EC Wants To Get Tougher On Pirates

The European Commission is aiming to make life tougher for pirates by standardising stiffer penalties throughout the member states.

On April 27th, the European Parliament is due to vote on EC directives recommending that all 27 countries introduce a maximum four-year prison sentences and fines of up to euro 91,050 (US$121,430) for Intellectual Property (IP) offenses, increasing to euro 273,160 (US$364,290) if it can be proved that organized crime is involved.

The proposed penalties represent a substantial increase on those currently being handed out in most countries, particularly some that have recently joined the EU.

Individual governments currently apply their own domestic legislation, resulting in pirates facing drastically different penalties depending on where they are prosecuted.

Bulgaria, for example, doesn’t have a statute that outlaws the possession of pirated materials for commercial purposes.

The International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), which has a membership of about 1,400 record companies spread across more than 70 countries, has already targeted Greece (where pirated product accounts for 50 percent of sales), Italy (26 percent) and Spain (22 percent) as EU countries that need to step up the fight against IP crime.

The IFPI believes that some countries are failing in the fight against piracy because of ineffectual policing and soft judicial systems.

Although the EC recommendation is expected to be adopted at the April 27th vote, any proposed new legislation would still need to be sent to the governments of each member state for approval.

If the directive – framed by Italian socialist Euro MP Nicola Zingaretti – becomes law, it’s intended to hit online and physical commercial pirates. Private copiers would still be subject to the laws in their individual territories.

The move is expected to be welcomed by the international recording industry, although Frances Moore – IFPI regional director for Europe – has expressed concern that Zingaretti’s proposals define copyright crime within such rigid parameters that it may become more difficult to gain convictions.