Péter Mezei on the Most Recent Amendments to Hungarian Copyright Law

Péter Mezei on the Most Recent Amendments to Hungarian Copyright Law

 Hungary amended its copyright regime many times in the last two years. Amendments relate to collective rights management, terms of protection granted to musical performers and phonogram producers, moral rights and criminal law relating to copyright. The Parliament seeks to amend the copyright system further. One proposal is to implement the EU's Orphan Works Directive. This paper presents a review of the key elements of the recent legislation.

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Hungary has always been keen on following the international trends of copyright law. The Hungarian Parliament has ratified most of the multinational treaties on this matter (that is, the Berne Convention, the Rome Convention, the Geneva Convention, the Universal Copyright Convention, TRIPS Agreement, the WCT and the WPPT, and most recently the Beijing Treaty) and has followed the European Union legislation precisely (even before joining the EU in 2004).

The previous few years were quite busy in copyright law, Member States of the European Union had to constantly harmonize, change or supplement their domestic regulations in light of the several new or amended directives. In the past two years, the Hungarian Parliament accepted three different statutes that modified the Hungarian Copyright Act or affected the copyright system in other ways (like through the introduction of the new Hungarian Criminal Code). Another bill is proposed by the government and a mid-term strategic plan has also been prepared by the Ministry of Public Administration and Justice (hereinafter referred to as Ministry). The present emerging issues analysis introduces the most important elements of these recent achievements, and criticizes the instruments, where necessary.

1) The reform of collective rights management (CRM) (Act CLXXIII of 2011)

The first element of the reform legislation focused on the modernization of the Hungarian CRM system. It is worth highlighting that the earlier regime was in force since the original acceptance of the Hungarian Copyright Act of 1999 (Act LXXVI of 1999, hereinafter referred to as HCA). The amendment was, however, inevitable, since that regime expressly favored a monopolistic management of several exclusive rights. This model was nevertheless contrary to the basic idea of freedom of establishment and free movement of services as enshrined by the EC Treaty and Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. The European Commission initiated therefore an infringement proceeding against Hungary in order to terminate the monopolistic management of copyrights.

The statute that inserted the new provisions into the HCA was accepted in December 2011. It introduced a brand new definition of CRM that included the main rationale for the existence of rights management (several rights are impossible to exercise individually); the way to create a management association (either voluntarily or compulsorily); and the obligatory tasks of any association (granting permission for uses and setting the royalty rates of these uses; distribution of the collected money amongst the right-holders; transfer of royalty collected on behalf of other collective rights management organisations (CMOs) to the respective CMO and law enforcement in relation to the mentioned tasks. [footnotes omitted]

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 Péter Mezei PhD, is an Associate Professor of the University of Szeged, Hungary, specializing in international, comparative and digital copyright law. Mr. Mezei has delivered lectures on copyright law in Finland, France and the United States. He is an elected member of the Hungarian Copyright Expert Board. Besides his academic career he represents book and sound recording publishers and private individuals in copyright disputes. Additionally, he has contributed to several national reports on the Hungarian copyright system.