Copyright and Related Rights (Amendment) Bill 2007: Committee Stage.

I welcome the Minister of State and his officials to the meeting which is being convened for the purpose of consideration of the Copyright and Related Rights (Amendment) Bill 2007. Apologies have been received from Deputy Morgan who is unable to attend. I look forward to a good debate. I remind those present to switch off their mobile phones.

SECTION 1.

I move amendment No. 1:

In page 3, between lines 24 and 25, to insert the following subsection:

"(4) This Act (other thansection 7) shall come into operation on the first making of regulations under section 42A of the Principal Act inserted by section 7.”.

We had a fairly extensive and comprehensive debate on this matter on Second Stage and we know the urgency attached to it. The only criticism we have is that the Bill was a long time in coming but the Minister did explain why this was the case. Those involved with copyright want this Bill passed, as does the Minister of State and everyone else, so let us not impede its progress. What is important is that the legislation is put on the Statute Book and that we would be in a position to proceed and meet our commitments under the European code.

The amendment is a minor one in the overall context. However, the lack of a commencement order appears to be a potentially serious flaw in the Bill. As it stands, the Bill commences on enactment, which means the existing exemption for lending by libraries, etc., will be repealed. It will take time for regulations to be made under section 7, as we pointed out on Second Stage and this would seem to leave libraries in a legal limbo in the interim.

Taking cognisance of that fact, the Labour Party has suggested that a commencement provision would be included in the Bill which would allow section 7 to come into operation immediately but the repeals would only come into operation on the making of regulations. Otherwise, there is a danger, however tenuous, that libraries might be forced to stop lending books until regulations are made. The Minister of State will probably argue that will not happen but there is always a difficulty where there is a lacuna in the law. The Minister of State may not consider the amendment to be necessary but we want to ensure the Bill does not fall foul of any technical lacuna that might create an embarrassment for us later. The amendment is tabled in that spirit.

This amendment proposes a new section 1(4) which, in effect, would mean the Act would not commence upon enactment, but rather at the time regulations bringing a public lending remuneration scheme into operation are made by the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government.

This issue was raised on Second Stage in the Dáil. At that stage I indicated that it is imperative that this legislation comes into effect as soon as it is passed by the Oireachtas. As evidenced by the European Court of Justice decision against Ireland in January of this year, we are in default of our obligations under the EU directive on rental and lending and it is incumbent on us to come into compliance with the ECJ decision as soon as possible.

The Commission is pursuing Ireland under Article 228 of the treaty. These proceedings are very advanced and could ultimately lead to the imposition of very heavy monetary fines against the State unless remedial action is taken quickly. In that sense, our immediate obligation is to provide an exclusive lending right for authors. This exclusive right will be replaced by a right to remuneration upon introduction of the public lending library remuneration scheme but it is not possible to await that development, given our immediate obligations under the directive.

Deputies will recall that on Second Stage in the Dáil it was indicated that the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government was working on the making of the regulations with a view to having the scheme operational from 2009. This undertaking should go a long way to providing a clear signal of the Government's intentions in this regard.

I know Deputies were concerned about the exposure for public libraries in the period between the enactment of the legislation and the introduction of the scheme in the sense that authors might exercise their exclusive right and prevent their books from being lent in public libraries. However, our legal imperative to respect our EU obligations under the directive are of the utmost concern and, according to our legal advice, must be addressed immediately in the context of the Bill. This means there is an unavoidable interregnum for the libraries. However, it must be borne in mind that the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government has given an undertaking to have the public lending rights remuneration scheme in place in 2009. Equally, there is a significant spend annually by the public libraries in book stock which, in itself, yields a reward for authors. This is particularly important for less well-known authors for whom the public libraries represent one of their major customers. An amount in excess of €15 million will be spent by public libraries in purchasing book stock this year. That is an increase of 10% over 2006. The continuing investment by public libraries in book stock will result in a total expenditure of €75 million in the period from 2002 to 2007.

I must revert to the compelling rationale for the legislation and the fact that it must be enacted as soon as possible. For that reason I cannot accept Deputy Penrose's amendment. I accept what he said regarding an interregnum.

Deputy Cyprian Brady took the Chair.

I am concerned about the interregnum. I understand the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government will need to make regulations. I ask the Minister, once again, to get his officials to make sure there is constant contact with the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government to ensure there is no delay. We are remedying an issue. It is obviously of the utmost importance to comply with our European obligations and to ensure that a wrong is righted in regard to writers who have been denied their entitlement to a royalty for many years. I acknowledge the probability that many people who have not made a living from writing will be the main beneficiaries and that a cap will be imposed. It is of crucial importance that the valley period or interregnum is filled as quickly as possible with appropriate regulations. In that context and in view of the urgency of the legislation I accept the Minister's bona fides and withdraw the amendment.

By way of addendum, it is hoped the legislation will come into effect before 2009 with payments being made in the second half of 2008 and annually thereafter.

I am glad of that because many writers believe it is time they got their appropriate dues.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 1 agreed to.
Sections 2 to 7, inclusive, agreed to.
SECTION 8.

Amendments Nos. 2 and 3 are cognate and will be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 2:

In page 6, line 34, after "establishment" to insert the following:

", subject to such conditions as may be prescribed by the Minister,".

The amendments apply to sections 8 and 12. Discussing them together will ease the passage of the Bill. The purpose of the amendment is to limit the blanket exemption for educational establishments by giving the Minister power to prescribe regulations in regard to loans. It may be that the definition of "educational establishment" in the 2000 Act is sufficient to limit the scope of the exemption to some extent. I accept that may be the position. However, the lack of conditions could be of concern. For example, what is to stop a prescribed institution from lending works to persons who are not its students? I accept that the definition already in the Copyright and Related Rights Act 2000 might be sufficient. If the Minister of State is happy that is the case I will withdraw my amendment. I await his words of wisdom.

Sections 8 and 12 provide an exemption for educational establishments from the provisions of public lending. This exemption provides continuity, in that educational establishments were already exempt under the Copyright and Related Rights Act 2000. It is necessary to ensure that our schools, colleges and universities can continue as rich sources of learning and research, unfettered by any requirement to observe public lending rights.

The purpose of these amendments seems to be to limit these exemptions for educational establishments by giving powers to the Minister to prescribe conditions under which books can be lent from such establishments. I consider that any such qualification is unnecessary as there is already a clear definition of what constitutes an educational establishment in section 2 of the 2000 Act. Hence, I do not propose to accept the amendments.

Given that I anticipated the Minister of State's reply, I accept what he says and I will not press the amendments to sections 8 or 12.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 8 agreed to.
Sections 9 to 11, inclusive, agreed to.
Amendment No. 3 not moved.
Section 12 agreed to.
Sections 13 and 14 agreed to.
Title agreed to.