Copyright warning for 3 countries


BRUSSELS -- The European Commission has sent letters to Italy, Portugal and Spain warning them that they are breaking EU law by failing to provide royalties to copyright holders for the lending and rental of items like DVDs.

The EC said that the three countries' interpretation of the royalty rules breached a 1992 EU directive on rental and lending rights. All three have adopted the 1992 rules, which recognize the right to remuneration, but exempted all categories of public-lending establishments. If they fail to amend their laws, they face action at the European Court of Justice.

The EC said the three countries recognized the EU's Public Lending Right in principle, but excluded the lending of works by public libraries from any obligation on the part of the government to provide royalties. This unfairly denies copyright holders their royalties, the EC told the three countries.

The 1992 directive gives authors of films, music, books and any other copyrighted works the right to license or ban the lending of their works by institutions such as libraries.

The EC argued that royalty payments were crucial for both copyright holders and for the rental market. For example, if a DVD can be borrowed from a public library, there might be less demand to buy it -- which can reduce income for copyright holders unless they also receive payment when their work is lent by public libraries.