European Parliament Passes Tough New IP Enforcement Directive

April 2004

Film, Television, Internet, Record Labels, Music Publishing

The European Parliament has passed a controversial Directive on intellectual property rights enforcement that give rights-holders ‘incredibly powerful tools’ in the fight against intellectual property infringers. The Electronic Frontiers Foundation commented that whilst this might sound like a good idea at first, a closer look reveals that the directive doesn’t distinguish between unintentional, non-commercial infringers and for-profit, criminal counterfeiting organisations. If this directive is adopted, a person who unwittingly infringes copyright – even if it has no effect on the market – could potentially have her assets seized, bank accounts frozen and home invaded. The EFF had encouraged its European supporters to write to their Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) to urge them to limit these harsh enforcement measures to cases in which infringement is undertaken intentionally and for commercial purposes and MEPs finally softened and the vote on Intellectual Property Rights Enforcement Directive took place in the European Parliament on 9 March and the directive was passed by 330 votes to 151. The law was drawn up to target professional pirates, criminals and counterfeiters who make copies of goods such as football shirts or CDs. During the debates, the directive was widened to cover any infringement of intellectual property. The directive allows companies to raid homes, seize property and ask courts to freeze bank accounts to protect trademarks or intellectual property they believe are being abused or stolen. But late amendments added to the law limited who intellectual property owners could take action against and what penalties they could apply. One amendment said action should not be taken against consumers who download music “in good faith” for their own use. Proposals to jail counterfeiters were also dropped from the Directive.

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