A European directive on copyright that should stimulate creativity and innovation by protecting the copyright of music, films and other goods, has moved closer to ratification following agreement by the Council of Ministers. The proposed directive will now pass to the European Parliament for a second reading under the co-decision procedure. The Commission welcomed the Council's position confirmed on 8 June, which will make cross-border trade in copyright-protected goods and services easier, with particular emphasis on Information Society products and services, both online and off. The legislation aims to install a fair balance between the rights and interests of all those involved including rightholders, network operators, consumers, consumer electronic industries and the educational community. 'This is a breakthrough in what is a vitally important dossier,' said Internal Market Commissioner Frits Bolkestein. 'Since the Commission's proposal was first tabled in 1997, we have seen an explosion in information technology. The Internet is transforming film, video and music and reinventing the concept of audience participation. For Europe's creative artists and copyright-based industries to derive maximum benefit, we need to ensure their intellectual property rights are protected. 'But that has to be weighed against the rights of other interests - network operators, users including consumers, the educational community and society at large. The balance has been delicate, but it is finally secured.' The directive covers the rights of reproduction, communication to the public, distribution, the legal protection of anti-copying devices and rights management systems. Network operators will benefit from an obligatory exemption regarding technical copies transmitted on the Internet. There is also an exhaustive list of exceptions to copyright that Member States may maintain provided that copyright holders are fairly compensated. The adoption of the directive is a pre-requisite for the ratification of the 1996 World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) Treaties - known as the 'Internet' treaties - which will extend protection in the global market. All EU Member States and the European Community are signatories as well as European Economic Area members and the countries of Central and Eastern Europe. This directive is part of a concerted effort on behalf of the Commission to create a harmonised legal framework to encourage the development of the Information Society, complementing particularly the recently adopted e-commerce directive.