No need to panic over IP rights directive

Crying 'Wolf' damages our intellectual freedom

Letter: The IP Rights Enforcement Directive was passed yesterday by the European Parliament.

This framework for national legislation has caused a huge amount of controversy and speculation as to how it will eventually appear in law in each of the member states, and sparked protest by civil liberties and consumer rights groups. But have they overstated their case?

Adrian McMenamin, the Press Officer of the European Parliamentary Labour Party, certainly thinks so:

Dear Sir,

The American quoted in your article clearly doesn't understand how EU legislation works. It is now a matter for member states of the EU to translate the directive - which is a framework for law, not the law itself - into their national laws. If member states want to crack down on file sharers the directive approved by the European Parliament makes no odds - they can do that anyway. But given that the directive does not *require* member states to come down hard on individuals swapping files on a small scale there are no grounds for implying that, if they do, it is because of this directive - it will entirely be a matter for member states and their parliaments.

Those arguing against this directive have used scare tactics throughout and as a result have consistently alienated the vast majority of legislators in the European Parliament. Intellectual freedom is a valuable thing and its cause is being damaged by people who constantly cry wolf.

Britain has had laws very similar to those required by the directive for some years now and I do not see police raiding the homes of file sharers on a regular basis and nor do I see the development of OSS being halted - I should know, I have written several Linux kernel modules. Claims that the DMCA is coming to Europe are ridiculous.

A lot of those who opposed this directive did so because they do not believe in any sort of prohibitive intellectual property protection. It's a legitimate argument (though not one I support) but it has been tarnished by their decision to try to scare the living daylights out of people with talk of a coming "police state".

Yours sincerely,

Adrian McMenamin
Press Officer,
European Parliamentary Labour Party
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