The European Union has ratified an international agreement on copyright law which was first negotiated in 1996 and which has formed the basis of EU copyright law since 2001.
The European Union and its member states have finally ratified two agreements created by the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO), the Copyright Treaty and the Performances and Phonograms Treaty.
Negotiations on the treaties began in 1996 and the European Commission said that the Copyright Directive of 2001, which forms the basis of copyright law in all the EU's 27 member states, was based on the treaties.
"Immediately after the [WIPO] Diplomatic Conference in 1996, work started at the European level to adapt European copyright law to the WIPO 'internet' Treaties," said a Commission statement. "A European Copyright Directive was adopted in 2001."
Countries that have agreed to sign up to WIPO treaties formally do so by ratifying them. Though the decision to ratify was taken by the European Council in 2000, it has only just taken place.
"Today is an important day for the European Union and its Member States and WIPO," said Internal Markets Commissioner Charlie McCreevy. "We as a group have shown our attachment to the international system of protection of copyright and related rights. These two treaties brought protection up to speed with modern technologies."
The treaties were the first time that the EU itself was allowed to be a full 'contracting party' at WIPO on a copyright issue, rather than just an observer.
The ratification comes as EU countries meet with the Commission as part of a newly created body designed to co-ordinate copyright protection and anti-piracy activity across the EU.
The European Observatory for Counterfeiting and Piracy was founded earlier this year by McCreevy.
"The Observatory will work on existing legal frameworks and establish a databank on the specific areas of threat facing the EU," said a Commission statement.
"We must do more to protect ourselves and the Observatory is a fundamental step in bringing together Member States, authorities, private businesses and consumers in a joint, concerted effort to rid ourselves of this dangerous problem," said McCreevy.
The Observatory first met in September and established two sub-groups to work on assessing the existing legal framework and to look at data gathering, the Observatory said.
The Commission said that the Observatory was a necessary attempt to find ways to enforce intellectual property laws outside, as well as inside, the courts system.
"The Commission aims to ensure that a truly efficient and proportionate system of enforcement of intellectual property rights exists, both within and outside the internal market," said the Commission statement. "The current legal framework offers the tools to enforce intellectual property rights in a fair, effective and proportionate way, but there is an acute need to support enforcement efforts through practical non legislative means."
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