The EU copyright legislation is a set of ten directives, which harmonise essential rights of authors and of performers, producers and broadcasters. By setting harmonised standards, the EU law reduces national discrepancies, ensures the level of protection required to foster creativity and investment in creativity, promotes cultural diversity and ensures better access for consumers and business to digital content and services across Europe.

The EU directives

The EU's regulatory framework for copyright and neighbouring rights (acquis) is a set of ten directives, addressed to the EU Member States:

  • Directive on the harmonisation of certain aspects of copyright and related rights in the information society ("InfoSoc Directive"), 22 May 2001
  • Directive on rental right and lending right and on certain rights related to copyright in the field of intellectual property ("Rental and Lending Directive"), 12 December 2006
  • Directive on the resale right for the benefit of the author of an original work of art ("Resale Right Directive"), 27 September 2001
  • Directive on the coordination of certain rules concerning copyright and rights related to copyright applicable to satellite broadcasting and cable retransmission ("Satellite and Cable Directive"), 27 September 1993
  • Directive on the legal protection of computer programs (“Software Directive”), 23 April 2009
  • Directive on the enforcement of intellectual property right (“IPRED”), 29 April 2004
  • Directive on the legal protection of databases (“Database Directive”), 11 March 1996
  • Directive  on the term of protection of copyright and certain related rights amending the previous 2006 Directive (“Term Directive”), 27 September 2011
  • Directive on certain permitted uses of orphan works (“Orphan Works Directive”), 25 October 2012
  • Directive on collective management of copyright and related rights and multi-territorial licensing of rights in musical works for online use in the internal market (“CRM Directive”), 26 February 2014

Three additional instruments harmonise the legal protection of topographies of semiconductor products. Moreover, the E-commerce Directive and the Conditional Access Directive also contains provisions which are relevant to the exercise and the enforcement of copyright.

The overall goal in the EU harmonisation efforts is to enable copyright protected goods (e.g. books, music, films, software etc.) and services (e.g. services offering access to these goods) to move freely within the internal market.

The International Framework

Many of the EU directives reflect Member States' obligations under the Berne Convention and the Rome Convention, as well as the obligations of the EU and its Member States under the World Trade Organisation 'TRIPS' Agreement and the two 1996 World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) Internet Treaties (the WIPO Copyright Treaty and the WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty).

In the last years the EU has signed two other WIPO Treaties: the Beijing Treaty on the Protection of Audiovisual Performances and the Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons who are Blind, Visually Impaired or otherwise Print Disabled.

Moreover, many provisions of EU law are reflected in free-trade agreements concluded by the EU with a large number of third countries.

Implementation of the EU framework

The Commission monitors the timely and correct implementation of the EU copyright law and, in the last years, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) has developed a substantive body of case law interpreting the provisions of the Directives.

This has significantly contributed to the consistent application of the copyright rules across the EU.

Friday, 28 August, 2015
Last update: 
Tuesday, 9 May, 2017
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