[Politech] U.K. government pushing harmful copyright, criminal-patent-infringement laws? [ip]

From: Declan McCullagh (declan@private)
Date: Tue Oct 04 2005 - 12:01:23 PDT

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: FIPR-Bulletin: Ministers Pushing EU Directive that will Harm 
Date: Tue, 4 Oct 2005 17:13:59 +0100
From: Richard Clayton <listmaster@private>

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
America instead.

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."


Ross Anderson
Chair of FIPR and Professor of Security Engineering, Cambridge
01223 334733
0791 905 8248

Terri  Dowty
Director, Action on Rights for Children
020 8558  9317

Nicholas Bohm
General Counsel, FIPR
01279 871272
07715 419728


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.
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