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EU parliament to consider criminalizing IP infringement

[JURIST] The European Parliament Legal Affairs Committee [official website] Thursday adopted a report on draft legislation [text, PDF; press release] designed to curtail increases in design piracy by imposing criminal penalties on commercial-scale IP infringement. The committee cited alleged links between pirated goods and organized crime to justify penalties which include fines of up to €300,000 ($400,000 US) and up to 4 years imprisonment. The committee struggled with the resolution for years trying to determine its scope before settling on only punishing commercial infringers; previous versions of the legislation included criminalization of personal and non-profit infringement. The draft legislation will now be considered at a European Parliament plenary in April.

The criminal penalties instituted by the legislation are made possible by a landmark European Court of Justice [official website] ruling [judgment backgrounder] which established that the EU has the right to lay down criminal penalties in the individual member states. The legislation has sparked an outcry in the IT industry, because the draft includes an "aiding and abetting" clause that imposes harsh penalties if infringed material is found anywhere on an IT network. Simultaneously, music industry insiders are concerned that the law might not go far enough in punishing personal infringement and basically legalizes file sharing. EUobserver has more. PC World has additional coverage.

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