Document leak shows EU pushing for jail time for copyright infringement

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A leaked document from the President of the European Union has revealed the European Union’s secret push for criminal prosecution in the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), an agreement that has been negotiated in secret.

The document, leaked by French citizen advocacy group La Quadrature du Net (similar to Get Up! in Australia), reveals that the President wants criminal sanctions in one of the tougher parts of the treaty, Article 2.14 – which deals with criminal offences.

“The ACTA agreement, by its opacity and undemocratic nature, allows criminal sanctions to be simply negotiated,” Jeremie Zimmermann, spokesperson for La Quadrature du Net, said.

According to the document, which outlines the position of the European Union, the President wishes to impose:

3.- Penalties and sanctions
(i) For the offences referred to in Article 2.14, each Party shall provide for effective proportionate and dissuasive penalties. The available penalties shall include imprisonment and monetary fined.
(ii) For legal persons held liable under Article 2.15.1, each Party shall provide for effective, proportionate and dissuasive sanctions, including monetary sanctions.

The released ACTA text shows that Article 2.14:

Each Party shall provide for criminal procedures and penalties to be applied at least in cases of willful trademark counterfeiting or copyright or related rights piracy on
a commercial scale. Willful copyright or related rights piracy on a commercial scale includes:
(a)      significant willful copyright or related rights infringements that have no direct or indirect motivation of financial gain; and
(b)       willful copyright or related rights infringements for purposes of commercial advantage or financial gain.

In other words, the European Union wants to send you to jail for non-commercial piracy, meaning that those who download music on peer-to-peer networks and BitTorrent – like teenagers – will be looking at jail time if they are prosecuted. Just for simply downloading a song on LimeWire, you could see yourself in jail if you just want to listen to that song you heard on the radio and not broadcasting it on the airwaves.

“The leaked document shows that the EU Member States are willing to impose prison sanctions for non-commercial usages of copyrighted works on the Internet as well as for ‘inciting and aiding’, a notion so broad that it could cover any Internet service or speech questioning copyright policies,” Zimmermann continued.

“EU citizens should interrogate their governments about their support to policies that obviously attack freedom of speech, privacy and innovation.”

It should be noted that the Presidency of the European Union’s view does not reflect the member states’ position on the matter.