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MEPs Call For IPR Harmonization In EU

by Ulrika Lomas, for, Brussels

03 June 2010

The European Parliament's Legal Affairs Committee has pointed to breaches of intellectual property rights (IPR) on the internet as a growing problem requiring a response at European Union (EU) level.

The Committee says that the "enormous growth of unauthorized file sharing of copyrighted works is an increasing problem for the European economy in terms of job opportunities and revenues for the industry as well as for government." It urges the European Commission (EC) to address "the issue of the balance between free access to the Internet and the measures to be taken to combat this scourge effectively".

In its opinion, the lack of a functioning internal European digital market is a major obstacle. The EC is therefore asked to propose a comprehensive strategy on IPR which will remove barriers to creating a single digital on-line market and adapt the European legislative framework in the field of IPR to current technical developments.

It is also asked to think broadly about methods of facilitating industry's access to the digital market without geographical borders by addressing urgently the issue of multi-territory licences and the harmonization of legislation on copyright. A pan-European licensing system, according to the Committee, should provide consumers with "access to the widest possible choice of content and not at the expense of European local repertoire".

The Committee does not share the EC's view that the current civil enforcement framework in the EU is sufficiently effective and harmonized. It says that dialogue on possible solutions must involve all stakeholders, including internet service providers.

The Committee also calls on the EC to pursue its efforts to make progress on the negotiations for an Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), taking full account of Committee's position and to ensure that the provisions of the ACTA fully comply with existing EU rules on IPR and fundamental rights.

Participants in the multilateral ACTA negotiations, which also include Australia, Canada, Japan, South Korea, Mexico, Morocco, New Zealand, Singapore, Switzerland and the United States, published a draft agreement in April this year.

From its current text, the EC has confirmed that it will be fully in line with current EU legislation. This means that it is limited to the enforcement of intellectual property rights, and will not include provisions which modify substantive intellectual property law, create new rights or change their duration. It would not, in the opinion of the EC, lead to a limitation of civil liberties or to "harassment" of consumers.

The next meeting of the ACTA negotiating group will be held in Switzerland this month, and its participants have reaffirmed their aim to conclude the negotiations in 2010.

An EU objective is to see its IPR standards respected by third countries. One of the ways this objective is being pursued is by the conducting of "political dialogues" on IPR. In that respect, the Legal Affairs Committee wants the EC “to set up more IPR helpdesks in third countries (notably in India and Russia), to help European entrepreneurs enforce their rights more actively, and to combat the entry into the EU internal market of counterfeit goods from such countries”.

If the Committee’s views are endorsed by the full European Parliament in Strasbourg later this month, they will form the Parliament's response to the EC’s paper on this subject published in September last year.

TAGS: European Commission | commerce | law | intellectual property | copyright | enforcement | internet | e-commerce | licensing | legislation | regulation | European Union (EU) | Europe

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