Technology, Media & Telecommunications (TMT)

European Pirate Party speaks up about ACTA

16 May 2012

3 min read

With discussions on ACTA slowly reaching a point, a group of MEP’s known as the European Pirate Party (EPP) recently also issued their stance in regard to the trade agreement. In reply to the controversies that arose over the last months, the EPP released a 107 page eBook entitled ‘The Case for Copyright Reform’. The scope of this eBook is to make clear the EPP’s vision regarding the reconciliation of copyright protection and the widespread reality of digital sharing through the internet

This proposal argues that, realistically, the only way to curb file-sharing on the web involves the very questionable practice of deep packet inspection. This process would involve ISP’s monitoring the specific contents of network traffic, effectively meaning that they could track all of their clients’ activities on the web. It has been stated by many bodies in Europe as well as statements by EU Commissioner, Viviane Reding, that such practice would amount to a breach of fundamental rights under EU Law.

The EPP is proposing a rather controversial view of the concept of copyright by asserting that the original spirit of copyright never intended to prevent somebody from copying a copyrighted work and giving it to a family member or close acquaintance. In pursuance of this assertion they are proposing the total abolition of any and all methods of digital rights management. While this would certainly be convenient from a consumer perspective, the impact this may have on markets remains a cause for consideration. It could also have dire implications for copyrighted materials on websites being infringed as people could theoretically be allowed to use copyrighted material for their websites as long as those websites are purely for personal use.

Also controversial is the EPP’s suggestion to have the term of protection of copyright be reduced from the ‘absurd’ current term of 70 years after the death of the author (though specific rules may apply in the case of certain works such as films) to a term of no longer than 20 years from the time of publication. These works would then have to have their copyright renewed every 5 years thereafter. It is argued that this would allow ‘orphaned’ works to re-enter the market in a more expedient manner. This might effectively require a paradigm shift from the current understanding of copyright requiring some form of body keeping track of active copyrights such as a registry. As matters stand, copyright exists automatically by operation of law and is not registered anywhere in the EU.

The arguments made in favour of these changes are that intellectual property laws are stifling the progress of technology and the arts along with the freedom to communicate through digital means. It also argues that artists are far from suffering even in a world where the current amount of digital sharing is possible. It also suggests new avenues of revenue that such artists and creators can exploit to compensate. If any of the suggestions in the proposal are accepted, it could mean there may be very big changes made to the existing paradigms of intellectual property law in the EU.

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