Fast track procedure for IPR Enforcement
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 longest speeches were given by Arlene McCarthy MEP (Social Democrat, UK) and Malcolm Harbour MEP (Conservative, UK), who both claimed that this Directive was not mainly about the Digital world, but about counterfeiting of tangible goods. There is no proof for that in the text, however.
Technically, the debate was about the amendments that the Rapporteur had laid down, together with McCarthy and with Toine Manders (Liberal, Netherlands) and which reflect verbatim the Common Position of the Council. This position had been fine-tuned, behind closed doors, in five so-called trilogue meetings between the Parliament and the Council during the previous weeks. The Legal Affairs Committee did not vote on the amendments of Mrs. Fourtou: she chose to table them directly to the Plenary.
MEPs may now lay down additional amendments until 4 March. The vote will take place on 9 March in Strasbourg, preceded by a plenary debate the day before. Already on 10 March, the outcome of the vote will be considered by the Council’s Committee of Permanent Representatives (COREPER). On 11 March, on the occasion of the meeting of the EU Competitiveness Council, ministers may sign it off if it has been agreed by the Permanent Representatives.
Though some of the concerns of civil society and internet providers have been taken into account in the drafting of the Common Position, the text remains problematic. The scope of the directive is extended to cover “any infringement of intellectual property rights as provided for by Community law and/or by the national law of the Member State concerned.” At the same time, the Commission’s initial limitation to infringements which are “committed for commercial purposes or cause significant harm to the right holder” has been deleted.
The term “intellectual property rights” is not defined, creating the possibility of a large range of abuses. Because the enforcement is not limited to large-scale infringements, kids downloading songs from the internet risk the same kind of treatment as large-scale counterfeiters of trademark designer clothes.
EDRI-member organisation FIPR has prepared a set of amendments to deal with the worst deficits in this Directive and is preparing, together with a range of other organisations, a rally in Strasbourg to promote these amendments and to encourage MEPs to vote against the Directive if some minimum requirements are not fulfilled.
The European Commission’s initial proposal for a Directive
Amendments proposed by FIPR and EDRI
(Contribution by Andreas Dietl, EDRI EU affairs director)