EU passes controversial 'anti-consumer' copyright legislation
From the Electronic Frontier Foundation:
The European Parliament has just voted to pass the Intellectual
Property Rights Enforcement Directive (IPRED2) without substantive
amendment, despite growing public opposition from across the European
Union. The final vote of 374 to 278 with 17 abstentions points to a
margin of Parliamentary support that has been narrowing ever since the
Directive left subcommittee. While we are disappointed that IPRED2 was
not defeated at this stage, we can see clearly the impact of the efforts of the over 8,000 Europeans
who've taken action against the Directive. We were told by the two
largest political parties that they felt that the Directive had not
been given enough time to be properly discussed, and that our campaign
had definitely contributed to the discussion.
The fight now moves to the Council of the European Union, where it will be considered by representatives of the national governments of all EU Member States. Several states have started to mount resistance to IPRED2 in recent weeks, with the UK and Holland leading the charge. Europeans worried about their right to innovate, and their ability to live under clear, fair criminal laws must now turn to their own national governments to ensure that IPRED2 doesn't set a terrible precedent for copyright law, and the EU legal process. If the Council disagrees with EuroParl's action -- which we believe is in reach -- IPRED2 would be returned for a second reading.
What is IPRD?
If IPRED2 is implemented without clear limits, "aiding, abetting, or inciting" copyright infringement on a "commercial scale" in the EU will become a crime.
Penalties for these brand new copycrimes will include permanent bans on doing business, seizure of assets, criminal records, and fines of up to €100,000.
IPRED2's backers say these copycrimes are meant only for professional criminals selling fake merchandise. But Europe already has laws against these fraudsters. With many terms in IPRED2 left unclear or completely undefined - including "commercial scale" and "incitement" - IPRED2 will expand police authority and make suspects out of legitimate consumers and businesses, slowing innovation and limiting your digital rights.
IPRED2 and Business
The entertainment industry spent millions suing the makers of the first VCRs, MP3 players and digital video recorders, trying to use copyright law to kill those innovative products because they threatened old business models. Fortunately, the industry was unsuccessful.
IPRED2's new crime of "aiding, abetting and inciting" infringement again takes aim at innovators, including open source coders, media-sharing sites like YouTube, and ISPs that refuse to block P2P services.
With the new directive, music labels and Hollywood studios will push for the criminal prosecution of these innovators in Europe, saying their products "incite" piracy - with EU taxpayers covering the costs.
Under IPRED2, these same entertainment companies can work with transnational "joint investigation teams" to advise the authorities on how to investigate and prosecute their rivals!
IPRED2 and Your Digital Freedoms
Criminal law needs to be clear to be fair. While IPRED2 says that only "commercial scale" infringement will be punished, the directive doesn't clearly define "commercial scale" or "incitement." Even IP lawyers can't agree on what are "private" and "personal" uses of copyrighted works. One step over that fuzzy line, however, and anyone could be threatened with punishments intended for professional counterfeiters and organized criminals.
How can ordinary citizens feel safe exercising their rights under copyright and trademark law when serious criminal penalties may be brought against them if they cross the line?