The European Commission said today (July 13) it had launched infringement proceedings against four countries for failing to implement a 2001 copyright legislation protecting music, movies and software

The European Commission said today (July 13) it had launched infringement proceedings against four countries for failing to implement a 2001 copyright legislation protecting music, movies and software.

The European Union's executive authority took this step against France, Finland, Spain and the Czech Republic, which could face hefty fines. The four EU members have yet to transpose into their national legislation the 2001 Copyright Directive, which was supposed to have been implemented on Dec. 22, 2002.

The Commission sent "reasoned opinions" to France and Finland demanding that they comply immediately with earlier rulings by the European Court of Justice on the issue.

If Paris and Helsinki still fail to respond, a daily fine can be imposed. Spain has already indicated that it will comply, so the Commission's informal letter to Madrid asked to government how it intended to do so.

The Czech Republic only became an EU member in May 2004, and so the government was issued a letter of formal notice -- the first stage of court proceedings -- asking it to provide full information on its implementation of the law.

The Copyright Directive was drawn up to improve protection across the EU in the digital environment. It allows companies selling digital content to defend their products with copy-protection technology and makes it illegal for anyone to circumvent such technology.

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