International Civil Liberties Coalition Urges Rejection of IP Enforcement Directive
Campaign for an Open Digital Environment (CODE) Sends Letter to EU to Protect Consumer Rights and Competition
An international coalition of 50 civil liberties groups and consumer rights campaigns sent a letter to the European Union today urging rejection of the proposed Intellectual property Enforcement Directive. The coalition warns that the proposed Directive is overbroad and threatens civil liberties, innovation, and competition policy. The proposal requires EU Member States to criminalize all violations of any intellectual property right that can be tied to any commercial purpose, with penalties to include imprisonment.
“If this proposal becomes a reality, major companies from abroad can use ‘intellectual property’ regulations to gain control over the lives of ordinary European citizens and threaten digital freedoms”, said Andy MÃ¼ller-Maguhn, a board member of European Digital Rights and speaker for the Chaos Computer Club. “Under this proposal, a person’s individual liberty to use his own property is replaced with a limited license that can be revoked or its terms changed at any time and for any reason,” added the German civil rights activist.
“Currently EU-Member states are implementing the EU Copyright Directive and the EU Software Patent Directive is next in the line. We should really wait and see what effect these new laws have before adding any new legislation, ” said Ville Oksanen, a lawyer and Vice Chairman of Electronic Frontier Finland (EFFi), a signatory on the organizational letter. “Contrary to what the Enforcement Directive claims, Member States are already obliged by international treaties like TRIPS to protect intellectual property rights,ï¿½ Oksanen continued.
In conjunction with the publication of the letter, the international group of activists launched the Campaign for an Open Digital Environment (CODE) to raise awareness about the IP Enforcement proposal’s threat to consumer rights and market competition. CODE encourages European citizens to contact the EUROPARL Committee on Legal Affairs and Internal Market and urge the proposal’s rejection before the September 11, 2003 hearing on its merits in Brussels.
ï¿½Major IP holders are highly organized to impose maximalist provisions in transnational agreements,ï¿½ said Robin D. Gross, Executive Director of IP Justice, an international civil liberties organization. ï¿½The CODE campaign unites people from many different countries to defend civil rights against the encroachment of overzealous intellectual property protection.ï¿½
In its letter to EU members, the coalition expressed particular concern over Article 9 of the proposal, which gives intellectual property holders broad new subpoena powers to obtain personal information about any European citizen that is alleged to be connected to an infringement. Similar subpoena powers created by the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act are abused by the Recording Industry Association of America to obtain personal information about thousands of users of file-sharing software. The proposed IP Enforcement Directive would extend the ability to abuse this power to Europe.
The international coalition also urged rejection of Article 21 of the proposal, which requires Member States to forbid technology including software that is capable of bypassing technical restrictions imposed by intellectual property holders. This provision threatens market competition by permitting foreign IP owners to restrict parallel imports and impose price discrimination within the EU. Article 21 would also forbid Europeans from deactivating or removing technical devices such as Radio Frequency ID (RFID) tags that are embedded into clothing and other consumer goods to prevent counterfeiting but can also be used to track people.
“Forbiding tools that are required for the exercise of legally protected rights, like private use, preservation of works by libraries, and reverse engineering, means giving a complete monopoly to right-holders on the basic infrastructure needed to communicate in the digital world,” said JoÃ£o Miguel Neves, Vice-President of Portuguese National Association for Free Software (ANSOL).
ï¿½One can think of the EU IP Enforcement Directive as the ï¿½DMCA on steroids’ since any industrial property right that can be licensed will be enforced through technical devices that it will be absolutely illegal to circumvent throughout Europe,ï¿½ added Gross, an intellectual property attorney.
JoÃ£o Miguel Neves, President, Portuguese National Association for Free Software (ANSOL)
firstname.lastname@example.org +351 933 252 302
Frederic Couchet, Association Pour la Recherche en Informatique Libre (APRIL)
email@example.com +33 6 60 68 89 31
Links for More Information:
CODE Organizational Letter Urging Rejection of EU IP Enforcement Directive:
Campaign for an Open Digital Environment (CODE) Website:
IP Justice White Paper on EU IP Enforcement Directive:
Foundation for Information Policy Research Analysis on Directive:
Association Electronique Libre Webpage on IP Enforcement Directive:
Electronic Frontier Finland Statement on Enforcement Proposal:
Text of Proposed European Union IP Enforcement Directive
Language Translations of Media Release and CODE Letter Opposing IP Enforcement Directive:
Finnish Translation of CODE Media Release from EFFi
French Translation of CODE Letter from AEL
Italian Translation of CODE Letter from ADISI
Swedish Translation of CODE Letter from EFS
Portuguese Translation of CODE Letter from ANSOL
Dutch Translation of CODE Media Release from Mark Van den Borre
Spanish Translation of CODE Letter from ProInnova
German Translation of CODE Letter from Privatekopie.net
IP Justice is an international civil liberties organization that promotes balanced intellectual property law. IP Justice defends individual rights to use digital media worldwide and is a registered California non-profit organization. IP Justice was founded in 2002 by Robin D. Gross, who serves as its Executive Director. To learn more about IP Justice, visit the website at http://www.ipjustice.org