6th Dec 2022

MEPs to vote on historic anti-piracy law

The European Parliament is for the first time ever set to vote for EU-wide criminal penalties – including imprisonment – for crimes breaching intellectual property rights, but critics say the proposal is badly drafted and would affect millions of young Europeans including MEPs' own teenagers.

MEPs gathering in Strasbourg for their monthly plenary session are on Wednesday (25 April) expected to vote in favour of a first-reading report by Italian socialist MEP Nicola Zingaretti proposing criminal measures aimed at ensuring the enforcement of intellectual property rights across the 27-member bloc.

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  • Will MEPs vote for the EU's first criminal law directive? (Photo: wikiepdia)

The report comes after the European Commission in April 2006 put forward a proposal for an EU-wide law in the area and is the first piece of EU draft legislation seeking to harmonise national criminal law in the union.

According to the commission, the range and value of pirated goods - from cars to cosmetics to DVDs - is on the rise in the EU and increasingly linked to organised crime.

"It is a threat and danger to the European economy," said EU industry commissioner Guenter Verheugen when speaking to MEPs discussing the issue on Monday night (23 April).

But the enforcement plan is meeting strong criticism from many sides, both inside and outside the parliament.

Spanish green MEP David Hammerstein Mintz called it "quite unacceptable" and said "it launches a witch hunt" across the bloc on teenagers downloading music and movies from the internet.

In an open letter to MEPs ahead of the gathering in Strasbourg, the European consumer group BEUC – together with other organisations - argues that the terms defining criminal offences are so vague that they amount to a threat to civil rights.

"Under this current proposal the children of MEPs, together with millions of other young Europeans, would be subject to ill-defined threats of criminal sanctions," said the head of BEUC Jim Murray.

"In pressing for this draconian proposal, the industry is fighting its own best current and future customers," he added, in the letter.

But Mr Zingaretti defended his report saying it was "a positive compromise" and added that EU-wide legislation was needed as organised crime is a global activity that knows no boundaries.

Once parliament adopts the report, as it is expected to do with few amendments, the issue will then come before member states for discussion.

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