The Legal Affairs Committee JURI today discussed an initiative by the Commission to set up an ”EU Counterfeiting and Piracy Observatory”. I have written about this earlier (in Swedish).
This Observatory should be a cooperation between EU authorities and the ”stakeholdes” (i.e.: the organizations representing big business) to combat on the one hand counterfeit goods, on the other hand copyright infringements on the net.
The big problem with this is that they are mixing two separate issues that have very little to do with each other. Counterfeit goods is a commercial activity outside the law. Everybody agrees that it is a bad thing, even we pirates.
If i buy a pair of Nike shoes or a packet of Marlboro cigarettes, then I, as a consumer, have a right to know that the thing I bought actually is what it says on the box. The primary function of trademarks is to act as consumer protection. If I buy a product that does not live up to my expectations I should know whom to complain to, and if I buy something that I’m happy with I should know where I can get more of the same stuff if I want to in the future.
To combat counterfeit goods is an uncontroversial issue. If and how and how much the EU should get involved (as opposed to just leaving it to the member states) is just a practical consideration. The Pirate Party has no objections in principle to combating counterfeit goods or upholding the existing trademark laws.
But to hunt file shares that commit non-commercial copyright infringements by sharing music and films on the net is quite a different matter. It is, of course, illegal under the current copyright laws. But these laws are currently under very heavy political debate throughout Europe. To just set full speed ahead and increase the level of enforcement is hardly the most sensible way to address this issue. The political debate about copyright reform will not go away by introducing even harsher enforcement measures.
What it boils down to is that the pro-copyright lobbyists (representing the big film and record companies) are trying to make their political campaigns appear more legitimate by hiding behind the companies that are concerned about counterfeit goods and trademark protection.
This was very evident in today’s exchange of views in the JURI. If you read the communication from the Commission, you get the impression that it is almost entirely about counterfeit goods. The word ”piracy” is mentioned a number of times in the text from the Commission, but unless you follow the reference in the footnote on page 3 where the term ”piracy” is defined to mean ”copyright infringement”, you would probably assume that the word ”piracy” was just used as a more emotionally loaded synonym for counterfeiting activities.
But when you listened to the European Parliaments rapporteur Marielle Gallo (Christian Democrat group EPP, FR) she was talking almost exclusively about issues related to file sharing an copyright infringements on the net.
When I spoke in the committee, I made the point the we should at least separate the two issues before we go any further. They are completely separate, and should be treated as such. Just because I as a citizen want to have assurances that my Nike shoes or Marlboro cigarettes are genuine, does not mean that I want the EU:s institutions to spend money on hunting teenagers that share film and music on the net.
I would hope that Nike and Marlboro agree with me on this point. If I were them, I would have no interest in getting my brands associated with the hunt for file sharers. But no matter how the various ”stakeholders” feel about it, we politicians should at least tackle the issue in an intellectually honest way.
Combating counterfeit goods is one thing. Combating the entire Internet generation is another. We in the Pirate Party have no problem with the first, but we have serious objections to the second. Let’s not muddy the waters by confusing the two issues.