The European Commission is creating a plan to unify some of their patent and intellectual property laws across various countries. The plan will also seek to ease access to digital media and broaden anti-piracy measures. While this all sounds wonderful, Internet advocacy groups in the region are unhappy with the new rules, stating that they are harsh and have the potential to slow down innovation in online media.
The EC released a statement on its website that outlined the plan they wish to enact which mostly consists of unifying the regulations in the European Union (EU) regarding intellectual property and enforcement of anti-piracy laws related to movies, music and software. The difference between the EU and the United States is that while the EU is considered one market most of the legislation and licensing agreements for digital media are created on a country by country basis. This means that services like iTunes are offered in some countries that are members of the 27-country union, but not others.
The EC is seeking to make changes to this system quickly (as early as the end of this year) by creating “a legal framework for the efficient multi-territorial collective management of copyright, in particular in the music sector.” This legal framework to make selling digital media in the region easier is only half of what the plan proposes with the other half squarely focused on combating piracy in the union.
If the Commission’s statement is to be believed, piracy has “cost the European music, movie, TV and software industry 10 billion euros ($14 billion) and more than 185,000 jobs in 2008 alone.” In a document leaked to Reuters and dated April of this year, the EC indicates that changes to the Intellectual Property Rights Enforcement Directive will be coming “in order to create a framework allowing, in particular, combating infringements of IPRs via the Internet more effectively.” The document specifically states that ISPs themselves should play a role in helping to fight piracy. What exactly this means is still unknown.
So, why exactly is the unifying of legislation and distribution of digital media making Internet advocacy groups in the region unhappy? Well, based on a statement made by Jeremie Zimmermann, spokesperson for Internet advocacy group La Quadrature du Net, it seems these groups fear privacy issues associated with new unified legislation. Zimmermann spoke to these concerns in a recent statement, “Such a scheme would lead to the establishment of a censorship infrastructure by online actors, technically similar to those currently used in authoritarian states.” Zimmermann went on to say, “In the process, freedom of communication, privacy as well as the right to a fair trial would inevitably be undermined.”
It seems the viewpoint of La Quadrature du Net is not unique. The European Digital Rights group, based out of Brussels, issued a report detailing suggestions for how the EC should go about their undertaking. In that report the group suggests that data should be collected regarding how intellectual property rights fit into digital sales before actions are taken and legislation is written.
It’s a smart idea for some information to be collected before legislation is slapped down on paper. The concept of copyright and what that means is different now than it was before the digital market became so strong. It’s vital that who owns what and what information is considered private be evaluated before laws are written so that things like the right to a fair trial are not trampled by an overzealous EU.