EU law needs to be tougher to tackle online piracy

The European Commission has stated that current intellectual property rights’ laws are not strong enough to combat online IP infringement effectively and has published a report on the effectiveness of its own 2004 ‘Directive on Intellectual Property Rights’ to highlight the extent of today’s online piracy activity.

The European Commission has stated that despite an overall improvement of enforcement procedures, the sheer volume and financial value of intellectual property rights infringements is alarming.

According to the Report itself: “A first evaluation of the impact of the Directive shows that noteworthy progress has been made since it was adopted and implemented in the Member States.”

“The Directive created high European legal standards to enforce different types of rights that are protected by independent legal regimes (such as copyright, patents, trademarks and designs, but also geographical indications and plant breeders’ rights).”

“However, despite an overall improvement of enforcement procedures, the sheer volume and financial value of intellectual property rights infringements is alarming,” it said. “One reason is the unprecedented increase in opportunities to infringe intellectual property rights offered by the Internet. The Directive was not designed with this challenge in mind.”

The Report went on to say: “File-sharing of copyright-protected content has become ubiquitous, partly because the development of legal offers of digital content has not been able to keep up with demand, especially on a cross-border basis, and has led many law-abiding citizens to commit massive infringements of copyright and related rights in the form of illegal up-loading and disseminating protected content.”

“Many online sites are either hosting or facilitating the online distribution of protected works without the consent of the right holders. In this context, the limitations of the existing legal framework may need to be clearly assessed,” it said.

My colleague, Julian Heathcote-Hobbins, commented: “It is absolutely paramount to the future of innovation and creativity that the law keeps pace with technological developments. The creative industry was one of the few growth areas during the last recession, and it continues to be vital for wealth generation. Online piracy must be taken seriously and dealt with if we are to protect and nurture creatives and entrepreneurs.

“It is clear that people are not aware of the knock-on effects that online piracy can have on creators. The Internet has evidently increased opportunities all round, but it is also a vehicle to infringe intellectual property rights on multiple levels. It is a factor that needs to be continually reviewed closely.”

It must be in the ISPs’ commercial interest to work with rights holders to develop mutual business models, thus driving customers to buy legitimate products. This would provide both industries with a win-win; and would ensure that SME software houses are not bankrupted by having their expensive bespoke software products shared among businesses without being paid for.

John Lovelock has been with the Federation Against Software Theft since December 2002, having run his own business and several others at Managing Director and General Manager levels for twelve years in the UK after many years in business in South Africa. He was Chairman of the Alliance Against Intellectual Property Theft’s Digital Group for several years until, at his recommendation, it was taken back into the main body of the Alliance. The Digital Group included the music, film, games, software, publishing and copyright licensing industry sectors, and was responsible for lobbying Government on law changes to protect their members rights, as well as education and profile of the digital content industry within the employer organisations such as the CBI and FSB (Federation of Small Businesses) as well as the Institute of Directors (IoD). From his knowledge gained in the IT Sector and legal issues surrounding IT Compliance, Software Asset Management (SAM) and Software Licence Management (SLM) within The Federation, coupled with a vast experience in commercial businesses, John offers a down-to-earth, entertaining, succinct blend to presentations.