EU intentions for Copyright by Mick Greenhough 12 5 2008 firstname.lastname@example.org
This has been confirmed by the leader of the Independence and Democracy Group in the European Parliament.
There is a European Commission (EC) committee currently sitting to produce an EU Directive – ‘The Status of Artists in Europe’ – that they hope will enable the EC to take control of all artistic activities in Europe. This Directive will be the cause of major consequences for artists and authors- initially for conditions of work but also for copyright when fully implemented.
At first glance this proposed EU Directive would seem to be a very good advance for artists. As with most EU Directives it is not what it at first appears. There will be a very nasty covert sting in the tail.
The interim draft has been published – 2006/2249(INI) 20.3.2007 – but a very significant item from the committee discussions have been omitted.
The following are still being worked on but basically the EC committee, chaired by a Claire Gibault with the support other very Arty Socialist MEPs, want the (unelected) European Commission to:
1) give artists a special Professional Register with rights to unemployment benefits within the EU.
2) control the contracts of employment of all European artists. How this will affect books, films, plays or TV programmes that ‘mavericks’ would want to produce and of which the EU disapprove is as yet unclear.
3) control the employment of non-EU artists within the EU.
4) to have a special electronic ID card for EU artists to allow them to work anywhere in the EU.
5) Who will decide who can be an artist and what the distinction will be between professional, amateur and semi-professional artists is as yet unclear.
6) What will be the influence of, the status of, or the need for Trade Unions like Equity is also unclear at the moment?
The unpublished sting in the tail is the alleged fate of copyright.
Item 7 is still on the committee’s agenda and is, as yet, being held back from public scrutiny. The following is based mainly on comments and declared aims of Claire Gibault and other members.
Item 7 intends that on the death of an author/artist all their copyrights will immediately & automatically transfer to the European Commission. It will effectively disinherit the artist’s/author’s relatives and void all bequests to anyone else to whom they may have signed over their copyright.
This does not mean the artist’s work will be freely in the public domain. The intention is that the global copyright will become the property of the EC and everyone will be required to pay royalties to the EC.
This is NOT an abolition of copyright on the death of the author/artist. It will, in effect, be the confiscation of intellectual property and its transfer to the European Commission for their profit, control and potential propaganda use.
It could well be a problem for a European artist to avoid this as the EC claim that it is not legally possible to cease to be an EU citizen even if you live abroad and take the nationality of another country. The EU will still try to claim all EU artists’ intellectual property on their death, wherever they may have been living.
For example the sudden death, perhaps in a car accident, of a famous British author who has become a US citizen, living in the US and contracted to a Hollywood film studio could mire their estate in legal wrangles for years to come. Never mind anyone who has to pay royalties. Who would you buy a film script under these conditions?
It is intended that in time everything written, drawn, recorded or filmed by European citizens would eventually become the property of the EC. They can then, of course, quite legally edit out anything of which they disapprove.
It is interesting to ask if a deceased’s intellectual property is any different from the other assets of their estate? Will this eventually include their house, any patents, any other or all of their other personal assets?
There has been a suggestion that copyright could be increased to 95 years but this may be just a temporary palliative that the EC can amend at any time.
It is important to be aware that the EC has been set up to govern Europe as ‘the Higher Authority free from control by elected politicians’ and that the Lisbon Treaty is a ‘self amending treaty’. As such it will give the unelected European Commission the powers to alter anything within that Treaty or any EU Directive without referring back to any democratically elected parliament.