School of Law Puts Spotlight on Copyright in the Digital Age

Posted on: 16 February 2016

The digital age has enabled people to share all kinds of content: music, films, books and photos are often uploaded for online reproduction. Such activity, while a modern luxury, can also infringe existing copyright laws.

The School of Law and the Irish Centre of European Law recently hosted an international copyright conference aimed at teasing out this issue of copyright in the digital age.

Dr Giuseppe Mazziotti and Elizabeth Farries, School of Law, and Gary Fitzgerald, ICEL, organised the one-day event, which brought together academics, practitioners, authors and industry representatives to discuss the commercial, technological, cultural and societal implications of modern copyright issues for Europe.

Cedric Manara, Eleonora Rosai and Linda Scales

The recent European Digital Single Market commission’s directives were closely scrutinised during the event, particularly the uncertainties arising from its recommended copyright exceptions.

Dr Eleonora Rosati, University of Southampton, questioned whether the European Commission’s attention was focused on the right areas. She noted for example that no consideration was given to text and data mining.

Sarah Faulder, CEO of Publishers Licensing Society, asserted that a more nuanced approach was required rather than the “blunt copyright exceptions” proposed, as these could jeopardise well-functioning licensing systems. Meanwhile Dr Cedric Manara of Google endorsed open-ended exceptions, like the American Fair Use doctrine, as a more practical user-oriented approach.

The conference highlighted the many uncertainties of extant European copyright rules and directives, even for those with a high level of expertise. It also revealed how online platforms are profiting from illicit content sharing.

Dr Mazziotti stressed that authors, through their own collecting societies, “will have to increasingly rely on new technologies in order to get a fairer share of what is earned with their works on streaming services, content platforms and social networks”.

This discussion around digital content is particularly pertinent within the Irish context. As Dr Mazziotti pointed out: “Internet companies, which are so important for the Irish economy, are likely to become an easier target for copyright infringement actions in the future.”

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