The European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, today (March 9) passed the European Union's Enforcement Directive, which aims to provide a legal framework to protect intellectual property. The Directiv

The European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, today (March 9) passed the European Union's Enforcement Directive, which aims to provide a legal framework to protect intellectual property. The Directive will compel local governments throughout the EU to adopt anti-piracy laws under its guidelines.

According to EU procedures, the vote -- 330 in favor, 151 against and 39 abstentions -- clears the way for the Directive to be adopted before the European elections in June. Member states will then have two years to implement the Directive into their national legislation.

One of the key clauses of the legislation allows for pirates and counterfeiters to be fined and have their bank accounts frozen. However, the Parliament voted against applying criminal sanctions to IP rights infringements, instead preferring civil and administrative sanctions.

The initial text called for possible legal action against individual consumers. This was toned down by an amendment stipulating that only breaches committed on a commercial scale could be enforced, thus excluding individual consumers who copy music recordings for their own use.

Organizations from the IP sector, united under the Anti-Piracy Coalition, welcomed the vote, saying the Directive "provides a uniform level of protection" among the 25 EU member states. However, the group expressed "regret" that the Directive "does not harmonize criminal penalties, despite support from the Commission and the Parliament for criminal measures in the Directive."

Frances Moore, IFPI's regional director for Europe, calls the Directive "a first step in the right direction, but more needs to be done at national level to stem the piracy epidemic undermining the creative industries in Europe."