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Summaries of EU Legislation

Green Paper on Copyright and Related Rights in the Information Society

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Green Paper on Copyright and Related Rights in the Information Society

The purpose of this Green Paper is to set out the background to a number of questions of copyright and related rights where legislative measures may be needed as the information society develops.


European Commission Green Paper of 27 July 1995 on Copyright and Related Rights in the Information Society [COM(95) 382 final - Not published in the Official Journal]


The Green Paper is divided into two chapters. Chapter 1 describes how the information society ought to function. It shows how important the information society is to the European Community, and how it fits into the single market framework. It seeks to highlight the issues that arise as a result of the emergence of the information society. Chapter 2 picks out nine of the points regarding copyright and related rights which were brought up in contributions from interested parties and which the Commission believes should be given priority in order to ensure that the information society can function properly.

Need for adapted regulations

If the information society is to develop successfully, the many new services and products being created must be able to benefit fully from the information superhighway. Their expansion must take place in a regulatory framework that is coherent at national, Community and international level. Legislation will have to be adapted in order to respond to the new requirements arising, and this raises new issues. One of these issues is the adaptation of the legal environment for intellectual property.

The Green Paper emphasises that the approach taken by the single market legislation shows the way forward in information society policy.

The importance of adequate protection

The new services and products being provided via the information superhighway may make use of existing works or may create new ones. Existing protected material will have to be regularly re-worked before being transmitted in a digital environment; and the creation of new works and services requires substantial investment, without which the scope of the new services will remain very limited.

The creative effort which provides a basis for investment in new services will be worth undertaking only if works and other matter are adequately protected by copyright and related rights in the digital environment.

Once a service has been provided on a network it becomes very difficult, without adequate protection, to ensure that a literary or artistic work or other protected matter will not be copied, transformed or exploited without the knowledge of the rightholders and contrary to their interests.

Network characteristics and difficulties for protection

Owing to the very nature of such networks, any wide variation in the level of protection of works and other protected matter may place obstacles in the way of the development of the information society. Given the difficulty of verifying the use made of a work, and the scope for displacement of business which this opens up, there is a need for more far-reaching harmonisation of the protection provided by copyright and related rights.

Current legal framework

There is already a measure of Community-wide harmonisation in the shape of four directives on copyright and related rights. This legal framework has to be completed with the Directive on the legal protection of databases. This last measure puts the Community ahead of its commercial partners by providing a proper legal framework for the development of services in the information society.

Better harmonisation

Copyright and related rights give the holder sole power to authorise or prohibit the use, reproduction and the like of works and other protected matter; and unless the rules governing them are aligned from one country to another, there will inevitably be obstacles in the way of the free movement of the goods and services involved. Moreover, unless there is sufficient harmonisation at Community level, the markets now opening up to new services risk remaining segmented between themselves; this would prevent the development of services which will be profitable only if they can operate in a market wider than the purely domestic one.

A number of general questions, questions concerning specific rights and some other issues arising in connection with the exploitation of rights should therefore be examined. The general questions concern the applicable law and the exhaustion of certain rights. The aspects of specific rights discussed include reproduction rights, the definition of "public" in connection with the right of communication "to the public", and certain specific rights which might be applicable to different types of digital transmission. Here it is proposed that a distinction should be drawn between a digital transmission right and a digital broadcasting right. The issue of moral rights is also examined in detail. On the exploitation of rights, the Green Paper looks at the administration of rights and at systems of identification and technical protection.

The Green Paper is part of a process of consultation. In 1995, interested parties, including organisations and governments, were able to present their views on the questions it raises.


Directive 2001/29/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 22 May 2001 on the harmonisation of certain aspects of copyright and related rights in the information society [Official Journal L 167 of 22.06.2001]. This Directive aims to harmonise the laws of Member States on copyright and related rights in order to improve legal certainty and provide a high level of protection for intellectual property in the European Union.

Resolution on the Commission Communication "Follow-up to the Green Paper on copyright and related rights in the information society" [COM(96)0483 C4-0621/96 - Official Journal C 339 of 10.11.1997].

Commission Communication of 20 November 1996 - "Follow-up to the Green Paper on copyright and related rights in the information society" [COM(96) 568 final - Not published in the Official Journal]. In this Communication, the Commission focused the debate on the challenges posed by new technologies for copyright and related rights.

Last updated: 09.01.2008