European Parliament Approves Strong Anti-Piracy Law

The European Parliament has enacted a strong new law to protect copyrights, approving the use of encryption to prevent piracy of publications, movies, and recorded music. The new measure, known as the Copyright Directive, will give copyright holders better protection in Europe than they enjoy in the US, according to Italian representative Enrico Boselli, sponsor of the law. The widespread availability of advanced digital technology requires establishing "clear rules for consumers, consumer-electronics manufacturers, Internet service providers, and others," Boselli stated.

The directive not only criminalizes unauthorized copying, it also makes defeating anti-piracy encryption a crime. The new law does not go as far as some music industry supporters might have preferred, but Jay Berman, chief of the International Federation of Phonographic Industries, called it "a workable proposal" that will allow music producers to safely sell music over the Internet. "We appreciate all the work the European Parliament has put into making it possible for our companies to do business. This will benefit artists and consumers alike," Berman stated.

The law does not address imposing levies on blank media, leaving that issue to individual countries to decide. France and Germany, for example, are not only imposing fees on blank discs but are also taxing computers, scanners, and printers—anything and everything used to copy compact discs.

Such levies are supposedly used to compensate songwriters, musicians, and recording labels for losses caused by piracy. The levies may be phased out once adequate "technical protection measures" are in place to prevent piracy, Boselli said. Approved February 15, the Copyright Directive must be ratified by European Union member states' governments,a process expected to take several weeks, before it takes effect. Critics claim that the new law will result in higher prices for consumer electronics without having any appreciable effect on piracy.