Select Committee on European Scrutiny Seventh Report



Unofficial Presidency text of the draft Directive on the harmonisation of certain aspects of copyright and related rights in the information society.

Legal base: Articles 47(2), 55 and 95 EC; co-decision; qualified majority voting
Department: Trade and Industry
Basis of consideration: Minister's letter of 21 February 2001
Previous Committee Report: HC 23-xx (1999-2000), paragraph 15 (7 June 2000)
To be discussed in Council: No date set
Committee's assessment: Politically important
Committee's decision: Cleared (decision reported on 17 May 2000)


  14.1  On 14 February we wrote to the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Consumers and Corporate Affairs at the Department of Trade and Industry (Dr Kim Howells) and drew to his attention a letter printed in The Times on 13 February. In it, the General Secretary of the Writers' Guild of Great Britain and others called on the Government to ensure that a European Parliament amendment to the draft Directive did not become law. They asserted that the clause would:

    "allow the BBC, ITV and other broadcasters to re-use or sell on everything in their archives without reference to creators and on payment of 'equitable remuneration', a concept included in the Rental and Lending Directive of 1996 which, our members tell us, has been of negligible benefit".

  14.2  When we cleared an unofficial Presidency Text of this draft Directive on 17 May 2000, we sought a more specific assurance than the Minister had given in his Explanatory Memorandum of 16 May that it achieved an equitable balance between the rights of significant interest groups and those of rightholders. On 7 June we considered a letter from the Minister in which he provided a convincing account of his awareness of the concerns of the different interest groups and of the Government's efforts to arrive at a satisfactory compromise. He said that he believed that the Presidency text had "the makings of a workable compromise".

  14.3  In our letter of 14 February, we sought an assurance from the Minister that he would submit an Explanatory Memorandum on the amended text after the European Parliament's Second Reading, in time for the Committee to scrutinise it before it was put to the Council. We asked him not to wait for an amended text from the Commission, if this was not immediately available.

The Minister's letter

  14.4  In reply, the Minister says that at its plenary session on 14 February, the European Parliament approved nine amendments to the Common Position. While the Government welcomed the fact that the European Parliament had decided not to seek to amend the Directive extensively, the Minister said that it would need to consider these amendments carefully with the other Member States and the Commission. Its preliminary view was that it would need to look particularly closely at Amendments 5 to 9 of the Directive, which appear to limit further the flexibility for Member States in the exceptions provisions in Article 5 of the Directive. The Minister comments:

    "We know other Member States share our desire to maintain as far as possible the balance of the Common Position, and I would hope that informal discussions in the coming weeks will be sufficiently productive to forestall the need to convene the Conciliation Committee on this proposal."

  14.5  The Minister goes on to say that he fully takes our point about a timely Explanatory Memorandum and that this is being prepared. In conclusion, the Minister says that he is:

    "pleased to note that the amendment which was the subject of the letter printed in The Times on 13 February was decisively rejected by the plenary. I have already written to John Monks who will no doubt have passed on this good news to the Writer's Guild and co-authors of The Times letter. We too considered this amendment to the Directive on the use of archive material by broadcasters to be unjustified and inappropriate".


  14.6  We thank the Minister for his timely and informative reply and look forward to receiving his Explanatory Memorandum on the European Parliament amendments in due course.

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Prepared 15 March 2001