EP Committee wants to jail file sharers

By EDRi · December 3, 2003

On 27 November the Legal Affairs Committee (JURI) of the European
Parliament finally voted on the Draft Directive on the Enforcement of
Intellectual Property Rights. The vote was a total victory for the
Rapporteur, French Conservative Janelly Fourtou. Every single one of her
amendments passed, and so did all of the compromise amendments she had
worked out with other MEPs. There is no official version of the report as
amended now – it has to be prepared by the JURI Secretariat from circa 250
pages of amendments and a 19-page list on the outcome of the vote. It can,
however, already be concluded that the amended version is even more
unproportional than it looked in worst-case scenarios during the weeks
preceding the vote – and that is not entirely the fault of Mrs Fourtou,
but also of a Green MEP from Austria called Mercedes Echerer.

Part of the last Compromise proposal Mrs Fourtou had presented more than
two weeks before the vote was an agreement with the authors of amendments
aiming at the deletion of article 20. This article contains an obligation
for Member States to introduce criminal law sanctions for infringements of
intellectual property rights, which do not yet exist in most EU Member
States. The deletion of this article was proposed by Mrs. Echerer,
together with her party colleague Neil MacCormick from Scotland, and three
other MEPs from different parties. Mrs Fourtou’s proposal was to support
the deletion of criminal law provisions, if in return she would get a
majority for widening the scope of the Directive to infringements that do
not cause significant harm and are not committed for a personal purpose.
This had always been one of Mrs Fourtou’s most important objectives; some
say because her husband – Jean-Rene Fourtou, the CEO of Vivendi Universal,
the world’s biggest music company – would like to crack down on file

When it came to the vote last Thursday, this widening of the scope was
already accepted when Mrs Echerer proposed an oral amendment to Article
20, aiming not at the deletion of that Article as had done her former
amendment, but indeed at the introduction of criminal sanctions for all
kinds of intellectual property rights infringements, if they are serious
and committed intentionally.

What ‘serious’ means would be left to the transposition of the Directive
in Member States, or to be judged by courts. Generally the term refers to
either commercial or large-scale infringements, the latter of which could
very well apply to hundreds of thousands of users of the internet, and
lead to young file sharers landing up in prison, as has happened in the
U.S. under similar regulations in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

It is not yet clear when the report will be adopted in the European
Parliament’s plenary. It is not on the schedule for the December session
in two weeks, and rumours have it that it will not even be voted in
January, because the EU Council proposes massive changes, which will
require several rounds of discussion.

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