The European Union is due this coming week to agree on rules that would force its governments to clamp down on music and movie pirates. The European Parliament, the EU’s elected assembly, is expected to vote Tuesday (March 9) in Strasbourg, France, for new laws that call on national governments to introduce “effective, proportionate and dissuasive” measures against counterfeiters and Internet pirates.
The text on the so-called Enforcement Directive represents a compromise for the Parliament, which had initially sought much tougher language. The author of the Parliament’s draft law, French conservative Member of European Parliament Janelly Fourtou, had originally asked for mandatory “criminal sanctions, including imprisonment” for people found guilty of breaching intellectual property rights. The issue of criminal sanctions, however, falls outside the EU’s jurisdiction. The amended law will leave it up to national governments to decide how to punish pirates and counterfeiters.
The compromise also drops Fourtou’s proposal to let copyright holders seek damages worth double the royalties or fees lost. The text now sets claims at the actual economic harm suffered by the rights holder.
Fourtou, wife of Vivendi Universal president/CEO Jean-Rene Fourtou, says the compromise is “an important first step toward eliminating counterfeiting and piracy in the EU. Ultimately, its adoption will send an important signal to countries outside the EU about its commitment to safeguarding creativity and innovation.”
The directive also won’t include text distinguishing between pirates who breach copyright for commercial gain and those who do so for mere personal use, as the European Commission, the EU’s executive body, had asked. But the Commission was happy to endorse it. “It is a compromise, but it will be a huge help in the fight against intellectual property violations,” says a spokesman.
The text covers music, movies, software, toys and pharmaceuticals as well as patents, copyrights, trademarks and registered designs. If it is approved on Tuesday, it could be rubber-stamped within days by EU ministers.
Members of European Parliament will debate the law on Monday evening (March 8). At the same time, civil liberties pressure group IP Justice is planning a rally for digital rights outside the Parliament building. IP Justice says the proposed law will erode digital rights and traditional civil liberties, and says the rally is “our chance to make a stand against the over-zealous enforcement of intellectual property rights.”