EC allows music downloading in antipiracy proposal

The European Commission last Thursday presented a draft directive that punishes copyright infringement for commercial purposes, but leaves the home music downloader untouched, infuriating the entertainment industry.

The proposed directive, meant to harmonize intellectual property right enforcement laws in the 15-nation European Union (EU), aims to strike "a fair balance" between interests of right holders and the opportunities the Internet offers to consumers, according to Commission documents accompanying the draft.

No tougher sanctions are introduced against individuals who download tracks for noncommercial use. Criminal sanctions only apply when copyright infringement is carried out intentionally and for commercial purposes, the Commission said.

Peer-to-peer file-sharing services that encourage copyright infringement and make money from advertising are commercial, according to the Commission. "That is illegal and should be stopped," the Commission said. Examples of file sharing services are Kazaa and Morpheus.

Even though the individual is let off the hook, the Commission uses strong words to condemn piracy and counterfeiting, which is also part of the draft directive. The Commission estimates over 17,000 jobs are lost annually through piracy and counterfeiting in the EU.

"There is also evidence that counterfeiting and piracy are becoming more and more linked to organised crime and terrorist activities because of the high profits and, so far, the relatively low risks of discovery and punishment," the Commission said in a statement.

"Pirates and counterfeiters are in effect stealing from right holders," Frits Bolkestein, internal market commissioner said in a prepared statement. "If we don't stamp that out, the incentives for industrial innovation and cultural creativity will be weakened."

The industry in a statement issued jointly by 10 organizations, including the Business Software Alliance (BSA), International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) and Motion Picture Association (MPA), blasted the proposal, calling it "inadequate" and "unambitious."

"The proposal creates a two tier system of enforcement where some types of piracy are acceptable and others not," the industry organizations said.

Furthermore, the Commission underestimates the size of the piracy problem and falls short of providing the legal framework to fight it, the organizations said. The film, video, music and leisure software industries in Europe claim they lose over €4.5 billion (US$4.9 billion) annually as a result of piracy.

The industry also charges that the Commission fails to achieve its goal of harmonizing national laws on intellectual property rights enforcement in the EU, instead perpetuating a patchwork of different legal measures and procedures across the EU.

There is enough time for the industry to lobby for tougher sanctions. The Commission's draft directive has to pass the European Parliament and the European Union's Council of Ministers before it is officially adopted.

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