back to article Euro MPs want criminal penalties for downloaders

The European Parliament has asked EU member states to press ahead with a plan to criminalise copyright infringement. The Parliament wants a proposal it agreed last year to be approved by ministers from each member state. The proposed EU directive would create new rules on copyright protection, and would require each EU country …


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  1. Anonymous Coward


    So will they also kill all the special taxes on blank media in countries in the EU that have a 'home-use' law ?

    (for a laugh, check on PC prices in Germany, and blank DVDs from the Netherlands)

    Will they kill all fair-use rights ?

    (they.. It sounds more like organized crime is feeling the problems from small downloaders and are losing control of the market. Not that I would dare to say that a member of the EU parliament might be corrupt)

    I doubt the first, and fear the second.

  2. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

    Laws for sale

    First let MEPs declare all bribes they've received from the "intellectual property" cartels, then we'll see...

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    EU Altering reality.. fit their busines chums' propoganda.

    I'm sick to the back teeth of having to sit through "Downloading movies is a crime" trailers before watching DVDs I've paid for, especially because I know it's an outright lie.

    Sadly maybe it will be true soon.

  4. Mark

    And I want a pony

    We already have several laws that make criminal several actions that are the result of what this appears to say is to be criminalised.

    Fraud: bootleg copies that look like the real thing but are bent copies are already criminal.

    Selling without a license: market stalls need a license to sell and selling out of a suitcase is already criminal

    Piracy: stealing the truck containing ten thousand CDs of Celine Dion is illegal (unfortunately, the creation of the CDs themselves aren't illegal)

    and how many backstreet traders selling dodgy goods fill in their taxes correctly?

    All of these are criminal and all cover the people the EU MPs *say* they want punished by criminal sanction.

    But here's my prediction:

    They won't accept that the actions are already criminal, we NEED new laws.

    They won't say in the law that this is for widespread commercial abuse.

    The wording will be open to sharing 22 tracks to a half-dozen people being criminal

    They will say "but it won't be applied like that" and won't change it

    If it passes, it won't be used against the non commercial sharing for a few months

    It won't stop P2P.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    EU Copyright Directive already makes it a crime

    It's no way near as big a problem as he thinks it is. Counterfeit physical goods are a very small market, companies barely make profits now, do you imagine a counterfeiter with a smaller market, bigger overheads and constant losses due to seizure of counterfeit goods can undercut the majors? 0.03% of imported goods by value according to USA random inspection of imports.

    Then there's the downloading problem. Music, had this problem, they whined and whined and whined, till finally they sort of got into the market with iTunes and SHOCK HORROR made money. Movies still haven't really gotten into the market and are whining about piracy (fair enough, but they'll whine less when they're making money on downloads), TV is getting into the market slowly (well done BBC).

    Software, well Windows is bundled with every PC, it's piracy is therefore negligable. BSA had to pad their figures with *all* IT to make it sound impressive (how much bespoke software is pirated, None? How many counterfeit Dell's are there? None! So how can you reduce those by 10% of total PC sales? You can't it's fake BSA numbers intended to mislead you.) The market for off the shelf box software is quite small (the type of software likely to be pirated). They can link it to server side components to defeat all piracy.

    Plus, despite what he thinks there is already criminal penalties in EU law for commercial copyright violation (EU Copyright Directive). So I don't know what he's thinking there.

    Presumably this is IPRED2 that stupid foolish attempt to criminalize patent infringement! The one that caused every business to scream "ARE YOU FREEKING NUTS" that keeps getting killed because it would burden every business with an army of lawyers. As far as I can see that's largely driven by Microsoft and BSA, wanting a patent attack mechanism on Linux and a few entreched players wanting to attack upstart rivals (I bet Nokia would love to be able to file criminal charges against Apple for claimed IP infringements of Apple iPhone).

    The script of this comedy sketch is here:

  6. Ian

    No problem with it...

    I've got no problem with criminalising copyright infringement for profit to be honest because in that case the victims are actually losing the opportunity of a sale.

    On the same note however, personal non-profit file sharing should be decriminalised, there is no evidence that it results in a lost sales opportunity and the vast majority of citizens that these MPs are actually working for want that.

    That would be a pretty reasonable balance for both parties, although I don't expect to see it ever adopted because the music and movie industry aren't interested in fair or balanced, they just want to be able to rape everyone for every penny they can through whatever means they can.

  7. Dunstan Vavasour

    "Intellectual Property"

    Once again, we see how unhelpful the term "Intellectual Property" is. If the term is used to cover copyright infringement, trademark infringement, patent infringement and trade secret infringement, then it seems that this suggestion applies only to copyright infringement, and the others would still be dealt with as civil offences.

    I must say, if the criminalisation is confined to those who derive income from knowingly infringing copyrights, I don't have a problem *SO LONG AS* this also applies to companies who knowingly sell software which is subject to GPL.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    But, but, ..

    But how can they criminalise copyright infringement -- the BSA, Microsoft and many other trusted organistions have been telling us that "copying is theft" for years and years. Could they have been lying?

  9. Jbhoy

    How things have changed...

    Funny that in the hayday of music buying be it in the 70's or 80's that everyone i ever knew would record songs from the radio onto tapes while listening to the top 40 , yet i dont think i ever heard of a single person getting a letter from a record company telling them to stop or they would take their radio away! Now that its trackable and the fat cats in the record trade can see their artists finding a way to cut out the middle man so need to grab as much as they can in the short time left start going wild with the law !!! Seems very strange in this day and age there seems to be more laws regarding downloading on the net , yet doesnt seem to be as much mayhem being caused in trying to stop 419ers conning old folk out of their money !!! Very strange!

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    boo hiss

    "I've got no problem with criminalising copyright infringement for profit to be honest because in that case the victims are actually losing the opportunity of a sale.

    On the same note however, personal non-profit file sharing should be decriminalised, there is no evidence that it results in a lost sales opportunity and the vast majority of citizens that these MPs are actually working for want that."

    What bugs me the most is that private-member torrent sites are so efficiently ran, community-friendly, with excellent customer service. They're everything we want in a media distribution company, but the industry won't put it's heads together and come up with something to compete with a site that has been built from scratch, for free, by kind hearted people.

    I will keep downloading my TV 'illegally', and I feel little shame (but still will post as anonymous coward!) in getting movies this way, as there is no alternative.

    I don't need or want DVDs. I want DivXs. So do millions of others. Get over yourselves, Hollywood.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Pot, kettle, black

    "Organised crime is a global activity that does not recognise borders or customs..."

    A bit like organised fraudulent expense claims by MPs & MEPs!

  12. Mark

    Here's another thought

    Keep your creation secret. Don't tell anyone. Whether it is a game, song, tune, painting or any other "art". Keep it secret. Keep it safe.

    How much is it worth?


    Commercial art (of any form) is worth money SOLELY because other people will pay for it. If someone decides "nothing" is the right price, for them, this IS the price.

    Now, this may mean you can't make any money from copyrights. Well fine. Don't produce any. You've lost nothing if you don't MAKE your art and it isn't sold. We aren't DEMANDING you make us art.

    Then we will see how much money is needed for art to be created and we'll see how much the public are willing to pay for art to BE created.

    But at the moment, we don't know. The extreme filesharing side say there is no money in it and that's not their fault. The loudest members of the copyright side say that there will be no new works without copyright.

    The truth is between these two extremes.

    But there's no way of finding out by arguing because neither side is willing to see the other side as being right.

    So the only way is to tell everyone that in 2010 (the year we make contract???) there will be no copyright. And what we will do is leave it that way until at least 2015. Unless the public DEMAND a reinstatement of copyright before then.

    But we will then KNOW how much people value copyrights and how much they are needed.

  13. Markie Dussard

    I am not a thief!

    My wife and I had a most unusual experience the other night.

    We put on a DVD copy of Ang Lee's "The Ice Storm" that was purchased around the turn of the century. Imagine our surprise when the DVD launched straight into the movie. No animated menus, no trailers for stuff that would have been "Coming Soon" nearly a decade ago, and no uninterruptable and relentless insistence that we are thieves. You can't even go to the cinema these days without suffering the accusation that you are almost certainly a thief and you'd better watch out because some bogeymen are out to get you.

    It was so refreshing not to be summarily assumed to be involved in some form of piracy, it actually generated comments from both of us.

    Later, Frodo Baggins was electrocuted and slid down the road on his face, so a jolly good evening was had by all.

  14. Anonymous Coward

    I'd like them to.....

    Deal with their own internal fraud and associated issue before they make another single announcement on fraud by the proles! 13 years without accounts being signed off, major internal report on EU fraud hidden, add your own here... I'd take their view a lot more seriously if I thought they were generally honest and could demonstrate it.

    Proles might also take their ideas more seriously. As it is, those who are "criminally" minded will be unaffected. Those caught will be pilloried! Twas ever thus.

    Rant over. Mine's the white canvas one with the straps that tie behind the back. Don't forget the gag, please

  15. Ash
    Thumb Down

    Stop Organised Crime

    Jail All Politicians!

  16. Paul Talbot

    Sort out the product first...

    The problem that needs to be sorted out is the product itself. Take DVDs for example - if I put on a legally purchased DVD, I'm restricted as to where I can play them (region coding), have to put up with trailers and anti-piracy ads that are often unskippable (and in the case of the piracy ads, insulting), I'm in a legally grey area if I want to play it on my Linux box or rip to my MP3 player and get ripped off anyway by the fact that there's going to be 3 different boxsets released in the next 6 months with different extra features and footage.

    Alternatively, I can download the DVD rip, take out all the content I don't want, play anywhere I want on any device in any format and grab the extra content if I desire later on. Or, I can buy a dodgy copy from the market and get the movie without the "you're a criminal" ads. I'd pay for that privilege but as it stands I wait 6-12 months before buying a DVD so I don't get double-dipped if I buy it at all.

    Similarly with CDs and games - too expensive, you have to jump through hoops if there's DRM involved before you even play the damn thing, region coding's pointless on consoles but they do it anyway and we've all been burned so many times by poor products we need to try before buying.

    The key to getting rid of piracy (or reducing it to a low level - a more realistic aim) is to get rid of the desire for people to obtain the illegal copies. The way to do this is to offer reasonably priced, high quality merchandise that doesn't assume you're a criminal before using it.

  17. Ted Treen


    Well said. The most reasoned, sensible, and brief yet straight-to-the-point comment I've read in a long time.

  18. Sam Liddicott

    criminal overnight

    "There had been serious worries in the business community that if the proposal had included patents thousands of patent infringing businesses would have instantly become criminal organisations"

    So the plan is to make thousands of infringing people instantly become criminals.

    Why didn't they just say so!


  19. heystoopid

    Or point the bone at the wrong crowd ?

    Or a cynic might say it is the thin end of the wedge to allow ISP's to oversell the bandwidth by a factor of 100 or more rather then spend the trillion dollars required to upgrade the network install fibre optic cable to every home by 2012 and allow all users to enjoy the Bandwidth that the average Japanese punters enjoy in big cities like Tokyo !

    The alternative is due to congestion and total lack of capitalisation the current system will implode in 2012 , thus the phone and ISP companies CEO's will be liable to be lynched by the irate end user crowds unable to watch "desperate housewives" on the intertubes and hung from the nearest light pole !

    The beauty is of course, by blaming the file sharers for hogging the already overcrowded networks operating at full power plus ten percent(we have seen that the undersea cable network is already running at the maximum limits after the multiple cable breaks taking down half the Middle East and Asia at the same time !)

    But the big problem is we do go around electing these morons , although given the sheer amount of fraud and over claiming of travel other expenses along with a long list of other rorts in the EU parliament ! , can these morons afford to be tax audited ?

  20. Anonymous Coward

    I have to rant.

    The copyright holders do not want to provide the transferrable product consumers want.

    Copyright is when governments give people a monopoly to allow them to benefit from their work. Seems reasonable.


    I could get copy of a film, without the insulting warnings, free, that I could put onto my ipod without having to circumvent the DRM. That's three incentives to breach copyright.

    The increasing ease of breaching copyright has not noticeably reduced the level of production of films or music. In fact a UK government study concluded that reducing copyrights is more likely to increase innovation in creative industries.

    It seems that the copyright holders wish to abuse the rights that they have been given to stifle innovation and thus increase the benefit that they gain from their existing rights. Well they would wouldn't they.

  21. Anonymous Coward

    Your all thiefs

    Why is is that is you buy or rent a DVD legally, you are forced to watch an offensive trailer accusing you of being a thief. But if you, as a 'thief', actually 'steal' said film from tinternet torrent, you can happily watch the film sans insult. Perhaps the downloaders don't realise they're 'thieves' because they never saw the advert?

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Unlicensed distributors

    The unlicensed distributors (sites) may have bought the music legally (gone to the bargain bin at Woollies and bought whatever CD) but if they do not have permission to distribute the music then they are not allowed to distribute it.

    Fair enough.

    What has that got to do with theft?

    Theft of what?

    Not theft of copyright, they are not saying the music belongs to them.

    Theft of what?

    Paris, because she probably has more sense than the politicians.

  23. Matt Martin

    Making it a criminal offence

    Would change the burden of proof from the balance of probabilities associated with civil actions to "Beyond reasonable doubt" as needed in criminal actions which traditionally needs to be evaluated against much higher standards.

    Also criminal actions should only be brought when the state (CPS) has a reasonably probability of successful prosecution.

    So from (civil evidence):

    an IP address associated with you has accessed a copyrighted work.

    to (criminal evidence):

    You personally were sat at your computer to which no one else has access, using it to connect to the internet through the modem/router that had been assigned with the IP address - no other computers were connected to the modem/router and the computer could not have been compromised with malware/virus at the time that IP address accessed the protected work.

    Doesn't sound so bad to me.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @burden of proof

    "Would change the burden of proof from the balance of probabilities associated with civil actions to "Beyond reasonable doubt" as needed in criminal actions which traditionally needs to be evaluated against much higher standards."

    Not really, because it doesn't remove the previous civil offense. If they don't have the burden of proof required to get a criminal prosecution they will fall back to a civil one, or perhaps try both for maximum effect.

    It gives them a mechanism also to bully through iffy civil disputes. i.e. they're not sure they'd win a civil dispute, so they threaten to go for a criminal infringement if you don't accept a civil settlement.

    Or even just for threat value.

    "You wouldn't steal a Television... well we saw your son download and think it it was MS office, so pay us 2 grand or we'll try to get him thrown in jail for 5 years!"

    Buh ha ha ha ha, yours sincerely BSA.

    Regardless, the copyright holders are hardly pursuing civil action now. There isn't a lot of commercial infringement worth chasing and the stuff that is worth chasing is the p2p stuff which is not likely to be a big money earner for them. Apparently not enough to be worth pursuing their existing civil rights anyway.

    There has been civil prosecutions in the software world (BSA invading companies) but that has little to do with commercial scale piracy more to do with minor piracy in big commercial companies. Making them an easy target to get big money for minor infringements.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    More spam please, eh?

    They bang on about people downloading music and video illegally and do next to nothing - well nothing even remotely effective - against spammers and sploggers and filth-peddlers. It boggles the mind. It's okay to have the inboxes of every citizen and every business fill up with unsolicited junk (and their letterboxes, and websites, for that matter) and it's okay for ads on TV, radio and in newspapers to be deceptive and manipulative, especially of children (in some not all countries).

    We live in a nanny state, but the choice of what to nanny is highly selective and the abiding rule of thumb is that if it costs big business, pursue and deal with it; if it doesn't affect business, or even helps it, nobody in the new political class gives a damn about the effect on Joe Public.

    We've almost criminalised smokers, we're about to criminalise predominantly kids and young adults who download the most 'stuff'. Our prisons are full, so Jack Straw wants less criminals banged up. Presumably this means all of them are going to be left to walk around free, but with criminal records making it impossible for them to find work and so leading to them committing more crime.

    And of course, making a kid a criminal for downloading a Kylie track or last week's episode of this or that without paying for it will inevitably set him or her on course for a shitty life, no job or poor job, and quite possibly more serious crime.

    Stupid, stupid, stupid.

  26. Anonymous Coward

    Long Live SneakerNet

    Hypothetically, lets say that after criminalising filesharing the p2p networks die (they won't but just suppose) There will still be private torrents, IRC. Invitation only Direct connect groups and FTP. Filesharing will be about as public as it was in the early BBS warez days where most people could still get hold of any game and cracked discs would be passed around and would often grab copies of stuff they would never play themselves but could in turn prize a game they did want out of someone else.

    Fast forward 20 years to today. Even if they scare people off the public facing P2P networks. They will have little or no real affect. The one thing they cant control is Sneakernet.

    Just think how many divx movies, DVDrips and albums can fit on a cheap 750gb USB drive to be passed around your mates. I already know of groups of people circulating large drives on a round robin basis with each person having a directory to place stuff for the benefit of the group.

    Put it in context a 750gb drive costs nothing these days, now cast your minds back to when the RIAA were having kittens over Napster who at the time had about 1TB of discorganised and duplicated music files.

    With the advances in drive capacity and ISPs and telcos unwilling to invest in net capacity, The speeds achievable with Sneakernet is rapidly outstriping that of the net, Especially in this country.

    What will they try next, cap the size of Harddrives?

  27. Mark

    Re:Making it a criminal offence

    That's what SHOULD happen.

    However (and this is a real example), they use the criminal law to get information based on "you have to help the police investigate crimes". They get the information then drop the criminal charges.

    Now they have your info, however, they start civil action, which doesn't require the same level of proof (and doesn't give them the same rights to go sniffing).

    The criminality will also be used to make ISPs toe the line: they aren't being charged with the act but with Aiding and Abetting a criminal act.

  28. Anonymous Coward

    Filesharers' DNA are going to be first in line for this one. Since all arrestable offenses now require the Police to take the suspected criminal's DNA this is the perfect excuse. Send the copyright van round to every street and DNA sample everyone in any house that a dodgy track download has ever been traced to. With that many people in the database and familial matching you should then be able to either find anyone from DNA or at least get hold of one of their immediate relatives.

    I feel safer already!

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @EU Copyright Directive already makes it a crime

    "Software, well Windows is bundled with every PC, it's piracy is therefore negligable."

    there was no software bundled with my pc because i built it myself,

    there was no software bundled with my friends PC, there was no software bundled with any of my families PC's...

    yet they all run windows.

    *if* they were all pirate copies then they *would* be lost copies, because there was no way people like my parents were going to learn to use Linux...

    *if* those pirate copies of windows made it onto thse boxes with payment recieved, then that would be software piracy for money. -and illegal...

    what the guys at MS et al don't seem to realise is that nobody sells a pirate copy of windows, they all copy it from a friend, of a friend of a friend etc, almost no money changes hands. so I guess that's not why they are saying that sharing for non profit is still illegal, and anyone who thinks that this law won't be used to sanction harsher penalties is really wrong.

  30. OldBiddie

    Good for the economy

    Well, the building industry at least - for all the extra prisons they're going to have to build to cage these millions of newly labelled criminals.

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