EU laws need to be changed to better combat online intellectual property (IP) infringement, the European Commission has said.
The Commission said it will review the IP Rights Enforcement Directive in spring 2012. The Directive allows IP rights holders to take action against IP rights violators. The Commission said that the existing 2004 Directive needs to be updated.
"The Commission will identify ways to create a framework [for]... combating infringements of IP rights via the internet more effectively," the European Commission's draft strategy (25-page / 125KB PDF) to boost Intellectual Property Rights innovation said.
The Commission said it might require more action from ISPs, though it said that this would have to be balanced with the right of intermediaries not to be held responsible for others' actins.
"Any amendments should have as their objective tackling the infringements at their source and, to that end, foster cooperation of intermediaries, such as internet service providers, while being compatible with the goals of broadband policies and without prejudicing the interests of end consumers," the strategy said.
The Commission said it will push for the changes following a recently published report into the IP Rights Enforcement Directive that identified weaknesses in enforcement online.
New regulation is required to target those who trade in counterfeit goods over the internet, the Commission strategy said. It said it would build on the EU Customs Action Plan to combat IP rights infringements that said strengthening customs enforcement is a priority.
"The Commission is proposing a new regulation replacing [the existing Customs Regulation], with the objective of strengthening enforcement while streamlining procedures," the Commission's strategy document said.
"A central EU database ... is being developed to store all companies' applications for customs action, which are foreseen in the said Regulation. National customs authorities and the Commission should make joint efforts to enforce IP rights effectively," the strategy said.
The Commission said it was setting up "an expert group and a network of national customs contact points" to stop IP rights infringing goods sold online from being imported.
"Combating IP rights infringements at the border also means preventing the exportation of illicit goods to the EU," the Commission's strategy said.
The Commission said it was looking to establish initiatives with other countries in order to reduce the scale of IP rights infringements through trade.
Proposals for a new online copyright licensing system will be announced later this year, the Commission's strategy said.
"The creation of a European framework for online copyright licensing would greatly stimulate the legal offer of protected cultural goods and services across the EU," the Commission's strategy said.
"The compilation and availability of accurate information on music authors´ rights ownership information in one authoritative database is key to facilitating efficient cross border licensing and distribution of royalties to the relevant right holders in a consistent manner across Europe and will also facilitate licensing of European repertoire abroad and corresponding distribution of royalties back to their European authors," the strategy said.
In the UK a recent report, commissioned by the Government, recommended that the UK establish a "digital rights exchange" where copyright owners can licence out their rights online.
The Commission said it would announce plans to help promote the digitising of copyright material and encourage the creation of digital libraries, the strategy said.
"Innovative licensing solutions are needed to promote the seamless sharing of knowledge and culture that allow academic institutions, businesses, researchers and private individuals to lawfully use copyright-protected materials while compensating authors, publishers, and other creators for the use of their works," the Commission's strategy said.
'Orphan works' are pieces of material whose copyright owner is not known. They will be made available under new EU laws, the Commission said in its IP rights strategy.
The Commission said it will continue to pursue a unitary patent protection system that would involve patent applicants making a single request for patents to be enforceable in more than one EU country, the Commission's strategy said.
Currently pan-EU patent applications have to be approved by patent offices in individual countries. Those offices demand the documents are translated into the country's native language, and prove a costly process for patent applicants. The issue has prompted years of discussion on how to reduce the burden on patent holders.
The Commission also said it would announce plans to revise the Community Trade Mark Regulation and the Trade Mark Directive some time in the final quarter of 2011. Details of the plans will depend on the results of its ongoing review into the trade mark system in Europe, the strategy said.
Simplifying and speeding up trade mark registration procedures, increasing legal certainty about trade marks and clarifying the scope of trade mark rights across EU customs are among the aims of the Commission's current trade mark review, the strategy said.
The European Observatory on Counterfeiting and Piracy, a central monitoring body, will now operate as part of the Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market (OHIM) and be responsible for a host of new tasks relating to IP rights, the Commission's strategy said.
"These tasks should encompass ... the design and organisation of public-awareness campaigns, the provision of appropriate training measures for enforcement authorities, conducting research on innovative enforcement and detection systems ... and the coordination of international cooperation on capacity building with international organisations and third countries," the Commission's strategy said.
The Commission said IP was central to the success of the European economy and said its strategy addressed the challenge of balancing the interests in how IP rights are protected.
"The potential of the digital single market where creators, service providers and consumers can all benefit and thrive cannot be underestimated," the Commission's strategy said.
"Europe must urgently harness the human and technological resources at its disposal to create a vibrant and competitive online market for creative transactions, allowing the largest possible dissemination of digital goods and services for the benefit of all," the strategy said.
The European Commission said it would review its strategy and engage with stakeholders in order to "draw the appropriate conclusions".