EU Copyrights May Cover Downloads


Wednesday, February 14th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6


STRASBOURG, France (AP) — The European Parliament on Wednesday endorsed tougher rules granting artists and record labels more copyright protection for their works downloaded from the Internet.

Backers said the new law will spell the end in Europe of music-sharing Websites such as Napster, just days after a U.S. appeals court effectively ruled Napster must stop people who use it to swap copyrighted music without charge and without restriction.

``The illegal use of copyrighted material is banned,'' said the bill's author, Italian socialist Enrico Bosselli. He said the new rules ``were a major step forward for rights holders.''

The 15 EU governments were expected to approve the draft in a matter of weeks. It would take effect after national parliaments have given their blessing, a process that can take up to 18 months.

Internal Market Commissioner Frits Bolkestein, speaking for the EU's executive body, praised Parliament for preserving the bill's ``delicate balance of interests.''

Bolkestein said it should ``bring European copyright rules into the digital age ... facilitate the development of electronic commerce and so increase the competitiveness of the European economy.''

Bosselli told reporters the days of Napster-like Websites enabling free copying of music without a penny going to the artists or record labels are over.

``What Napster offers goes beyond the private sphere. In the EU we are not envisaging that it will be legal to buy music in a shop, then put it on the Internet'' without users paying for it, said Bosselli.

The EU assembly vote came after a last rush of conflicting appeals: from music stars demanding better protection of their rights to music and lyrics, and from telecommunications companies, CD makers and consumer groups urging a more liberal approach.

Music companies, including labels such as EMI, Virgin, Warner and Universal, said the $7 billion industry was at risk from massive and illegal copying and welcomed Wednesday's vote.

``There are enough elements here for the music industry to speed up the offering of music to consumers in a wider range of ways,'' said Jay Berman, chairman of the International Federation of Phonographic Industries, which represents more than 1,400 record producers and distributors in over 70 countries.

Berman, who was in Strasbourg for the vote, said the draft EU law ``recognizes that copyright is an essential part of the Information Society.

Lucy Cronin, director of the European Digital Media Association, said it was ``a good result all around and a fair deal for all the parties.''

The new EU rules tighten the definition of ``private copy'' and ban commercial use of copied material taken from the Internet.

They also allow people to copy music — or any other data from the Internet — for their own use and to share with friends provided the rightsholder gets ``fair compensation.''

The bill leaves it to national governments to decide how to implement that. Some have already enacted fees on such things as blank CDs to cover payments to artists.

Educators, museums and libraries will be able to copy material for public use free of charge, Bosselli said. ``Copyright should be protected, but the right to study and do research should also be protected if it is not for commercial purposes.''

The association of European Telecommunications Network Operators said it was pleased that no copyright fees would be assessed for ``streaming'' — the technique that lets users see video or hear music on the Internet without downloading it.



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