Proposals to Amend the Malta Copyright Laws

Recommendations of Reform to Modernise Malta’s Copyright Legislation

Dr. Maria Chetcuti Cauchi co-authored with Dr Susanna Deguara | Published on 19 Nov 2020

Intellectual Property Review Malta

In 2019, the National Writers' Congress, after consultation with the relevant industry stakeholders, kicked off a process for the reform of Malta’s current copyright laws, resulting in a proposal for a revised Copyright Act and the establishment of the National Book Council Act in October 2020. The draft proposes to bring Malta’s copyright laws in line with contemporary realities faced by the current artistic and cultural community. This would need to be done through the proper transposition of the EU’s Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market[1] and by addressing other inconsistencies within our domestic copyright framework. 

With the rise of digitisation, the last few decades have heralded an increase in copyright infringements involving digital aspects. The creative industry is perpetually facing challenges related to the maximisation of the economic effectiveness of their intellectual property rights. Frequently this goes beyond the basic protection and straightforward rights of exploitation given to the author, with protection being achieved through licensing and/or sub licensing through strict contractual mechanisms going beyond restrictions to exceptions normally permitted under traditional copyright law. 

Proposed reform introduces a wide array of modern rights for authors and performers, granting them more control over their innovations, particularly where such rights have been transferred or licensed to third parties such as publishers, record labels, and online platforms. 

Interesting parts of the proposals cover:

  • contractual rights and adjustments thereto; 
  • greater clarity, transparency and accountability from licensees or assignees who use, employ, and exploit the creator’s work;
  • re-evaluation of existing agreements and renegotiation of current contracts, including requests of additional remuneration when the owner’s revenue is unreasonably too low when assessed vis-à-vis the income and benefits enjoyed by licensees and assignees from such works; 
  • revocation or termination of agreements by creators in case of non-exploitation of works by assignee/licensee and 
  • the right of rightsholders to be fairly compensated by online content-sharing platforms. 

At the end of the day, the paramount aspect that needs to be kept in mind in proposing new laws or regulations is the need to ensure that a balance is reached between the economic rights of the creative industry and freedom of access to knowledge and innovation by the user community at large. New laws also need to emphasise technological neutrality, in the sense that irrespective of technology typology, such new laws need to be able to promptly adapt to the frequent changes in innovation, including aspects presented by digitisation. It is hoped that through its adoption of the EU’s Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market, Malta and its legislation manage to achieve this balance. This can only be achieved by proper consultation with the creative community and relevant stakeholders in this regard. 

A detailed publication on the above proposals can be read here.

[1] Directive (EU) 2019/790 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 April 2019 on copyright and related rights in the Digital Single Market and amending Directives 96/9/EC and 2001/29/EC (Text with EEA relevance.)

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