European Commission refers Bulgaria to ECJ over copyright rules, open data use

The European Commission said on February 15 that it has decided to refer Bulgaria to the EU Court of Justice (ECJ) in two ongoing infringement proceedings as part of its latest infringements package.

In the first case, Bulgaria was one of six member states that failed to fully transpose EU copyright rules into national law. Bulgaria was being referred to the ECJ for failing to notify complete transposition measures of both the Digital Single Market Directive (EU) 2019/790 and the EU Directive 2019/789 on copyright and related rights applicable to certain online transmissions.

The two directives aimed to modernise copyright rules for consumers and creators to make the most of the digital world, protecting rightholders from different sectors, stimulating the creation and circulation of more high-value content, the Commission said.

Despite receiving a letter of formal notice in July 2021 and a reasoned opinion in May 2022, Bulgaria has not fully addressed the Commission’s grievances, prompting the ECJ referral, the last stage in the EU infringement process.

If the ECJ rules that Bulgaria is in breach of EU law, the country would be required to comply with the judgment or risk being imposed financial penalties that scale up depending on the length of the breach.

In the second ECJ referral, the Commission said that Bulgaria was one of four countries to fail to enact EU rules on open data and public sector data re-use, set out in Directive EU 2019/1024, also known as the Open Data Directive.

By providing common rules for a European market for government-held data, the directive aims to reduce barriers to market entry for small and medium-sized enterprises through reduced costs for data re-use, make more data available and increase business opportunities through data sharing via application programming interfaces (APIs), the EC said.

The directive stimulates the development of innovative solutions such as mobility apps, increases transparency by opening the access to publicly funded research data, and thereby supports new technologies, including artificial intelligence, according to the Commission.

The two referrals to the ECJ come on the heels of two other ECJ referrals in the Commission’s January infringement package, over failure to implement EU rules regarding the promotion of renewable energy use protecting biodiversity by preventing the spread of invasive alien species.

In its February package, the European Commission said that it opened three new infringement cases against Bulgaria by sending letters of formal notice.

In one case, the EC said that Bulgaria failed to comply with the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (Directive 2008/56/EC) by not sending a report on the review of its programme of measures or a reports on the review of its monitoring programme.

Separately, the Commission opened an infringement proceeding against Bulgaria for failing to review, adopt and report in time its third river basin management plan and second flood risk management plan, in breach of the Water Framework Directive (Directive 2000/60/EC) and the Floods Directive (Directive 2007/60/EC).

In the last of the new case, the EC said that Bulgaria did not designate a notifying authority, nor lay down procedures for conformity assessment bodies, that would perform the activities mandated in the Fertilising Products Regulation (EU) 2019/1009.

Bulgaria now two months to address the concerns raised by the EC or the Commission may decide to escalate the proceedings with a reasoned opinion, the second stage in the infringement process.

The Commission also said that it was pushing forward with three existing infringement proceedings. In two cases, relating to the EU Proportionality Test Directive and the EU directive on combating child sexual abuse and exploitation of children, the EC said that it was sending an additional letter of formal notice.

In the third case, regarding Bulgaria’s failure to correctly transpose “certain elements of the EU rules on combating terrorism,” outlined in Directive (EU) 2017/541, the Commission said that it was escalating the proceedings by issuing a reasoned opinion, the second stage in the infringement process.

(European Commission headquarters Berlaymont building. Photo: JLogan)

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