The European Commission has published details of its plans to modernise and harmonise copyright laws in Europe as it aims to open up digital opportunities between the 28 EU member states. 

The proposals are part of a European Commission initiative to create a ‘digital single market’, which it hopes will boost job growth and create a knowledge-based economy. 

The Commission argues that Europe needs a more ‘harmonised’ copyright regime, to allow wider online access to works across the EU, while opening new opportunities for creators and the content industry.  

The European Commission has said it will make legislative proposals by the end of the year to reduce cross-border differences in copyright regimes.

These proposals will include the portability of legally acquired content, ensuring cross-border access to online services and greater legal certainty for the cross-border use of content for specific purposes such as research.

In 2016 the EU plans to step up and modernise the enforcement of intellectual property rights, focusing on commercial scale infringements and cross-border applicability.

Commenting on the proposals Oliver Smith, an intellectual property lawyer at Keystone Law, suggested that there could be disagreements between countries about where changes are made when harmonising copyright law.

‘It is a good idea in principle but it could be quite difficult to put into practice,’ he said. 

The proposals to reform copyright law comes as part of a wider plan to create a common market for digital goods, capital, content and services.

Other plans include an inquiry into the application of competition law in the e-commerce area, and legislative proposals for simple and effective cross-border contract rules of consumer and businesses.

The Commission will also conduct a review into the role of online giants such as Google and Facebook, focusing on the transparency of search results and pricing policies, the use of data they acquire and their relationships with other businesses.

'Europe has strengths to build on, but also homework to do, in particular to make sure its industries adapt, and its citizens make full use of the potential of new digital services and goods,’ commissioner for the digital economy and society, Günther Oettinger (pictured), said. 

‘We have to prepare for a modern society and will table proposals balancing the interests of consumers and industry.’