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U.K. government pushing harmful copyright, criminal-patent-infringement laws?
-------- Original Message --------
Subject: FIPR-Bulletin: Ministers Pushing EU Directive that will Harm
Date: Tue, 4 Oct 2005 17:13:59 +0100
From: Richard Clayton <email@example.com>
FIPR Press Release
For Immediate Release: Tuesday 3rd October 2005
Ministers Pushing EU Directive that will Harm Industry
The government is using the UK's presidency of the European Union to
push an intellectual property enforcement directive (IPRED) which will
harm British industry and undermine basic freedoms, according to
Internet think-tank the Foundation for Information Policy Research
The directive will force the UK to make patent infringement a crime,
and will also criminalise incitement to infringe patents or copyrights.
It is being promoted by the big drug companies and the music industry.
If passed, the police will have more powers against copyright infringers
than they have against terrorists. At present, the EU cannot freeze
assets if a suspected terrorist financier is a European citizen. Yet the
Government wants to empower IP lawyers to seize the assets of EU
citizens accused of aiding and abetting infringement -- such as the
parents of children who might have downloaded music files.
Innovation will also lose out. A technology entrepreneur today has to
take risks with patents, as it's impossible to tell what patents might
be in the pipeline. If her business succeeds, she can afford to fight
legal cases and pay royalties if she loses. But if patent infringement
becomes a crime, then the risks involved in starting a technology firm
will be much greater. Britain will be at a particular disadvantage to
the USA, where patent infringement will remain a civil matter. It will
be very tempting for entrepreneurs to just start their businesses in
The FIPR response to these proposals may be found at
This issue is particularly topical because tomorrow (Wednesday) the
Right Hon. Tessa Jowell MP, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and
Sport, is launching the Creative Economy Conference in London. for
details see http://www.creativeeconomyconference.org
Said Ross Anderson, Chair of FIPR and Professor of Security Engineering
at Cambridge University
"Whitehall spin-doctors are telling us that the Government will
foster the creative industries, but the IPR Enforcement Directive
will have exactly the opposite effect. It will interfere with
enterprise and choke off competition. It will push up prices for
consumers at a time of rising global inflation, and do particular
harm to the software and communications industries. It will also harm
universities, libraries and the disabled."
Said Terri Dowty, Director of Action on Rights for Children and member
of FIPR's Advisory Council:
"We have already seen the kind of pressure that companies are
prepared to exert on the parents of children who download music
without due thought. We fear that they would not baulk at mounting
criminal prosecutions of children.
"It is monstrous that a ten-year old (or an eight-year old in
Scotland) could be criminalised by the careless download of files.
Children often assume that if something is available it must also be
legitimate, and it is unreasonable to expect parents to monitor their
every action -- and most will not have the specialist knowledge to
understand whether or not a particular download will be a crime."
Said Nicholas Bohm, FIPR's General Counsel:
"Criminalising patent and other IPR infringement could expose a range
of business advisers (accountants, lawyers, bankers) to threats of
prosecution as accessories if a company involved in a deal they were
arranging or implementing was subject to an infringement complaint."
Chair of FIPR and Professor of Security Engineering, Cambridge
0791 905 8248
Director, Action on Rights for Children
020 8558 9317
General Counsel, FIPR
NOTES FOR EDITORS
1. The Foundation for Information Policy Research (http://www.fipr.org)
is an independent body that studies the interaction between
information technology and society. Its goal is to identify
technical developments with significant social impact, commission
and undertaken research into public policy alternatives, and promote
public understanding and dialogue between technologists and policy-
makers in the UK and Europe.
2. The free software movement is particularly concerned about the new
directive, as it could be used to scare people away from using free
3. Although some large software companies are supporting the directive
in Europe, they are pushing in the opposite direction in the USA,
where the Business Software Alliance wants the damages for patent
infringement to be much lower. The USA and Europe may end up with
very different patent enforcement rules, which put Europe at a
disadvantage when it comes to innovation.
4. Criminalising patent and other IPR infringement would greatly extend
the range of business activities that might turn out to be criminal.
Professional advisers to businesses which might be at risk would need
to consider making precautionary reports to the National Criminal
Intelligence Service under the Proceeds of Crime Act. NCIS is
already overstretched by the volume of reports, and might not welcome
a new deluge of trivia.
5. An IP Enforcement Directive was presented to the European Parliament
in 2003. It contained measures similar to those now proposed, but the
Parliament's Legal Affairs committee removed them following lobbying
by FIPR and others. The measures have now returned with the
Commission using an unusual procedural mechanism -- a directive
attached to a framework decision -- which makes it technically more
difficult for the European Parliament to oppose them.
Posted by Declan McCullagh on Oct 04, 2005
in category intellectual-property
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