Wednesday, November 01, 2006

The Rain in Spain Falls Mainly on Libraries

The European Union has been quite active in its efforts to use its power to issue directives which obligate member countries to harmonize their laws to an EU standard, beginning in the copyright field with a directive on software. In 1992, a directive was passed providing a limited lending/rental right. What happens though when member countries fail to enact laws deemed to sufficiently implement the requirements of the directive?

First, the European Commission requests that the country in question provide it with information about compliance. If matters aren't resolved that way, the EC sends a formal letter telling the country to step up to the plate and do it. If that doesn't work, the EC sends a "reasoned opinion" and giving the country a time table to comply. If things are still not worked out, the EC brings an action before the European Court of Justice. That happened with the lending directive over Spain and Italy's failure to comply. The opinions by the Court, released October 26th, make interesting reading on how process works and on how directives as a statute are interpreted.

The decision in the Spanish, the Italian case (regrettably untranslated), and the EU Directive can be accessed via C.E. Petit's blog.

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