to support European culture and investment in creative industries. The committee was to take up the amendments Wednesday afternoon, then send the final version to a committee vote next week. It then would go to the full Parliament in mid-February.

EU ratification would tip it over the minimum number of countries needed to come into force around the world. Two years after the WIPO treaty, the United States implemented it through the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which among other restrictions requires that "Webcasters" pay licensing fees to record companies..."



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