Navigating A Minefield

European Parliament sparks criticism with IP changes

If the version adopted by the Parliament Wednesday becomes law it would cause mass confusion about the scope of the law, and would threaten legitimate software and Internet companies, as well as ISPs (Internet service providers) with sanctions including fines of up to €300,000 ($409,670) and jail time of up to four years.

The Parliament’s version of the law would apply to all IP infringements of a commercial scale as long as the infringement was done in order to obtain commercial advantage.

Rights holders, including the record industry, slammed the narrow definition. “The European Parliament has taken the wrong road in trying to define what constitutes ‘commercial scale’ and ‘intentional’ intellectual-property infringements,” said Frances Moore, regional director for Europe for the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry, a recording industry lobbying group.

On the opposite side of the lobby, the Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure (FFII) said the wording of the Parliament’s draft on the scope of the law is “weak.”

[…] Separately, the text approved by the Parliament also muddied the water regarding a clause on inciting, aiding and abetting an IP infringement. ISPs could be found criminally liable if their networks are used to breach someone else’s intellectual property, the FFII said.

In addition, the Parliament’s version of the law would apply criminal sanctions to protect unexamined database and design rights as well as trade names and copyright. Patents and utility models were excluded, to the relief of many in the technology industry and the scientific community.