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EU Directive 93/98

European Union proposals for harmonising copyright

Main image of EU Directive 93/98

This Directive is aimed at harmonising the periods of copyright throughout the European Union where different states provide different periods of protection.

Although the minimum term established by the Berne Convention on Copyright is 50 years post mortem auctoris (since the death of the author), a number of states have chosen to provide for longer periods. In Germany the period of literary dramatic musical and artistic works is 70 years pma, in Spain 60 years (or 80 years for copyrights protected under the Spanish law of 1879 until its reform in 1987). In France the period is 60 years pma or 70 years for musical compositions.

In addition to the differences in the term of rights post mortem auctoris, further discrepancies arise in protection accorded by different member states through wartime extensions. Belgium has provided a wartime extension of 10 years, Italy 12 years, France six and eight years respectively in relation to the First and Second World Wars. In France, a further period of 30 years is provided in the case of copyright works whose authors were killed in action - such as Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.

The Directive also provides that rights of performers shall run from 50 years from the date of performance or if later, from the point at which the fixation of the performance is lawfully made available to the public for the first time, or if this has not occurred from the first assimilation of the performance. The rights of producers of phonograms run 50 years from first publication of the phonogram, but expire 50 years after the fixation was made if the phonogram, but expire 50 years after the fixation was made if the phonogram has not been published during that time. A similar provision applies to the rights of producers of the first fixations of cinematographic works and sequences of moving images, whether accompanied or not by sound. Rights of broadcasting organisations run from 50 years from the first transmission of the broadcast.

The Directive provides that the person who makes available to the public a previously unpublished work which is in the public domain, shall have the same rights of exploitation in relation to the work as would have fallen to the author for a term of 25 years from the time the work was first made available to the public. The Directive applies to all works which are protected by at least one member state on I July 1995 when the Directive came into effect. As a result of the differing terms in European states, many works which were treated as being in the 'public domain' in the United Kingdom will have their copyright revived. Works by Beatrix Potter. James Joyce and Rudyard Kipling are all works which will benefit from a revival of copyright. The provisions relating to the term of protection of cinematographic films are not required to be applied to films created before 1 July 1994. Each member state of the European Union's required to implement the Directive. The precise manner of implementation and the choice of transitional provisions, are matters which each state is free to determine.

Directive 93/98 was implemented in the United Kingdom by the Rights in Performances Regulations 1995/ 3297 which took effect from 1 January 1996. The term of copyright protection for literary dramatic musical or artistic works expires at the end of the period of 70 years from the last day of the calendar year in which the author dies. Copyright in a film expires 70 years from the end of the calendar year in which the death occurs of the last to die of the principal director, the author of the screenplay, the author of the dialogue or the composer of the music specially created for and used for the film. The period of copyright previously applying to films under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 ended 50 years from the first showing or playing in public of a film, and the effect of the implementation of Directive 93/98 is to create a significant extension of the period in which a film copyright owner has the exclusive economic right to exploit a film. If. as anticipated, the United States of America also extends the duration of the copyright period applying to films. the value of intellectual property rights in audiovisual productions may increase significantly.

The full text is available on the European Union's EUROPA portal website.

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