Euro MPs want criminal penalties for downloaders
But harmony will be hard fought battle
The European Parliament has asked EU member states to press ahead with a plan to criminalise copyright infringement. The Parliament wants a proposal it agreed last year to be approved by ministers from each member state.
The proposed EU directive would create new rules on copyright protection, and would require each EU country to pass laws criminalising intellectual property infringement. It must be approved by the Council of Ministers before it takes effect.
In the UK some IP offences are criminal, but only when carried out on a commercial scale. The new directive would criminalise offences such as illegal downloading, but only when profit is made from anything that was downloaded.
The directive's main supporter is Italian Socialist MEP Nicola Zingaretti. "Organised crime is a global activity that does not recognise borders or customs... We want to make sure that, all over the EU, pirates and counterfeiters are punished," he said last year when the Parliament narrowly backed the proposal. "It is about punishing mafia-style criminals, not about jailing kids who download music from the internet."
The proposal, though, is likely to face significant opposition because criminal law has never before been harmonised across EU states. The fact that the Council of Ministers has not yet discussed or backed the proposal is taken by some to be an indication of that reluctance.
Zingaretti, who is in charge of the passage of the proposal in the Parliament, has used a written question to the Council to try to make the council consider the issue.
"Given the need for urgent action by the EU in response to the increasingly systematic violation of copyright by some internet users, can the council provide a time frame for discussion of the directive of the European Parliament and of the council on criminal measures aimed at ensuring the enforcement of intellectual property rights?" he asked.
The proposal does not include patents, though. There had been serious worries in the business community that if the proposal had included patents thousands of patent infringing businesses would have instantly become criminal organisations.
The proposal has always been controversial and was opposed by UK Green MEP Jean Lambert, among others. When put to a vote in the Parliament last April it was only passed by 374 votes to 278.
Copyright © 2008, OUT-LAW.com
OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.
Good for the economy
Well, the building industry at least - for all the extra prisons they're going to have to build to cage these millions of newly labelled criminals.
@EU Copyright Directive already makes it a crime
"Software, well Windows is bundled with every PC, it's piracy is therefore negligable."
there was no software bundled with my pc because i built it myself,
there was no software bundled with my friends PC, there was no software bundled with any of my families PC's...
yet they all run windows.
*if* they were all pirate copies then they *would* be lost copies, because there was no way people like my parents were going to learn to use Linux...
*if* those pirate copies of windows made it onto thse boxes with payment recieved, then that would be software piracy for money. -and illegal...
what the guys at MS et al don't seem to realise is that nobody sells a pirate copy of windows, they all copy it from a friend, of a friend of a friend etc, almost no money changes hands. so I guess that's not why they are saying that sharing for non profit is still illegal, and anyone who thinks that this law won't be used to sanction harsher penalties is really wrong.
Long Live SneakerNet
Hypothetically, lets say that after criminalising filesharing the p2p networks die (they won't but just suppose) There will still be private torrents, IRC. Invitation only Direct connect groups and FTP. Filesharing will be about as public as it was in the early BBS warez days where most people could still get hold of any game and cracked discs would be passed around and would often grab copies of stuff they would never play themselves but could in turn prize a game they did want out of someone else.
Fast forward 20 years to today. Even if they scare people off the public facing P2P networks. They will have little or no real affect. The one thing they cant control is Sneakernet.
Just think how many divx movies, DVDrips and albums can fit on a cheap 750gb USB drive to be passed around your mates. I already know of groups of people circulating large drives on a round robin basis with each person having a directory to place stuff for the benefit of the group.
Put it in context a 750gb drive costs nothing these days, now cast your minds back to when the RIAA were having kittens over Napster who at the time had about 1TB of discorganised and duplicated music files.
With the advances in drive capacity and ISPs and telcos unwilling to invest in net capacity, The speeds achievable with Sneakernet is rapidly outstriping that of the net, Especially in this country.
What will they try next, cap the size of Harddrives?