Tag Archives: piracy

Internet freedom and the protection of intellectual property rights

The First Web War took place in Estonia in 2007 when different government institutions were overrun with cyber attacks that supposedly came from Russian computers and servers. Luckily no serious damage was inflicted and all ended well. About a year later, the NATO Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence was founded in Tallinn. This was a remarkable sign of trust and faith in such a little country to deal with an ever-growing 21st century challenge. Today the whole world has come to realise the seriousness and scale of the threats regarding the Internet – abuse and misuse can cause serious consequences for governments, private companies and ordinary citizens alike.

In addition to NATO, there are other institutions that have to deal with this problem, such as the European Parliament. A serious challenge consists of certain foreign countries who wish to block and censor (European based) websites. A more imminent problem might on the other hand lie in the domestic sphere as several EU countries wish to obtain more control over data online (e-mails, calls, chats, pictures, videos, etc). This raises questions about when and on what grounds would tapping Skype calls, for instance, be legal and justified. Downloading and sharing films and music is a known issue and has made the relevant industries take action; raising awareness on this issue even gave the Swedish Pirate Party 2 seats in the European Parliament elections.

In Autumn 2009 the EP scored a great success regarding the so-called “Telecom package” (EU’s plan for the reform of the regulatory framework for electronic communications) where a point that would have restricted the use and freedom of Internet users was removed. Instead, an amendment emphasising the need to respect and withhold the rights of Internet users as ordinary citizens was pushed through.

But how to regulate the handling and use of intellectual property, found on basically every step on the Internet? Member States have already started to update their legislation on this issue, supporting to the EU’s Intellectual Property Rights Enforcement Directive or IPRED created in 2004. The IPRED law in Sweden, Hadopi law in France and the Digital Economy Bill in Great Britain are a few examples.

In France there is the 3-strike system, meaning that the authorities will send a letter to a person who has been caught illegally downloading data; should he or she not comply, the measures taken will get more severe and a person can be deprived of his or her Internet connection and/or receive a fine. Belgium is expected to adopt a similar law in 2010.

There’s a heated debate going on in the European Parliament on IPRs. This year the so-called Gallo report was adopted. This IPR report, tabled by French MEP Michelle Gallo (EPP group) offers a variety of methods that could be used for enforcement of IPRs. This report proved to be a very controversial one, that led the Social-democrats along with the Greens/EFA to table their own alternative resolutions, as their view was that the report restricts citizens’ rights and puts downloading and sharing files on the same level with large scale piracy. Their concern was shared by Reporters Without Borders.

At the same time, however, different artist associations across Europe turned to the EP asking MEPs to adopt the report in its current form. The European Writers’ Council, European Visual Artists, European Federation of Journalists, Society of Audiovisual Authors, Federation of European Film Directors and the European Council of Artists wrote in their letters that the Gallo report emphasises the appropriate and necessary protection of IPRs from the point of view of the authors. Other associations’ letters followed. Furthermore, the alternative resolution tabled by Social-democrats and the Greens/EFA group as a sign of protest was widely condemned by the artists unions.

The views of artists as people directly involved with IPRs have to be taken into account. Nonetheless one should ask a critical question: do these associations reflect more the views of the artists or the industry?

Anyway the report has been adopted. The document calls upon the European Commission to harmonize the EU’s IPR laws and remove the obstacles from creating a single digital market; also, the report suggests the creation of IPR enforcement so-called helpdesks abroad, where EU companies would be able to receive help when exporting or doing business in India or Russia, for example.

At first, however, as the report puts it – a thorough research has to be carried out on the modern problems and possible solutions related to IPRs.

As file sharing, buying books and music affects us all, it would be useful to know your view, dear reader. Is there anything you would like to change in Europe or in your country with regard to IPRs, file sharing, downloading and uploading films, music, audiobooks, etc? There will surely be new reforms on IPR in the EU in the near future. Whatever the restrictions in this field (or merely changes) may be, they will be felt by both Internet users and artists providing the content for it.

For more information, please read:

The Economist special report on Internet security

The Web is dead?

Hillary Clinton’s speech on Freedom of the Internet

Studies on filesharing in the Internet

IPRED laws

About the IPRED law impact in Sweden

French Hadopi law

Belgian IPRED law

About the Digital Economy Bill

Ireland’s IPRED law

Gallo report

Reporters Without Borders on the Gallo report

La quadrature: About the Gallo report

European Parliament: About the Gallo report


ACTA or Anti Counterfeit Trade Agreement is an international framework for combating trading with counterfeit goods and piracy in all of its commercial forms. The ongoing negotiation talks have been widely criticized for its secrecy regarding both its content and the negotiation process itself. The first issue was raised because according to leaked documents and other sources, ACTA was beginning to pose a threat to civil rights by interfering in their daily lives through checking their e-mails and monitoring their activity on the Internet.
The European Parliament got involved in the end of 2009, although the negotiations began in 2007. The European Commission, representing the EU as one of the 27 stakeholders had to succumb to the pressure of the European Parliament and make the negotiations public. The EC thus violated the Lisbon Treaty, according to which it has to consult with the EP regarding multilateral international agreements. It was concluded that one of the parties wanted the EC to keep quiet until the agreement was reached. The countries currently involved are Australia, Canada, the European Union, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Morocco, New Zealand, Singapore, Switzerland and the United States. The latter was said to have told the EC to keep quiet after the last round of talks held in August.

However, the European Commission claims that the process has been public, although only to the extent such international agreement talks can be. The European Parliament hasn’t quite agreed with this and has tabled a resolution that demands transparency and respect for civil rights. Furthermore, it is clearly stated that the European Parliament is willing to go to court, if needed.

Nonetheless the EP suggested to continue the talks – and with a good reason. The OECD estimates that infringements of intellectual property in international trade (excluding domestic production and consumption) accounts for more than €150 billion per year (higher than the GDP of more than 150 countries). Also, there was growth in seizures of fakes dangerous to health and safety since last year: e.g. cosmetics and personal care products (+264%), toys (+98%), foodstuff (+62%), computer equipment (+62%) and medicines (+51%) show a remarkable percentage increase compared to earlier years. Fake medicines are thought to account for almost 10% of world trade in medicines.

Currently none of the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China) are involved in the talks. Luckily the agreement is said to be constructed in a way that is open to new parties at any stage and special mechanisms will be created for the smooth transition period.

As for now the MEPs are working in order to publish the negotiation texts and stand against the possible breach of civil rights and intellectual property rights. Namely, ACTA consists of three parts, one of which focuses on IPR infringements. Of course such regulation is necessary in order to avoid counterfeit goods, but this cannot be done at the expense of peoples’ privacy and rights. As the EP resolution on ACTA adopted in March this year states:

” H. whereas it is crucial to ensure that the development of IPR enforcement measures is accomplished in a manner that does not impede innovation or competition, undermine IPR limitations and personal data protection, restrict the free flow of information or unduly burden legitimate trade,”

In the beginning of October it was announced by the Commission that the talks were finished. This info has yet to be verified by other parties as well.

For more information, please read:

Info on ACTA

La quadrature: “ACTA”

European parliament:ACTA resolution”

The European Commission ACTA page

“Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement – Summary of Key Elements Under Discussion (PDF)”

Euractiv: “US told EU to hide ACTA from public”