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Propertizing European Copyright

History, Challenges and Opportunities

Caterina Sganga

With an acceleration in the last decades, the language of property, piracy and theft has become mainstream in copyright matters. Scholars have argued that this latent propertization has progressively led to the undue expansion of copyright and an enclosure of knowledge, causing clashes with users’ fundamental rights and EU social and cultural policies. Challenging the validity of such critiques, Propertizing European Copyright demonstrates that these distortive effects are only the result of mishandled property rhetoric and that a commitment to copyright propertization could enable a more internally consistent and balanced development of EU copyright law.
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Extended contents

History, Challenges and Opportunities

Caterina Sganga


List of abbreviations


1. The background

2. Some terminological notes

2.1 The diachronic and synchronic polysemy of property

2.2 Propertization

2.3 Copyright vs authors’ right(s)

3. Structure of the work and jurisdictional focus

1.    The theoretical framework of copyright propertization

1. Copyright and normative property theories

1.1 Philosophical justifications

1.1.1 The Lockean argument

1.1.2 The Kantian and Hegelian arguments

1.1.3 The utilitarian argument

1.2 Economic justifications

2. Copyright and conceptual (property) theories

2.1 The French debate

2.2 The German debate

2.3 The Italian debate

3. Intermezzo: the role of copyright history

4. Conclusions

2.    Droit d’auteur, copyright and the historical epiphanies of propertization

1. Pre-historic bites

2. The English model: from common law to statutory copyright

3. The French model of droit d’auteur: not only a case of property rhetoric

4. The continental model beyond France: the development of authors’ rights in Germany and Italy

4.1 The birth and evolution of diritto d’autore

4.2 The harmonization of the German Urheberrecht

5. Conclusions

3.    The EU copyright model, or how to lose the compass in a systemic chaos

1. A hidden paradigm shift? Evidence from EU legislative history

1.1 The vertical phase (1988–2001)

1.2 The horizontal phase (2001–2008)

1.3 The multi-level phase (2008–today)

1.3.1 A long preparation …

1.3.2 … for a few legislative acts

2. Article 17(2) CFREU: meaningful or meaningless?

3. Activism of the CJEU in EU copyright harmonization: trends and effects

3.1 The early days: copyright and primary EC law (1971–1991)

3.2 The interregnum (1991–2006)

3.3 A decade of rampant harmonization (2006–2016)

3.3.1 Subject matter and conditions of protection: the notions of work and originality under the label of ‘author’s own intellectual creation’

3.3.2 Authorship

3.3.3 Exclusive rights Reproduction Communication to the public Distribution and exhaustion

3.3.4 Exceptions and limitations; fair remuneration

3.3.5 ISP liability and enforcement

4. Conclusions

4.    The different faces and effects of copyright propertization: EU vs Member States

1. Propertizing without a property framework: post-modernism and the EU copyright model

2. Presence and absence of property concepts in national copyright systems

2.1 Copyright as property in the United Kingdom: neat qualification, but limited systematic relevance

2.2 The French propriété littéraire as a bridge between the civil and common law experiences

2.3 Germany and its anti-proprietary (resi)stance

2.4 The Italian diritto d’autore as hybrid, second-generation model

3. Copyright within the framework of constitutional property: national experiences

3.1 France

3.2 Germany

3.3 Italy

4. Conclusions – or ‘does it matter whether [copyright] is property?’

5.    The social function of copyright as property right

1. The social function of property rights in Europe: doctrinal and judicial history from civil codes to modern constitutions

1.1 The German constitutional property model and its internal social obligation (Eigentum verpflichtet)

1.2 A constitutional property jurisprudence without a constitutional property clause: the late development and particularities of the French experience

1.3 The social function of the Italian constitutional property

2. A clash between the EU and national constitutional property models?

2.1 The European Court of Human Rights

2.2 The Court of Justice of the European Union

3. A common social function for EU property law

4. Vertical and horizontal effects of the social function doctrine on property rights and relationships

5. Vertical and horizontal effects of the social function of copyright as property right

6. Interlude: the functions of EU copyright law

7. Conclusions

6.    Building and harmonizing EU copyright law within the property framework: a four-dimensional experiment of systematization

1. Subject

2. Object

2.1 Different works, different regimes

2.2 Theorizing abandonment

3. Content (economic rights)

4. Structure

4.1 Exceptions

4.2 Fair balance

4.3 Three-step test

4.4 Abuse and misuse of copyright

4.5 Contractual overridability of exceptions

5. Conclusions