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EU Parliament votes today on new IP laws

Will downloaders go to jail?

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Updated The European Parliament's committee for legal affairs meets today to vote on proposals for criminal penalties to be imposed on those who infringe intellectual property (IP) rights.

The vote today will determine whether or not a person who downloads a single unlicensed track of music could be sent to jail.

The scope of the directive has been the subject of much debate, with an array of amendments being tabled to either limit or broaden the remit of the proposed legislation. The level of penalties set out has also caused division between groups of MEPs.

For example, while the proposal refers to all kinds of IP rights, some MEPs want patents specifically excluded from the directive, arguing that most European states have sufficient civil remedies for such infringements.

Others go even further and argue that the directive should be restricted to cover only copyright and trademark violations, leaving aside database rights, geographical indications, and trade names.

The more liberal MEPs have also called for copies made for personal use to be specifically excluded. Those calling for harsher penalties for infringers, including Dutch MEP Toine Manders, say they want personal copies included in the directive, up to and including downloaded files.

Manders and his supporters also want penalties for infringement to include the seizure and destruction of all counterfeit material, and all equipment used to carry out the infringement. ®

Update: The vote has been postponed until February 26. The delay was requested by the EPP group, to give them time to get their new MEPs (post mid-terms) up to speed on the issues.

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