BRUSSELS Dec 5 Internet users in Europe may be
allowed to copy parts of some copyrighted files legally under
reforms to outdated rules governing the murky world of online
piracy, EU officials said on Wednesday.
Entertainment and software companies, who say they are
losing billions of dollars of revenues to pirates, have been
lobbying the bloc to outlaw all unlicensed copying and sharing
of their digital films, music and applications.
But the bloc's executive, the European Commission, said it
was hoping to find a middle ground that would let legitimate
users copy parts of some files - while clamping down on serious
"The Commission's objective is to ensure that copyright
stays fit for purpose in this new digital context," the EU
Commission said in a statement.
Officials said they were redrawing the EU's 2001 copyright
law, that was agreed when slow internet speeds made it difficult
to share large digital files online.
New legislation, which could emerge in 2014, could clarify
the fact that people could make "fair use" of some digital
media, they added.
"Fair use" is a concept already active in other areas of
copyright law, giving book reviewers, for example, the right to
include short passages or quotes from publications in their
Online "fair use" might let people use a snippet of someone
else's song in a parody posted on the video-sharing website
YouTube, said one Commission source.
"The question is can that snippet be 30 seconds or one
minute," the source added.
Software companies have argued against the use of fair use,
saying it is nearly impossible to copy just parts of their
The European Parliament rejected a global agreement on
copyright theft in July, handing a victory to thousands of
tech-savvy activists who had argued the terms of the
Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) were too harsh.
Young protesters rallied across Europe and signed petitions
saying the agreement - which aimed to give governments the power
to stop the sale of fake goods - would curb their freedom and
allow officials to spy on their online activities.
In a leaked document seen by Reuters, the Commission
admitted that ACTA's defeat in Europe signalled the need for
more flexible copyright laws.
Internet piracy has eroded music sales and software
companies say they are losing tens of billions of dollars in
The Business Software Alliance, a U.S.-based lobby group,
said 42 percent of people taking part in a survey in 2011
admitted using pirated software.
(Editing by Andrew Heavens)