Fourtou Proposes EU Law to Send European P2P File-Sharers to Prison
Urges Controversial Amendment to Intellectual Property Enforcement Directive
The battle over the proposed EU IP Enforcement Directive grows more contentious. Due in part to the growing public criticism over the EU Commission’s draft, which threatens civil liberties and market competition, 199 amendments have been proposed and its vote pushed back.
But one amendment submitted by Conservative French MEP Janelly Fourtou (who also happens to be the wife of Vivendi’s CEO) would criminalize non-commercial infringement, such as P2P file-sharing. Fourtou’s proposal threatens to send millions of otherwise law-abiding European citizens to prison — simply for swapping music over the Internet.
In addition to the clear conflict of interest, Fourtou’s proposal to send non-commercial infringers to prison has been criticized for creating substantive criminal law, when the scope of the enforcement directive is limited to only standardizing existing law enforcement procedures. Most countries in Europe currently do not imprison their non-commercial infringers, so this policy would substantially change those countries’ domestic laws. In her Sept. 17 committee report, which proposes the amendment, the only justification given for the sweeping change in European law is “self-explanatory.”
Specifically, Fourtou proposes to amend Article 20 of the Commission’s draft, which provides for criminal procedures and penalties against infringement. Article 20 of the Commission’s draft calls for treating an infringement as a criminal offense “if it is intentional and committed for commercial purposes.”
Fourtou’s amendment number 22 deletes the requirement that an infringement be committed for commercial purposes before someone could be imprisoned in Europe. Under Fourtou’s proposal, any infringement or attempted infringement “of a serious and intentional nature can be punished by criminal sanctions.”
Sharing several MP3 music files over the Internet with P2P software could be considered a serious and intentional infringement worthy of jail-time if this amendment to Article 20 of the proposed directive is enacted into European law.
When the EU Commission first published the proposed directive in January 2003, the recording industry criticized the proposal as not being harsh enough, since it did not criminalize file-sharing as US law does.
The US Congress was pressured to amend its copyright law in 1997 to permit criminal sanctions including imprisonment against non-commercial infringers such as Internet music swappers under the No Electronic Theft Act.
International Treaties such as GATT/TRIPS Article 61 requires countries to enforce criminal procedures and penalties against commercial infringements. If Fourtou’s amendment is enacted, Europe would follow the US’s new policy of imprisoning non-commercial infringers, and depart from the traditional international standard of criminalizing commercial infringements.
Fourtou is also Rapporteur for the EU committee currently debating the proposal, the Committee on Legal Affairs and the Internet Market (JURI); and she is pushing for the EU to adopt the enforcement directive before next summer, when new EU entrants would strongly oppose its provisions. The JURI Committee is expected to vote on the directive in November, followed by a full EU plenary vote the week of December 15, 2003.
Link to Fourtou’s Report of Sept. 17, 2003 (English):
Link to EU Commission Draft Proposal for IP Enforcement Directive:
Fourtou’s Amendments in 11 languages (agenda #6):
Link to JURI Committee Members: