Parliament report stirs lobbying drive on Internet piracy

Civil rights groups warn against tackling Internet piracy along with counterfeiting

Should teenagers who illegally download music, films and the like in their bedrooms be treated like criminal gangs counterfeiting everything from life-saving drugs to Gucci handbags?

Yes, according to some members of Parliament and lobby groups for the content industry who are amplifying their message now in the hope of influencing an important report being discussed in the European Parliament this week.

Mareille Gallo, a French MEP in the center-right European People's Party (EPP), has tabled a report that aims to lump Internet piracy with the broader problem of counterfeiting. She believes that illegal file-sharing is killing Europe's culture and harming its economy, so tough measures are needed to prevent it.

She supported a campaign by actors' groups on Wednesday aimed at highlighting the costs Europe will pay if it doesn't clamp down on Internet piracy.

In 2008 the E.U.'s music, film, TV and software industries lost an estimated €10 billion ($US1.37 billion) in revenue due to Internet piracy, according to a study unveiled by the actors' groups.

"Based on current projections and assuming no significant policy changes, the European Union's creative industries could expect to see cumulative retail revenue losses of as much as €240 billion by 2015, resulting in 1.2 million jobs lost by 2015," the study concluded.

The study was unveiled just before the Gallo report was discussed by Parliament's internal market committee on Wednesday and by the industry committee on Thursday.

According to several MEPs and lobby groups on both sides of the debate, opinion in Parliament is turning against Gallo's report, and many are trying to insert safeguards into it that would ensure a clear distinction between Internet piracy and counterfeiting.

"The debate is moving away from treating the two issues as the same. Counterfeiting is done on a commercial level by dangerous criminals, while Internet piracy is mostly done by young people at home. You can't compare the two," said Jan Albrecht, a German MEP from the Green Party.

He said that in recent months there has been "a U-turn in thinking among MEPs about fundamental citizens' rights," after nearly a decade when civil rights were sacrificed in the fight against terrorism.

Earlier this year the European Parliament blocked an agreement to share citizens' personal financial data with U.S. authorities --- the so-called SWIFT affair, named after a money transfer company responsible for trillions of euros in transfers each year.

Last week a large majority of MEPs from across the political divide supported a resolution calling on the European Commission to open up secret trade negotiations with the U.S. and others, known as the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA).

In February parts of the ACTA negotiating text were leaked, revealing plans to clamp down on illegal file-sharing as well as on counterfeiting, by making ISPs (Internet service providers) legally liable for the content uploaded and downloaded by their subscribers.

"The Parliament's ACTA resolution calls on the Commission to limit the scope of the trade agreement to counterfeiting only. If the Commission listens to the Parliament and makes the changes the resolution calls for, then there won't be a problem regarding citizens' fundamental rights," said Joe McNamee, an advocacy coordinator with the campaign group European Digital Rights.

Failure to distinguish between counterfeiting and Internet piracy in E.U. law could result in the passing of laws too blunt to tackle the serious and often life-threatening problems of counterfeiting, and too draconian to tackle illegal file-sharing, McNamee said.

"Everyone loses by linking these two things," McNamee said.

The debate about the Gallo report comes as the European Commission examines whether to resurrect an E.U. directive on the enforcement of intellectual property rights, which was killed off before being passed in 2007 due to the sensitivity of the debate, particularly concerning copyright enforcement.

If the Gallo report is changed in a way that makes a clear distinction between counterfeiting and piracy, then any enforcement directive being drafted by the Commission can be expected to be proportionate to the crimes it aims to address, McNamee said. But he added that if it gets adopted in the form its author wants, then there is a real risk that an IPR enforcement directive will impose criminal sanctions on illegal file-sharers -- an idea that was dismissed as too draconian when the directive was first debated.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags piracyeuropean union

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Paul Meller

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Stocking Stuffer

SmartLens - Clip on Phone Camera Lens Set of 3

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Aysha Strobbe

Microsoft Office 365/HP Spectre x360

Microsoft Office continues to make a student’s life that little bit easier by offering reliable, easy to use, time-saving functionality, while continuing to develop new features that further enhance what is already a formidable collection of applications

Michael Hargreaves

Microsoft Office 365/Dell XPS 15 2-in-1

I’d recommend a Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 and the new Windows 10 to anyone who needs to get serious work done (before you kick back on your couch with your favourite Netflix show.)

Maryellen Rose George

Brother PT-P750W

It’s useful for office tasks as well as pragmatic labelling of equipment and storage – just don’t get too excited and label everything in sight!

Cathy Giles

Brother MFC-L8900CDW

The Brother MFC-L8900CDW is an absolute stand out. I struggle to fault it.

Luke Hill

MSI GT75 TITAN

I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Featured Content

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?