Monday, October 20, 2003

EU copyright law: more draconian than in the US?

politics > family > business
Apparently there is a proposal in the European Parliament backed by a commissioner and a member of the EP that would "go far beyond existing laws in Europe and the United States by classifying copyright violations and patent infringements, even some unwitting ones, as crimes punishable by prison terms." This is designed to quell the concerns of the major industry lobbies but the law id so broad that it even companies "like Nokia, the BT Group and even Microsoft, itself a major victim of software piracy, have called the proposed law excessive and warned that it could crush innovation and strangle e-commerce in Europe."
This is brilliantly nightmarish - it caters to the needs of the pharmaceutical industry (although there are signs that the patent issues will be removed from the final proposal) and the completely clueless recording industry which is proving as idiotic in the EU as it is in the US (not exactly unexpected as they are part of the same recording oligopoly that is ripping off musicians and fans alike). The interesting part of the story is that the member of the EP that's behind this legislation, Janelly Fourtou, is the wife of this guy, Jean-Rene Fourtou, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Vivendi Universal, one of the largest record companies in the world, thus giving a whole new meaning to the phrase "family business".
The NYT article concludes:
Some lawyers and legal experts say that, whether it was influenced by her husband's position or not, Fourtou's amendment would give rights holders too much power under a law whose reach was already worrisome before. William Cornish, a professor at Cambridge University, and Josef Drexl, Reto Hilty and Annette Kur from the Max Planck Institute in Germany, said in a joint statement published in the European Intellectual Property Review that the proposed law was out of proportion to the problem of piracy. They criticized lawmakers for rushing the bill through and for listening too closely to lobbyists.

To which I attach this prime example of the literary form known as "rant" by yours truly:
And the question arises: how does a citizen of a EU country lobby against this, or other even more offensive, EU laws and directives? It seems to me that it is impossible to engage in a political project that involves an opposition to any policy and especially the current neoliberal punishment that is being inflicted on Europe by the corporate oligarchy. If lobbyists can have their voices heard, how can simple citizens do the same? There is no accountability and, on economic matters, no access to decisions that are being made in our absence but have an overwhelming effect on our lives, while these huge issues are escaping any serious publicity or public scrutiny. The claim that the EU is democratic, therefore, is false. Democracy implies the people's access to control over all possible decisions that could affect them. The neoliberal backlash hashappenedd pretty much without any discussion in EU countries, occurring as it were by fiat of some invisible supernatural force called the EU or the Central Bank, while governments hid behind these "European decisions", using the "it's not us, its an EU law and, unfortunately, we must follow" excuse, while the issues themselves were to be discovered by the EU's citizens only after implementation, since EU matters are "too boring" for the Mass Media to cover.
If that's only the Greek experience and things are more transparent in other EU countries please let me know. Somehow I doubt it.

So, if you want a democratic Europe, it's Confederation or Dissolution. I'm for the first option. And fast.

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