Wednesday, May 10, 2006

EU moves to criminalise IP offences

Comission Vice-President Franco FrattiniI wrote this article for today's EDRI-gram on the latest European Commission machinations over intellectual property law.

The European Commission has revived a proposal to criminalise infringement of all intellectual property rights "on a commercial scale" after a European Court of Justice ruling that the Commission may include criminal offences in their Directives.

The proposal would also criminalise the "attempting, aiding or abetting and inciting" of infringement, and introduce multi-year jail sentences, confiscation of equipment and fines of hundreds of thousands of euros. This goes much further than the EU's obligations under the World Trade Organisation's Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). Right holders could participate in police investigations into infringement.

While the Commission focuses in its press release on counterfeiting by organised criminal gangs, the legislation would have a much wider effect. It could cover teenage file sharers, authors of file sharing and DRM-circumvention software, and even incautious campaigners for intellectual property law reform.

It is this type of outrageous legislative manoeuvring by large intellectual property right holders and their allies in European and US administrations that has brought IP law into such public disrepute.

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