EU lawmakers ask for help tackling copyright questions in the cloud era

The questionnaire also asks how to handle a growing second-hand digital market

The European Commission on Thursday asked the public for feedback on whether the European Union's copyright laws are fit for the digital age.

The consultation is part of a reform of the E.U.'s copyright rules. The Commission wants to create a level playing field across the E.U. with the possibility of a single license to cover all 28 member states. It is thought this would help companies like Spotify, which offers music streaming.

The questionnaire asks if respondents have had difficulty in providing or accessing digital content from other E.U. member states.

The 80-question survey also seeks to address more complex issues such as how to apply levies in a world dominated by cloud computing and the possibility of an emerging second-hand digital content market.

Levies are tariffs imposed by national authorities on goods typically used for copying, such as blank media, recording equipment and scanners. The money collected is used to compensate right holders that lose earnings when copies are made without their authorization.

However, content is increasingly sold in a digital format to consumers with multiple devices, prompting the Commission to ask whether an individual storing multiple copies of a file should trigger the application of private copying levies. "There is also an ongoing discussion as to the application or not of levies to certain types of cloud-based services such as personal lockers or personal video recorders," said a Commission statement.

The questionnaire asks how changes in levies related to cloud services would impact the development and functioning of new business models.

The Commission also wants consumers and end users in particular to answer whether they have faced restrictions when trying to resell digital files, such as MP3 music files or e-books.

When a physical item such as a CD or a book is sold, the right holder cannot prevent the further distribution of that item. The Commission is trying to find out whether this principle can also be applied in the case of content being bought by digital transmission, particularly how to prevent resellers keeping and using a copy of a work after they have "resold" it.

The Commission also wants to take into consideration the fact that second-hand digital copies do not deteriorate, in contrast to the second-hand market for physical goods.

To tackle the issue of websites that provide links to copyrighted content, the Commission asks: Should the provision of a hyperlink leading to a work or other subject matter protected under copyright be subject to the authorization of the right holder?

Interested parties have until Feb. 5 to take the survey.

Follow Jennifer on Twitter at @BrusselsGeek or email tips and comments to jennifer_baker@idg.com.

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