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A group that calls itself "Europe's creative sector" has slammed the EU's crackdown on piracy, calling the measures "inadequate".

The detractors include the Business Software Alliance (BSA), the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), the Motion Picture Association (MPA), the Interactive Software Federation of Europe (ISFE) and six other concerned software, music and film organisations.

The group said that last week's new piracy-fighting proposal from the European Commission is "inadequate in view of the magnitude of the piracy problem and fails to introduce urgently needed measures to hold back the epidemic of counterfeiting." The group claims that in Europe, film, video, music, business and leisure software industries alone suffer losses in excess of EUR4.5 billion annually due to piracy.

The biggest complaint from the so-called creative sector is the lack of harmonisation across the 15 EU nations the proposed draft would put in place. "In fact, implementation of the directive in its current form would cause confusion and perpetuate a patchwork of different legal measures and procedures across the EU," the association said in a statement.

What's more, the statement said the proposal may not even match existing international standards that fight piracy, insisting that it could create a two-tier system of enforcement where some types of piracy are acceptable and others are not.

However, in other quarters, the new directive has been deemed a much tougher version than the standards already in place to fight the illegal copying of software and other digital materials. For example, the Commission's proposal could see to it that counterfeiters are jailed and their bank accounts frozen, if they are found to be in breach of the law.

For its part, the European Commission claims that the proposed laws will actually fill gaps in national law that pirates currently exploit. "The proposed directive would ensure a level playing field for right holders in the EU, reinforce measures against offenders and thus act as a deterrent to those engaged in counterfeiting and piracy," the Commission said.

The proposal will now go forward to the European Parliament and the EU's Council of Ministers for adoption under the so-called "co-decision" procedure.

"Pirates and counterfeiters are in effect stealing from right holders the fair payment they deserve for their work. If we don't stamp that out, the incentives for industrial innovation and cultural creativity will be weakened," commented Internal Market Commissioner Frits Bolkestein. "The sooner we implement this proposal the better will be our defences against piracy."

According to EU figures, piracy reduced Europe's gross domestic product by EUR8 billion a year between 1998 and 2001. The BSA estimates that 37 percent of all software in Europe is pirated, going as high as 64 percent in countries like Greece. Other industry figures say that about a third of all CDs in the EU are illegal copies.

If the new measure is passed, these figures could all fall dramatically, although Europe is still some way off from the US, where software piracy is thought to be at just 24 percent. This, observers say, can mainly be chalked up to legal penalties that go as high as USD150,000 for each copied software program under US civil code.

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