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Internal Market: EU Copyright Initiatives
The European Commission has adopted a number of copyright related initiatives. The Commission has proposed extending the term of protection for recorded performances and the records themselves from 50 to 95 years in order to align the copyright term for performers with that applicable to authors. The Commission has also proposed a uniform way of calculating the term of protection of a musical composition (containing contributions by several authors) that will expire 70 years after the death of the last surviving author (i.e., the author of the lyrics or the composer of the music). In parallel, the Commission has adopted a Green Paper on Copyright in the Knowledge Economy. The consultation document will assess whether the current copyright framework sufficiently protects knowledge products and whether authors and publishers are encouraged to create and disseminate electronic versions of these products.
Competition: Commission Dawn Raids in Agricultural Sector
The European Commission has announced that on 10 July 2008 it conducted unannounced inspections (dawn raids) in two EU Member States. The inspections were carried out at the offices of traders and distributors of cereals and other agricultural products for human consumption and animal feed. No further information was provided by the Commission. It is, however, reported that, given the increasing prices for foodstuffs, the Commission will become increasingly keen to identify and punish anticompetitive behaviour in this industry.
Telecommunications: Commission Plans to End High Prices for Text Messages Abroad
On 17 July 2008 the European Commission unveiled a new website that displays the prices currently charged to EU consumers who use their mobile phones for sending text messages or accessing the internet from another Member State. According to the figures released, the 2.5 billion text messages sent every year by roaming customers in the European Union cost over ten times more than domestic text messages. These findings, along with the results of a public consultation that ended on 2 July, will now feed into the Commission's current review of the scope of the EU Roaming Regulation. This Regulation entered into force on 30 June 2007 and introduced the Eurotariff, which has led to savings of up to 60 per cent for consumers, but applies only to calls and not to text messages. The Commission is required to report on its implementation by 30 December 2008 and make proposals as to whether to extend its time and scope. New measures regarding text messages could be proposed by the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council in early autumn.
Competition: Commission Adopts Decision Against Music Collecting Societies
On 16 July 2008 the European Commission adopted a decision finding that 24 performing right collecting societies had infringed the competition rules on restrictive business practices. Authors and composers entrust collecting societies to manage rights in their musical works. This management includes the granting of licences to music users. The Commission has found certain aspects of the representation contracts the collecting societies agree with each other to be anti-competitive. These include a restriction on authors moving between collecting societies and a so-called concerted practice to maintain the representation contracts on a territorial basis for internet, satellite and cable exploitation. The Commission has not imposed any fines on the parties, who have yet to announce whether they will appeal the decision.
Taxation: Commission Draft Directive on Excise Duties on Tobacco
The European Commission has presented a proposal for a directive to amend the current EU excise duty legislation on tobacco. The draft directive supports the EU policy to reduce tobacco consumption and foresees a gradual increase (up to 63 per cent of the price by 2014) in the EU minimum taxation levels on cigarettes and fine cut tobacco (which currently account for at least 57 per cent of the price). It also updates the definitions of different types of tobacco products in order to avoid certain cigarettes or fine cut tobacco being presented as cigars, cigarillos or pipe tobacco to benefit from a lower tax rate. The proposal also narrows the differences between Member States' tobacco taxation levels, in order to reduce illicit trade and cross-border shopping.
Mergers: Acquisition of ConvaTec by Nordic Capital Approved Subject to Conditions
The European Commission has cleared the proposed acquisition of ConvaTec by Nordic Capital, which is domiciled in Jersey. ConvaTec, a wholly-owned US business unit of Bristol-Myers Squibb, and Unomedical, controlled by Nordic Capital, are both active in advanced wound care products. The Commission's initial investigation showed that the proposed acquisition would raise competition concerns in the United Kingdom, where the transaction would combine the two largest players in the wound care products market, resulting in very high combined market shares. However, Nordic Capital offered to divest Unomedical's entire wound care business. In light of this commitment, the Commission has concluded that the proposed transaction would not significantly impede effective competition in the European Economic Area or any substantial part of it.
State Aid: Commission Authorises Aid for French PAMELAT Programme
The European Commission has approved aid worth EUR 14 million proposed by France for the research and development programme PAMELAT (“pointe avant mixte Latécoère”). The programme will be conducted by Latécoère, a group operating in the aeronautics sector. The PAMELAT programme concerns research and development of composite materials for aircraft nose sections, and will cost EUR 33 million over a period of three years. It was selected in March 2007 by the French Directorate-General for Enterprise in the context of a call for proposals in the field of composite materials. Following an in-depth examination, the Commission concluded that the aid to be granted to Latécoère is compatible with the Single Market. The grant is particularly justified by the project’s high level of uncertainty and risk of market failure.
Mergers: ECJ Annuls CFI Ruling on Sony BMG Joint Venture
The European Court of Justice (ECJ) has annulled the Court of First Instance (CFI) ruling that the European Commission improperly approved the creation of a joint venture by Bertelsmann AG and Sony, known as Sony BMG, in 2004. The CFI annulled the Commission’s 2004 decision on the basis of inadequate reasoning and manifest errors of assessment, following an appeal from a competitor. Although the Commission approved the joint venture again in 2007, Bertelsmann and Sony appealed the CFI’s ruling. Among other things, the ECJ annulled the CFI decision because the CFI had misconstrued legal criteria applicable to collective dominance and tacit coordination and had misused documents in its analysis, including the Statement of Objections, as well as certain confidential documents. Nevertheless, the ECJ affirmed that Commission decisions approving concentrations may be annulled on the basis of inadequate reasoning, rejecting arguments advanced by Bertelsmann and Sony.
NEXT WEEK’S EVENTS
Monday 21 July – Friday 25 July 2008
General Affairs and External Relations Council (GAERC) (22 – 23 July 2008)
Justice and Home Affairs Council (JHA) (24 – 25 July 2008)
COURT OF JUSTICE
C-204/07 P C.A.S. v Commission
Environment and consumers
C-142/07 Ecologistas en Acción-CODA
C-504/06 Commission v Italy
COURT OF FIRST INSTANCE
Judicial vacation of the Court of First Instance from 14 July 2008 to 31 August 2008 inclusive.