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As and IFPI lobbyist, Maria Martin-Prat looked to outlaw DRM cracking and making backup copies. Now she's Europe's "copyright queen" (or more precisely the "Head of Unit Services I, Directorate General Internal Market, European Commission").   (Source: European Commission)

EU legislators Christian Engström (Sweden, top) and Marietje Schaake (Netherlands, bottom) are fighting the appointment.  (Source: Wired (top)/LGEO Online (bottom))
EU hires a head lobbyist from RIAA parent org. IFPI to steer its copyright policy

While most agree that piracy is illegal and wrong to some extent, many feel the media industry is behind the times when it comes to digital distribution.  They argue that media companies fail to provide consumers with appealing options hence consumers take matters into their own hands and resort to piracy.  They also complain that the piracy punishment resembles mob tactics more than a fair legal process, with million dollar verdicts against everyday citizensthreats, and off-the-record settlements.

Unfortunately for those unhappy with the situation, it may be about to get worse.  

I.  The EC's New Copyright Chief -- A History of Working to Cut Owner Rights

The European Union has been appointed Maria Martin-Prat to head their copyright commission.  The copyright commission is part of the EU's business regulatory body, the European Commission (EC).  Ms. Martin-Prat will be replacing former chief Tilman Lueder, who is heading to a new position in China.

Ms. Martin-Prat had formerly left the EC and enjoyed employment working at International Federation of the Phonographic Industry, the parent organization of the U.S.'s RIAA, Canada's CRIA, and Britain's BPI.

During her stint at the IFPI, Ms. Martin-Prat worked to try to outlaw backup copies of media.  The EC provides a private copying exemption, dubbed the European Fair Dealing.  The U.S. enjoys similar exemptions, which the RIAA/IFPI have contended in the past are illegal.  They argue that making backups is "stealing" and you should just repurchase damaged/lost content.  Ms. Martin-Prat argued [PDF] that backups have "no reason to exist".

She contends that backup exemptions violate the three-step test first written into the Berne copyright convention 50 years ago.  Those steps state that exemptions are only fair if they:

  1. Apply to a "special" case. 
  2. Don’t interfere with the "normal exploitation of the work."
  3. Don't "unreasonably prejudice the legitimate interests of the rights holder." 
She reiterated her stance in a conference paper [PDF].

Similarly, Ms. Martin-Prat looked to rob consumers of the ability to crack DRM.  DRM cracking in the U.S. and Europe is prohibited, but not typically prosecuted unless you distribute the cracked files.  Ms. Martin-Prat sought to make the very act of DRM cracking a prosecutable felony.

In her IFPI work said that she and the industry were "pleading for strong copyright protection".  Well apparently those pleas for stronger "protection" have been answered.

II. Growing Opposition to Appointment

Two EU legislators -- Liberal Dutch MEP Marietje Schaake and Swedish Pirate Party MEP Christian Engström -- have openly blasted the appointment.  They write [PDF] the EC asking:

 

Does the Commission not see any problems in recruiting top civil servants from special interest organisations, especially when being put in charge of dossiers directly related to their former employers? If not, why not?

Does the Commission feel that such an appointment would help to build confidence with the European Parliament and the general public that the Commission can be trusted to handle copyright-related issues in a fair and balanced manner?

Mr. Engström was even more emphatic in his own blog, slamming the EU for supporting what he sees as corrupt cronyism.  He writes:

Welcome to the European Union, where the big business lobby organizations are calling most of the shots at the Commission, and where citizens are just seen as a nuisance to be ignored. I guess the only real news is that they don’t even bother to try to hide it any more.

Given existing EC rules and policies, the organization now has to respond to the criticism pertaining to the appointment, justifying its controversial decision.

This is not the first time that the issues of corruption, favoritism, and bias have been raised in Europe.  During the iconic trial of the Pirate Bay, the judge in the trial was found to have formerly worked for a copyright protection organization.  

He provided jurors with information that the Pirate Bay admins' legal team felt was inaccurate and misleading.  The trial resulted in a conviction, a sentence of prison time, and a massive fine for the admins.

The legal team tried to appeal the verdict and sentence, but ended up losing before an unsympathetic higher court.



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By mephit13 on 4/6/2011 3:02:22 PM , Rating: 5
Correction, this is what when you let corporations rule. The lawyers and the politicians are only doing what the corporations pay them to do.


By Dailyrant on 4/6/2011 3:53:28 PM , Rating: 3
Lawyers and politicians are large organizations in themselves. They in fact work for corporations, not the people. Status quo is the goal. The larger you are the more influential you are.


By Solandri on 4/6/2011 6:18:52 PM , Rating: 5
quote:
Correction, this is what when you let corporations rule. The lawyers and the politicians are only doing what the corporations pay them to do.

Hate to break it to you, but a corporation is just a group of lawyers and would-be politicians (managers) running an organization. A corporation does not think or make decisions by itself. The lawyers and managers running the corporations are the ones who are deciding to pay the lawyers and politicians running government. Government, political parties, corporations, unions. There's not much difference between them - they're all just organizations of people.

The first step in a war is to dehumanize the opposition, which is what you're doing by making people think the battle is against corporations. But that just detracts from the real problem, which is actually has nothing to do with corporations - people doing screwy things with our laws which benefit them to the detriment of everyone else.

If you clamp down on corporations and neuter their power, that doesn't make these people go away. They'll just quit their company jobs and flee to a different sector where it's easier for them to amass power, money, and influence. Some will go into politics. Others will head unions and social organizations.

Then after a couple decades, we'll decide those have gotten too powerful and that we're being unnecessarily harsh on weak corporations. So we'll do a bunch of deregulation, resulting in those people fleeing government and unions to go back to corporations, like cockroaches scurrying every time their hiding place is overturned. And the cycle will begin all over again.

In a way it's a lot like economics. My phone has more computing power than a supercomputer in 1980. We have particle accelerators capable of producing and analyzing the smallest pieces of matter. We've been able to peer at light from the very beginning of the universe. Yet we still haven't figured out how to stabilize the boom/bust economic cycle to achieve uniform growth.


By Iaiken on 4/7/2011 5:05:10 PM , Rating: 1
quote:
they're all just organizations of people.


Except labour groups, which are bad, evil things that must die.

quote:
If you clamp down on corporations and neuter their power, that doesn't make these people go away. Some will go into politics.


Where they will work to change things back or open different avenues to power and wealth, exclusively for their own personal benefit.

quote:
Yet we still haven't figured out how to stabilize the boom/bust economic cycle to achieve uniform growth.


The problem is that we worship growth. Anyone that expects anything to grow 10-20% year over year for any appreciable length of time is guaranteed to be disappointed. Yet a 10% gain (the typically expected rate of return) is indicative of a 7 year doubling time.

We have unrealistic growth expectations and when those expectations outstrip the reality for a sufficient length of time, the market retracts back to the more realistic figures while everybody panics.

I heard one oil exec say "We would define anything less than a 50% growth year over year for the next 10 years to be a disappointment". This is the exact same as stating "If we aren't 128 times our current size in 10 years, we're going to be disappointed." This guy was going to be disappointed if his company wasn't bigger than all of the worlds oil companies combined in 10 years. Who are these people?


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