The Italian law on copyright (Law of 22/04/41 no.633) has recently undergone extensive alteration as a result of European legislation. After the addition of the various regulations concerning the protection of software, the EC Directive 92/100/EC was implemented in Italy in November with the Legislative Decree no. 633/94, which introduced around twenty amendments and additions to the Law no.633.

Apart from various minor initiatives of coordination, adjustment and concentration of the legislation on this matter, the reform in question substantially concerns the harmonisation of the laws in force in the individual member states of the European Union according to the principle of the reservation of rights of hire and loan, and in which oscillations have been present in the case law of the various Member States.

Under the old regime, moreover, until fairly recently in Italy, it was considered legal for the purchaser of a video cassette to rent it to third parties, something which maintained the average price of cinematographic works on that medium at a level five or six times higher than the present level. Moreover, the provision concerning the right to merchandise works and their copies and reproductions has been substituted by a wider and more precise provision for the exclusive right of distribution, i.e. the right "to commercialise, put in circulation or in any way make available to the public, by any means and on any ground, ... [as well as] to introduce, for the purposes of distribution, in the territory of the Member States of the European Union, reproductions made in states outside the Community."

Finally, the law provides a precise copyright law for performers with regard to their performances, and an enlargement and exact definition of the rights pertaining to phonographic and audiovisual producers and to radio and television broadcasters (who are also the specific subject, moreover, of the not yet implemented EC Directive 83/93/EC).

A reform of even greater importance was announced in the Directive 98/93/EC, which, even in the absence of an earlier and explicit implementation by the Italian legislators, will from 01/07/95 automatically extend, in any event, the duration of protection for works of the imagination in Italy from fifty years from the death of the author to seventy. It is worth noting that the pre-emption of that deadline brings an important advantage to individual Member States: on the basis of the Directive in question, in fact, any copyright still existing in at least one Member State at the time of the entry in force of the Community legislation will re-acquire immediate protection in all of the Member States.

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