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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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This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled

By mathew7 on 4/8/2011 5:25:33 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
Downloading one music track illegally might seem like nothing to you, but that is one dollar or so lost to those who helped create it. Upload the same track to a hundred other people and that could be a hundred dollars lost.


You said it yourself: "could".... You are using the industries arguments, but forget that a person does NOT have infinite money. One download does not mean lost money. There is so much content that as a non-multi-million individual, you cannot decide which content you should buy.
There are 3 ways to take it:
1. buy the content legaly
2. download, watch and buy it afterwards
3. download, watch and forget it

My point is that option 2 exists, and I personally use it. This can also be viewed as free advertising.

Also, option 3 can be for different reasons:
- a student may have lots of free time, but not enough money, so he engages in a lot of entertainment, but he would NEVER HAVE MONEY to buy it.
- he CANNOT BUY the content even if he wants it, because it's not sold in his area (disc regions, lack of distribution in highly-pirated countries)

Nobody can prove what is the distribution of these parts, most agree on part 3 being the biggest.

Most indie developers look pretty good at piracy as advertising and a sign that they did a "wanted" work. Only the big houses want the last cent of the distribution, but forget that customers want also quality, not only quantity. Their dollars ARE HELPED by piracy. Without piracy they would not have a part of their money. Piracy also could give them an indication of how the content is seen by NON-PAID reviewers.

But do remember that copyright appeared as a civil law. When it first appeared (in U.S.??) it was to stop mass book-copiers from profiting. Not from a neighbor copying the book for his own use (because that could never be checked anyway).


"You can bet that Sony built a long-term business plan about being successful in Japan and that business plan is crumbling." -- Peter Moore, 24 hours before his Microsoft resignation














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