Vital copyright exemptions for universities, schools and hospitals do not apply when material is provided on demand, an EU researcher says. The long-standing exemptions are relied on by teachers and researchers but do not exist in on-demand media, he said.
The news will prove a worry for anyone relying on the exemptions since publishing, telecoms, broadcast and music companies are increasingly turning to streaming and on-demand media and away from physical or scheduled distribution channels for their products.
"Normally there is a rule in the [Copyright] Directive that permits the circumvention of DRM [digital rights management technology] to a certain extent, but in the case of on-demand content this rule does not apply," Francisco Javier Cabrera Blazquez said.
Blazquez was talking to OUT-LAW Radio, the weekly technology law podcast. He has just published a review of DRM law in Europe for the European Audiovisual Observatory, an EU-funded body.
"It seems that more and more the industry is going from physical distribution of CDs and DVDs to internet distribution, to on-demand distribution of copyright content," he said. "There could be a problem if exceptions do not apply to on-demand content and the industry more and more provides content over on-demand services then to a certain extent the exceptions wouldn't be applicable any more."
The Copyright Directive says that exceptions "shall not apply to works or other subject-matter made available to the public on agreed contractual terms in such a way that members of the public may access them from a place and at a time individually chosen by them".
The Directive says that this restriction on exemptions is designed to provide "a secure environment" for interactive services.
The Directive "is somewhat contradictory," says Blazquez's report. "It does not state that limitations or exceptions are not applicable to on demand services. Nevertheless it leaves in the hands of rights holders the means of preventing the effective benefiting from those limitations or exceptions."
Exceptions are already a controversial area when it comes to DRM technology. Designed to prevent unauthorised copying of music or films, DRM can stop a consumer from undertaking any copying, even that which is permissible in law.
The British Library has spoken out in the past about how DRM can prevent it from properly archiving and preserving material, and from making it available to users with disabilities.
Copyright exemptions in Europe differ according to the Acts which transposed the EU's Copyright Directive into law, but it usually allows researchers, academics, some hospital staff and libraries to use material in the course of their business in ways that would usually be prohibited by copyright legislation.