Does the EU Really Matter?

For those who have read some of my observations on developments in Intellectual Property in UK and Europe, you may have asked: “does it really matter?”

It’s my belief that it does. The development of intellectual property policy and practice in Europe should be of commercial interest to companies and practitioners in other countries…from the United States to the Pacific Rim.

At the heart of the EU developments (which are directives, R&D programs, regulations and laws, which follow the politically nuanced policy and philosophical developments) is the potential change in the legal systems of many countries, with a more centralised legal and enforcement systems which may end up in the European Court of Justice. Fine, you may say – one court one judgement. It’s all good for efficiency.

The reality today is that the legal systems in mainland Europe are very different from the legal systems operating in UK/Ireland, and dare I say it…in the US, and Pacfic Rim too. UK is Common Law, whereas mainland Europe is based on the Napoleonic system. And of course France is a key driver in the EU.

The US developed its legal system as a reaction to the UK of George III but nonetheless follows the Anglo-Saxon rather than mainland European system. So what does this really mean?

With total attribution to Ambrose Evans-Pritchard writing in the Daily Telegraph, he says: with “apologies to law professors — the crude difference between core Europe and Britain/Ireland is that Napoleonic law forbids unless specifically allowed, while Common Law allows unless specifically forbidden. This Common Law system is the legal foundation of Anglo-Saxon scientific and commercial creativity, and perhaps the reason democracy has bedded better in the Anglo-sphere”

And there are other differences too, such as crudely in UK/Ireland one is innocent until proven guilty whereas under the Napoleonic code there is a presumption of guilt unless the defendant can prove innocence.

So would the current Anglo-Saxon music and entertainment system have evolved had it been under Napoleonic code?

The EU is currently in the process of increasing its legal permeability throughout the 27 European countries, through directives and the progress of The Lisbon Treaty (constitution by another name), as well as the current initiative to progress the concepts of European Patents system, at which many countries are balking.

So what impact does this have from a commercial perspective?

DRM is about the management of legal rights in a technological environment. The choice of legal system that underpins the DRM has a direct impact on the DRM architecture, its effectiveness and validity, and of course its operability (even interoperability).

So how does a company decide on it’s strategy and tactics in this environment?

Bill Jones is CEO of Global Village Ltd.


  1. “And there are other differences too, such as crudely in UK/Ireland one is innocent until proven guilty whereas under the Napoleonic code there is a presumption of guilt unless the defendant can prove innocence.”
    Sorry but this is wrong on so many levels, you do not seem familiar with “mainland” european law.
    fyi: read up on “Differences between legal systems”

  2. Bill Jones · ·


    thanks – you are right, EU rights law (and therefore “mainland” European law) has innocence until proven guilty. My piece was badly drafted and attempted to cover a huge area in a small amount of text, which is why the word “crudely” was used.

    I could retract the paragraph which leaves the original piece intact, or modify to “the Old Napoleonic code” (which influences later codes) and add more text

    where it does refer to the “de facto presumption of guilt”, whereas it did not have “de jure presumption of guilt”.

    Nonetheless, I think the rest of the piece holds good.

    The subtext is that legal systems influence commerce, mind sets, cultures etc. We do not have homogeneous implementation of EU law across Europe, and therefore concious business choices will condition outcomes.

    but of course in the nature of a blog, I’m happy to be corrected.



  3. Markus · ·

    sorry for not getting back earlier (and maybe being a bit harsh/direct), your approach sounds good!
    And btw i’m subscribed to your blog and really appreciate your view/writing!

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