ENDitorial: EP Legal Affairs adopts incoherent report on IPR enforcement

By EDRi · June 2, 2010

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Deutsch: [ENDitorial: Rechtsausschuss des EP verabschiedet inkohärenten Urheberrechtsbericht | http://www.unwatched.org/node/1975]

This week, the Legal Affairs Committee of the European Parliament adopted a
far-reaching, contradictory and, at times, fundamentalist non-legislative
report on enforcement of intellectual property rights. The Committee report
takes some quite extreme, apocalyptic and sometimes almost comically absurd
views of intellectual property infringements, claiming that they “constitute
a danger” for health and safety and even endanger “our economies and
societies”, before making dire warnings about the “fade-out of innovation in
the EU” and demands for criminal sanctions for infringements.

However, the text also contains some incongruous positive aspects. For
example, regarding file sharing, one potentially mitigating amendment was
adopted saying that online infringements should treated differently from
offline counterfeiting. More importantly, one oral amendment that was
adopted neatly sums up the folly of most of the text. That amendment attacks
the alienation created by disproportionate and counterproductive enforcement
of intellectual property and argues that “efforts to tackle infringement of
copyright must enjoy public support in order not to risk eroding support for
intellectual property rights amongst the citizens”. It is a sign of the
intellectual paucity and confused nature of the report adopted by the
Committee that the MEP that tabled that amendment felt obliged to vote
against the final text.

The report correctly points out that reliable data is not available to
assess the scale of IPR infringement (neatly confusing all IPR
infringements, thereby endangering the fight against life-threatening drug
counterfeiting by putting this on the same level as unauthorised downloading
of music). However, this recognised absence of reliable data did not inhibit
the Committee from stating with complete certainty that unauthorised
downloading was inhibiting the creation of legal music offerings. Continuing
its efforts to create its own reality, the Committee also deleted a proposed
amendment stating the fact that graduated response schemes were rejected in
the telecoms package. Similarly, it also rejected an amendment recognising
“the potential usefulness of authorised sharing between individuals of
copies for non-commercial use.” Having rejected the concept that citizens
should be able to use and share data that they have obtained legally, the
Committee then went on to adopt a text saying that consumers should be
“educated” so that they could better understand intellectual property and
how to respect it.

Astonishingly, however, the Committee adopted a text which re-enforced the
Parliament’s opposition to the scope of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade
Agreement, which has been so far willfully misinterpreted by the European
Commission. Echoing the Parliament resolution adopted in March of this year,
the text “calls on the Commission to ensure that its efforts to further the
negotiations on the multilateral Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA)
with a view to improving the effectiveness of the IPR enforcement system
against counterfeiting are continued with full account being taken of the
Parliament’s position.” This reinforces the Parliament’s position of March
of this year which insisted on the limitation of ACTA to counterfeiting (and
not, for example, ISP liability). Since March, the Commission has blatantly
ignored that position, with the apparent expectation that, once ACTA is
completed, enough pressure can be brought to bear in the Parliament for it
to cave in and adopt a text that contradicts its own stated views.

The report will be voted on at an upcoming plenary session of the European
Parliament. Due to the confused, contradictory and incoherent nature of the
Legal Affairs Committee text, it appears likely (and necessary, for the
Parliament’s credibility) that more consistent alternative texts will be
tabled by one or more political groups prior to the vote. We can only hope
that the Committee will learn the lesson that slavishly following the
lobbying of certain entrenched, antediluvian industries serves only to
undermine its credibility and the confidence of citizens in the European

European People’s Party press release on the vote

(Contribution by Joe McNamee – EDRi)