Intellectual Property Enforcement
Today, 21 April, the controversial Urbani decree will be discussed again by the Culture Commission of the Italian Parliament. This law (named after the Minister of Culture) puts heavy fines on the download of movies, music or other copyrighted works even when done without any commercial purpose. Downloaders and file-sharers also risk the seizure of their equipment and a humiliating publication of the verdict in the national press. Fines start at 154 euro for private use of a work that has been distributed illegally, and run up to 1.032 euro in case of a repeated offence.
The decree attempts to authorise surveillance of electronic communication, introducing an assumption of 'guilty by default' of all internet users. The debate in the Parliamentary Commissions only seems to cause temporary delay, since it has the support of most of the Italian government.
European Digital Rights condemns action taken by the international phonographic industry association (IFPI) against European users of file-sharing networks. On 30 March IFPI announced legal actions against a total of 247 file-sharers in Denmark, Germany, Italy and Canada. Similar actions were announced by the French and Swiss music industry shortly after. Following previous actions in the United States, European internet users will be charged with illegally making available hundreds of music tracks for copying, transmission and distribution via file-sharing services.
In Italy 30 file-sharers are accused, mostly users of 'Opennap'. At the request of FIMI, the Italian music industry federation, financial police has raided the houses of these file-sharers and seized their computers, hard disks and CD's to secure evidence. The German section of IFPI has announced lawsuits against 68 users. In response, the German Chaos Computer Club (by far the largest usergroup in Europe), announced a campaign to boycott the music industry.
The Italian government has issued a decree on Friday 12 March that puts a fine of 1.500 euro on the internet file-sharing of feature movies.
On top of the fine, computers and digital storage media can be seized. To complete the humiliation for the file-sharer, the sentence has to be published in 1 national daily newspaper and 1 specialised entertainment magazine. The Ministry of Culture Giuliano Urbani has mockingly declared this sanction 'symbolic'. Adding to that, in reference to peer-to-peer file sharing, Urbani said that 'multimedia piracy is a theft, and must be handled as such'.
Since its first draft, this legislative measure was strongly protested against by citizens, ISPs (forced to violate the privacy laws by spying and filing complaints against their customers), columnists and
On 9 March the European Parliament finally adopted the Directive on the Enforcement of Intellectual Property Rights. The Strasbourg Plenary passed the text, which had previously been agreed behind closed doors by a handful of MEPs in no less than 11 informal meetings with the Council, without any amendment. Although majorities were much thinner than the rapporteur, French Conservative Janelly Fourtou, would have had them only 277 MEPs voted down the line for the so-called compromise of the rapporteur, while 240 wanted to amend it one way or another -, the Directive is now more than likely to pass in the First Reading procedure, which is foreseen for uncontroversial reports.
The Directive applies indiscriminately to all infringements of all intellectual property rights, including patents. A limitation to
The European Telecom ministers have welcomed new action plans from the Commission to promote broadband access in Europe. The Commission calls on Member States who have not yet put in place a national broadband strategy to do so without delay, with a focus on delivering broadband in under-served areas via a variety of platforms. This summer the Commission is due to report about the progress on the different broadband strategies to both Council and Parliament.
The European Commission sees information and communication technologies as key factor for economical growth and improvement of productivity in Europe. On 3 February 2004, the Commission adopted the Communication "Connecting Europe at high speed: Recent developments in the sector of electronic communications". This report sums up a number of actions still
The European Union's disputed Directive on the Enforcement of Intellectual Property Rights is scheduled for a fast-track procedure that may lead to it being adopted by the European Council in little more than two weeks. At present, it is still under discussion in the Brussels Parliament. The Rapporteur, French Conservative Janelly Fourtou, and the Council both wish to pass this Directive in First Reading, before the enlargement of the European Union. Trying to avoid delay by too much discussion, they have each chosen the fastest procedure possible in their respective institutions.
The final discussion about the report in the Parliament's Legal Affairs Committee took place on Monday 23 February. The item was scheduled at the very last minute, the Friday before, when most of the Members of Parliament were already gone. With many MEPs still on their way to Brussels on Monday, only 14 MEPs were present. The discussion only lasted 15 minutes after the Council and the Commission had ended their formal introductions.
The final vote on two of the most controversial information society Directives, the Directive on Software Patents and the Directive on the Enforcement of Intellectual Property Rights has been delayed once more. The IPRE directive was withdrawn last minute from the 9 February plenary agenda of the European Parliament. On 6 February the Council presented a compromise.
The IPRE directive was designed to prevent piracy and counterfeiting in the EU, but the scope and criminal sanctions were extended to infringement of any IP right, for example to peer-to-peer file exchangers. The new scope was strongly criticised by consumer organisations, telecoms operators and internet service providers. They claimed it would force them into endless legal proceedings with representatives from the music and
Peter Schaar, appointed 2 months ago as Germany's chief Data Protection Commissioner, has severely criticized the draft Directive on the Enforcement of Intellectual Property Rights, currently under discussion in the European Parliament and the Council. Interviewed by the online news service Heise, Schaar said the Directive brought along many risks, including deep cuts into the confidentiality of communication and citizen's privacy rights by giving too many rights of information to the rights holders. The Directive is, according to Schaar, also likely to undermine current initiatives to regulate the use of RFID tags, and he criticizes the possible extension of the field of application from professional copyright pirates to 'everyone exchanging private copies', which would be 'unproportional'.