The protection of copyright from infringements taking place via the Internet has been in Greece until today extremely inefficient and time-consuming.
Legal experts and copyright holders hope that this situation will alter soon. On July 2017, a new Copyright Law 4481/2017 was adopted amending the existing Copyright Law 2121/1993. The new Law provides dispositions aiming to regulate for the first time in Greece this kind of situations. To be more specific, a new article to Law 2121/1993 (article 66E) is added, which aims to enhance the protection of copyright and related rights on the Internet via a “notice and takedown procedure”.
The persons entitled to the protection provided by Law are right holders whose rights are infringed via the Internet as well as any collective management organization entrusted with the management of copyright and neighboring rights. The above mentioned persons can file an application to a special three-member Committee, set up specifically for this purpose, reporting the alleged infringement. Please note that the Committee has not been established yet.
Before the right holder being able to demand before the Committee to take action for the cessation of the infringement, it is indispensable that the right holder have followed an equivalent procedure (if any) provided by the internet access provider and that this procedure have been unsuccessful.
The right holders submit in person or electronically the especially designed application, any necessary document and any evidence proving their right (e.g. licensing agreements). The Committee notifies the Internet access providers and, where possible, hosting providers and administrators and/or owners of websites. The aforementioned persons can either voluntarily comply or submit their objections. The deadlines set by Law are short, so that within 40 or 60 working days the decision of the Committee to be issued. If the Committee finds that there is a copyright infringement, it urges the above receivers of the notifications to remove the unlawfully posted infringing material or to disable access to it. If the server of the website, where the material is found, is hosted by a server situated within the Greek territory, the Committee invites recipients to remove this material. In case of large-scale infringement, it is possible the interruption of access to the material to be decided. On the contrary, if the server of the website is situated outside the Greek territory, the Committee invites the Internet access provider to interrupt access to the material.
In case of non-compliance, the Committee imposes a fine from 500 to 1.000 Euros to the providers and/ or administrators and/or owners of websites for each day of non-compliance taking into consideration the seriousness of the breach and its repetition.
The procedure before the Committee and the issuance of a decision do not affect the filling of an action before courts. However, if an action with the same claim has been already filed before courts, the Committee does not proceed with the examination of the application.
It needs to be clarified that the procedure applies only to infringements committed by users that make available to the public and upload content or material/works that they do not own or for which they do not have the authorization to do so. On the contrary, the procedure does not apply to infringements committed by final users by downloading, peer to peer file sharing, streaming or cloud computing.
It is the first time that such a disposition is introduced in the Greek legal order and many practical problems are expected to raise during its application. For instance, the establishment of a special committee is expected to be time-consuming, as was the case for other committees established in Greece. The same applies to the matter of decision-making. The obligation laid down for the right holder to firstly follow the procedure provided by the provider (if any) and only in case of failure to address the Committee, is expected to delay even more the procedure. Finally, interpretation and practical difficulties are expected due to the provision of the Law that the Committee procedure cannot be triggered if the right holder has already seized the courts with the same claim, as well as by the provision that the procedure concerns only users that make available to the public and upload this kind of material.
Despite the above, the new legislation is perceived positively and it is expected to have positive results not only ex post by handling ad hoc infringements, but also ex ante, as it is likely that providers or/and administrators and owners of websites will be more prudent regarding hosted material in order to avoid the whole procedure before the Committee as well as to avoid fines. It is also a procedure that could be easily initiated with the submission of an online request to the Committee, even by interested right holders situated abroad whose rights are violated in Greece.
One more provision, which is expected to contribute to effective handling of copyright infringement via the Internet, is the one giving the permission to lift the confidentiality of communication (lawful interception of communications) for the detection of felonies violating copyright and related rights. In Greece, the process of lawful interception of communications for the detection of felonies is regulated mainly by Law 2225/1994, which enumerates the felonies for the detection of which the process is allowed. Copyright infringement was not included until now in this list. The new Law provides for the first time, at the legal world’s instigation, that the procedure laid down by Law 2225/1994 will apply also for the detection of felonies violating copyright and neighboring rights of Law 2121/1993. This is an undoubtedly positive and, nowadays, imperative provision, which will play a decisive role to the pursuit of Internet piracy.
Taking into account all the above, it is obvious that there is an effort made to innovate Greek legislation in order to deal with current issues of copyright infringement via the Internet, which could not be handled by traditional means. It remains to see whether expectations of interested parties will be met.