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Tuesday, 12 July 2005

FIVE MINUTES AGO -- EC SAYS LET'S TREAT PIRATES AS CRIMINALS


The IPKat received this press release from the Commission. The full text is reproduced below.

IP/05/906

Brussels, 12 July 2005

Counterfeiting and piracy: the Commission proposes European criminal-law provisions to combat infringements of intellectual property rights
Today the European Commission adopted proposals for a directive and for a framework decision to combat infringements of intellectual property rights. The purpose of the proposed measures is to align national criminal law and improve European cooperation so as to deal effectively with counterfeiting and piracy activities, which are often carried out by criminal organisations. Counterfeiting and piracy, and infringements of intellectual property in general, have increased significantly in recent years and seriously undermine several sectors of the European economy.

Franco Frattini, Vice-President of the European Commission responsible for Justice, Freedom and Security, remarked that the new measures proposed by the Commission form the criminal law front to the fight against counterfeiting and piracy in Europe. Effective alignment of national criminal law in this domain, he declared, “forms a basic platform underpinning our joint efforts to eradicate these phenomena which are undermining the economy”. Criminal organisations are now investing in these activities which are often more lucrative than other types of trafficking and still carry light penalties. Counterfeiters and pirates jeopardise legitimate businesses and threaten innovation. Furthermore, in many cases, counterfeit goods pose a real danger to public health and safety.

The proposed measures apply to all types of infringements of intellectual property rights. Under the proposal for a directive, all intentional infringements of an intellectual property right on a commercial scale, and attempting, aiding or abetting and inciting such infringements are treated as criminal offences.

The proposal for a framework decision sets a threshold for criminal penalties applicable to the perpetrators of these offences: at least four years' imprisonment if the offence involves a criminal organisation or if it jeopardises public health and safety. The applicable fine must be at least EUR 100,000 to EUR 300,000 for cases involving criminal organisations or posing a risk to public health and safety. The proposal allows Member States to apply tougher penalties.

The Commission hopes that this clear political signal reflecting the determination to combat piracy and counterfeiting will be supported by concerted, long-term information campaigns by national and regional authorities and other interested parties to raise awareness, not only among key players in the fight against counterfeiting and piracy but also amongst the wider public as a whole.

Franco Frattini ponders the fate of another pirate ...

Looks like the Commission plans to get tough -- but are these fines tough enough when you consider the rewards enjoyed by successful pirates and the ease with which they earn them?

11 comments:

Wordsworth said...

Patents keep the prices high.
If you don't infringe, you die.
Pirates are the poor man's friend,
They let him buy what he needs in the end.

... so why not prosecute overpricing patent-owners. They are the real villains!

Dawid said...

All these ideas tend to backfire. Assuming piracy will be prosecuted like car theft and so on... people will go on to Free Open Source Software. No point in paying many EURos for a full-blown graphic program when all you need is a GIMP. So I think such a law would be in the end benefitial. People would not just pirate software -- they would have to think if they want to pay for it and if whether there are free alternatives available.

...but there is always a risk of big companies using software patents to impose monopoly and kill alternatives...

Anonymous said...

I am not a lawyer, but counterfeiting (violating trademarks, falsely representing goods), and "piracy" (i.e. violating copyright) are different from patent infringment.

It is possible (even likely, if you are a programmer) to accidentally infringe a patent. Therefore patent infringement should never be regarded as a criminal offence.

One problem with politicians and lobbyists is that they tend to lump together "intellectual property rights" rather than properly distinguishing between copyright, patents, trade-marks etc. This is probably deliberate on their part.

Besides, "threating innovation" is not a crime, is it?

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