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Copyright and related rights in  the Information Society and future EC action
in this field will be the focus of  an International Conference on "Copyright
and Related Rights on  the Threshold of the XXIst Century" in Florence, Italy
on  2 - 4  June 1996,  organised by  the European Commission  in co-operation
with the Italian Presidency  and the Tuscany Region.  The event forms part of
the consultation process  which began in July  1995 with the adoption  of the
Commission's Green Paper on copyright  and related rights in  the Information
Society.  The  conference will discuss  the results  of these  consultations,
which have established  the need for  further Community  legislation in  this
area, and possible  future EC action in a  number of priority areas including
the  legal  regime  applicable  to  digital  transmissions  and  reproduction
rights.  High  level representatives of  industry, the  Member States,  third
countries including  Central  and Eastern  European Countries,  international
organisations and rightholders will attend the conference.

The July  1995 copyright  Green  Paper (see  IP(95)798) was  the first  in  a
series of  discussion documents concerning  the Information Society that  the
Commission  has since  then  issued or  intends to  issue.   The  Green Paper
examines how best to  ensure both an adequate level protection  of creativity
and the proper functioning of the Single Market,  while taking account of the
impact of developments such as digitalisation, interactivity and multimedia.

For many of the  new Information Society services, a critical mass  of demand
may exist  within the  Single Market  as a  whole, but  not at  the level  of
individual  national markets.   The  existence of  a Single Market  for these
services is  therefore essential  to their  commercial viability.   In  turn,
there  needs to be  a critical mass of  demand from  service providers before
the  substantial  investments  required in  network  infrastructure  will  be
forthcoming.   In other words, a Single Market for  the new services is vital
if the Information Society itself is to become a reality in Europe.

Existing  Community  legislation  on  intellectual  property  rights  (IPRs),
recently completed  with  the  adoption  of  Directive  96/91  on  the  legal
protection of databases  on March 11,  already provides  a robust  foundation
for the legal  protection of works  and other  protected objects  distributed
over the information highway.   However, there  is also a range of other  key
issues not covered by existing Community IPR Directives.  It is these  issues
which are examined in the Green Paper.

In  response to  the  Green  Paper, the  Commission  received more  than  350
submissions  from interested  parties.   Adequate  and strong  protection  of
copyright and related  rights is  considered to be one  of the keys  to added
value  and  competitiveness   in  European   industry  in  such   sectors  as
entertainment  and information.   The  emergence  of new  technologies brings
with it the  prospect of vigorous expansion, particularly in the audiovisual,
publishing and  software sectors. It is  therefore crucial  for the Community
to adapt and supplement the legal framework where necessary.

EC action in priority areas

The aim of the  Conference is  to discuss the  conclusions which have  merged
from the consultation process and prospects for future  EC action in a number
of priority areas.   The Commission intends  to balance all of  the interests
involved, not only  between rightholders, but also  between rightholders  and
users of the relevant services.

The  conclusions  of  the  Conference will  be  taken  into  account  by  the
Commission in a Communication to the other institutions  due in the Autumn of
1996.   This  document  will  detail the  legislative  action  and any  other
appropriate action that  the Commission intends to undertake in this field in
response  to the advent of the Information  Society and the new technological
environment. 

Progress needs also to  be made in this  field on an international  level. An
isolated response from  the European  Union will  not be  sufficient. As  the
Information Society  has a global  nature it  requires global  answers.   The
Conference will therefore  provide an opportunity to stress the importance of
co-operation  to  the  development  of  the   legislation  on  copyright  and
neighbouring rights  at international  level and also  the need to  reach, at
international level, under  the auspices  of the World  Intellectual Property
Organisation  (WIPO),  an  agreement  to  protect  works  and  other  matters
(phonograms, audio and audiovisual performances) in the Information Society.

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