The Copycrime Directive (IPRED2) has passed its first reading in the European Parliament. However, the vote was much closer than anticipated, and there are signs that some member states are beginning to have second thoughts about the Directive. The Directive still has a long way to go before it becomes law, and it’s not too late to tell your MEP to vote no unless it is changed to protect your digital freedoms.
April 25th, 2007
Next week – on Tuesday 24th April – the European Parliament will vote on a directive that would turn many breaches of copyright into criminal offences. This directive (with the catchy name of IPRED2) is dangerously wide. EFF Europe has explained why:
IPRED2 and Business
The entertainment industry spent millions suing the makers of the first VCRs, MP3 players and digital video recorders, trying to use copyright law to kill those innovative products because they threatened old business models. Fortunately, the industry was unsuccessful.
IPRED2’s new crime of “aiding, abetting and inciting” infringement again takes aim at innovators, including open source coders, media-sharing sites like YouTube, and ISPs that refuse to block P2P services.
With the new directive, music labels and Hollywood studios will push for the criminal prosecution of these innovators in Europe, saying their products “incite” piracy – with EU taxpayers covering the costs.
Under IPRED2, these same entertainment companies can work with transnational “joint investigation teams” to advise the authorities on how to investigate and prosecute their rivals!
IPRED2 and Your Digital Freedoms
Criminal law needs to be clear to be fair. While IPRED2 says that only “commercial scale” infringement will be punished, the directive doesn’t clearly define “commercial scale” or “incitement.” Even IP lawyers can’t agree on what are “private” and “personal” uses of copyrighted works. One step over that fuzzy line, however, and anyone could be threatened with punishments intended for professional counterfeiters and organized criminals.
How can ordinary citizens feel safe exercising their rights under copyright and trademark law when serious criminal penalties may be brought against them if they cross the line?
Please sign the petition against the directive.
If you’d like to contact your MEPs directly, you can find their details here, and EFF Europe has put up suggestions for what you might like to say here. (If you’re going to do this, make sure you contact their Brussels or Strasbourg offices rather than their Irish office.)
April 20th, 2007
The European Court of Human rights gave a decision earlier this month in Copland v. UK which will be very helpful to us in arguing our data retention case. Ms. Copland worked in a Welsh college as a personal assistant, and discovered that the college was secretly monitoring her telephone, email and internet use. She claimed that this amounted to a breach of her right to privacy under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The UK government admitted that monitoring took place, but claimed (using the same arguments trotted out in the data retention context) that this did not amount to an interference where there was no actual listening in on telephone calls or reading of emails:
Although there had been some monitoring of the applicant’s telephone calls, e-mails and internet usage … this did not extend to the interception of telephone calls or the analysis of the content of websites visited by her. The monitoring thus amounted to nothing more than the analysis of automatically generated information … which, of itself, did not constitute a failure to respect private life or correspondence.
The Court disagreed, holding that this monitoring and storage of details of telephone and internet use was itself an interference under Article 8:
43. The Court recalls that the use of information relating to the date and length of telephone conversations and in particular the numbers dialled can give rise to an issue under Article 8 as such information constitutes an “integral element of the communications made by telephone” (see Malone v. the United Kingdom, judgment of 2 August 1984, Series A no. 82, § 84). The mere fact that these data may have been legitimately obtained by the College, in the form of telephone bills, is no bar to finding an interference with rights guaranteed under Article 8 (ibid). Moreover, storing of personal data relating to the private life of an individual also falls within the application of Article 8 § 1 (see Amann, cited above, § 65). Thus, it is irrelevant that the data held by the college were not disclosed or used against the applicant in disciplinary or other proceedings.
44. Accordingly, the Court considers that the collection and storage of personal information relating to the applicant’s telephone, as well as to her e-mail and internet usage, without her knowledge, amounted to an interference with her right to respect for her private life and correspondence within the meaning of Article 8. (emphasis added)
Although these principles aren’t new, it’s still useful to have them so clearly restated in a way which is directly applicable to data retention under both Irish and European law.
(Many thanks to Daithí for bringing this to our attention.)
April 16th, 2007
A while ago we explained that the reason why you hadn’t heard more about the data retention case was that the State defendants were sitting on their hands and had failed to put in their defence as required by law.
Our legal team brought them to court on the 19th of February, at which point an order was made requiring the defendants to put in their defence. The defendants are now in breach of that court order also. Consequently, our lawyers will be returning to the High Court on the 30th of April seeking judgment in default of defence.
April 12th, 2007