Commission starts legal action against 23 EU countries over copyright rules

FILE PHOTO: European Union flags flutter outside the EU Commission headquarters in Brussels, Belgium May 5, 2021. REUTERS/Yves Herman/File Photo

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - France, Spain, Italy and 20 other EU countries may be taken to court for their tardiness in enacting landmark EU copyright rules into national law, the European Commission said on Monday as it asked the group to explain the delays.

The copyright rules, adopted two years ago, aim to ensure a level playing field between the European Union's trillion-euro creative industries and online platforms such as Google, owned by Alphabet, and Facebook.

Some of Europe's artists and broadcasters, however, are still not happy, in particular over the interpretation of a key provision, Article 17, which is intended to force sharing platforms such as YouTube and Instagram to filter copyrighted content.

The Commission said it had sent letters of formal notice, the first step of its infringement proceedings, to the countries group asking for explanations. The deadline for enacting the EU rules was June 7.

The other countries are Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Greece, Finland, Ireland, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Latvia, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Sweden, Slovenia and Slovakia.

They have two months to respond to the Commission or receive a warning, known as a reasoned opinion. The next step is a referral to the EU's top court in Luxembourg.

The EU executive also said it had asked France, Spain and 19 other EU countries to explain why they missed a June 7 deadline to enact separate copyright rules for online transmission of radio and TV programmes.

The other countries are Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Greece, Finland, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Latvia, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia and Slovakia.

(Reporting by Foo Yun Chee; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

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