The European Parliament is expected to confirm in Brussels new rules punishing counterfeiters and pirates on Feb. 25. MEPs are to agree the last amendments to the so-called "Enforcement Directive" tha

BRUSSELS--The European Parliament is expected to confirm in Brussels new rules punishing counterfeiters and pirates on Feb. 25.

MEPs are to agree the last amendments to the so-called "Enforcement Directive" that clamps down on Internet pirates and tightens laws on counterfeit music and movies, paving the way for EU governments to adopt the package as law next month.

The Parliament's report has been rushed through by its author, French MEP Janelly Fourtou, who wanted it adopted before the European Parliament dissolved for its June elections.

She was allowed to skip the usual "second reading" phase of EU laws, and after five conciliation sessions with EU government representatives, the compromise package is almost ready.

"It's not bad," she tells ELW. "It's not as strong as the European Parliament wanted, but the important thing is that the law will exist. It creates a level playing field."

The law will have to be implemented by EU governments within two years. The compromise says that pirates and counterfeiters could be fined and have their bank accounts frozen.

ADJUSTING DAMAGES
The measure also enables authorities to take legal measures against Internet file-sharing networks. It should make it easier to seize and destroy counterfeit goods.

But it scraps the provisions--originally proposed by the European Commission last year--for jailing those caught, accepting that the current EU treaties do not allow for such measures.

Fourtou, the wife of Vivendi Universal president and CEO Jean-Rene Fourtou, says she had to compromise on the issue of damages: She had sought right to ask for damages worth double the value of the product copied, but the EU governments forced her to back down.

The draft now says that government legal authorities "shall order the infringer who knowingly, or with reasonable grounds to know, engaged in an infringing activity, to pay the right holder damages appropriate to the actual prejudice suffered by him as a result of the infringement."

And Fourtou was not able to keep provisions for all digital media produced in Europe to be inscribed with an industry Source Identification Codes or "SID" codes--the serial numbers that identify the plant where discs were mastered and manufactured.

The draft law includes movies, music and software, as well as patents, copyrights, trademarks and registered designs. It would boost the cooperation between rights holders and legal authorities.

Fourtou faced fierce opposition from Europe's largest telecommunications companies, the cable industry and several well known American Internet firms: the European NetAlliance, which includes companies such as BT Group, Deutsche Telekom, Vodafone, MCI, Verizon Communications, and Yahoo! wrote to MEPs on the Legal Affairs Committee, warning them of the risks of broadening the directive's scope, as the committee appears set to do.

And European consumer lobby, BEUC, indicated that the text was draconian, allowing consumers to be prosecuted, judged and condemned as harshly as a person making and selling millions of copies of CDs.