Wednesday, July 25, 2007

I Oppose IPRED2

Today I was surprised to receive a personal email from Erik at the newly opened European office of the Electronic Frontier Foundation. The contents of the mail were not so pleasing.

The IPRED2, the second "Intellectual Property" Rights Enforcement Directive, passed its first reading in the European Parliament on the 25th May ( Implementations and Amendments are here). IPRED 1 was adopted in 2004. The Free Software Association of Europe prefers to term IPRED something else:

This directive is often called "IPRED2", however we recommend not using terms that talk about "Intellectual Property" as this leads to confusions that make our work more difficult. Instead, it can be called "The Criminalisation Directive".

While many Europeans this summer are either battling to survive extreme weather conditions or on holidays the EU Parliament is setting up to introduce laws that will make many of us criminals, and not just a slap on the wrist and cop a fine type criminal, this is serious. To quote from the Directive:

"Member States shall ensure that 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."
(Article 3. Page 6 of the dossier: com(2005)276)

So any attempt to circumvent intellectual properly (NOTE: IP is not defined in the directive but in prior legislation IP in Europe includes copyright, patents, topographies of semiconductor products, plant breeders' rights, plant variety rights, industrial design rights, supplementary protection certificates for pharmaceutical products, database rights, authorship, trademarks, design and trade secrets) is punishable by "permanent bans on doing business, seizure of assets, criminal records, and fines of up to €100,000." An example of such an infringement could be the manufacturing of CD-R music releases of your own music on CDs that are not licenced to the Phillips Corporation. It could include providing support for the work of NGOs in supplying generic medicines to those living with HIV/AIDS in sub Saharan Africa. It seems like it could include operating a website that allows users to exchange favorite URLs.

To criminalise incitement to infringement (aiding and abetting) is to impose restrictions on the freedom of speech. Those that will be criminalised by IPRED2 include open source coders, media-sharing sites like YouTube, social network sites, podcasters and bloggers, intranets attached to universities, and ISPs that refuse to block P2P services. In order to avoid possible infringement ISP and networks will restrict content and access fo everyone, not just minors. As well it seems to me that sites such as would be liable if they share links to sites that infringe IPRED2. Businesses who unwittingly supply any type of service to someone during the act of infringement may be liable themselves to legal prosecution.

Anyone who is working in education, particularly higher education, is aware of the difficulties imposed upon teaching by the laws of intellectual property. It is not possible to show films in the classroom, to provide students with reproductions of texts, to play copyrighted audio material in a classroom or distribute study material electronically. Much of this situation is a result of IPRED1 from 2004. As a result of IPRED2 it will be a criminal offence to suggest sources for study materials that are not protected by current copyright. What this means in reality is that only sources that cost money can be legally used in the classroom. I myself am in the process of writing a conference paper that analyses 6 digital texts, all of which incorporate older texts (films, audio, novels and images) into their own texts. Does my arguing that current copyright law fails to recognise the affordances of digital media and how people are actually using such media constitute "the aiding or abetting and inciting such infringements"?

Finally what about emerging forms of creative expression which will effectively be made illegal by IPRED2. I am particularly thinking of machinima film making. Machinima is a great way for young people who are interested in film to start out as all they need is a computer and some sound and screen capture software. Machinima is also a growing industry with a capital worth. Presumably sites that host machinima films, festivals that show them, people who make them and even the TV networks who send them into millions of people's homes would all be made criminals by IPRED2.

For these reasons and more I do not support the "Intellectual Property" Rights Enforcement Directive 2. Please join me in doing so.

More information about the 'Criminalisation Directive' can be found here:

Copy Crime

fsfe Criminalisation of trademark and copyright infringement

Proposed directive on criminal measures aimed at ensuring the enforcement of intellectual property rights

To lobby an EU politician:

Margot Wallström
Vice-President of the European Commission
B-1049 Brussels
Email from Here

Other EC Commissioners who blog

Pick one of your local MEPs from those listed for your country or region, and note his or her contact details:


ED said...

So, you made contact. I like matchmaking... :-)

((((((((ö)))))))) said...

Yes, Erik...a match made in heaven :-)