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RSF raises concern about report's call for repressive approach to online copyright violations

(RSF/IFEX) - 31 May 2010 - Reporters Without Borders is worried about a report by French MEP Marielle Gallo of the European People's Party (EPP) recommending a more repressive approach to online file-sharing and copyright infringement similar to France's Hadopi law or Britain's Digital Economy Act. The report will be submitted to the European Parliament's Legal Affairs Committee (JURI) tomorrow.

The press freedom organisation supports the amendments to the Gallo Report being proposed by the EPP's opponents. Once the committee has adopted the report and submitted it to the full parliament, no more amendments will be possible.

"This report on measures for copyright enforcement will not have legislative effect but it could establish the parliament's position on this issue and facilitate an unsatisfactory outcome to the negotiations on the ACTA, the proposed international treaty against counterfeiting," Reporters Without Borders said.

"The report fails to take account of studies that cast doubt on the negative impact of file-sharing and the damage resulting from illegal downloading," Reporters Without Borders added. "The repressive measures it recommends would also be completely ineffective while violating such fundamental rights as freedom of expression, access to culture and the right to due process. Creativity is stimulated by online exchanges. Once again, a balance must be found between intellectual property rights and free expression."

Two parliamentary groups are at odds over the report. On the one side is Gallo's right-of-centre EPP, the largest group in the European Parliament, which supports her call for punitive measures against peer-to-peer exchanges, bypassing the need to refer to a judge, and the creation of a private copyright police. It would be a setback for all those who regard the Internet as a basic right and oppose a "graduated response" leading to the disconnection of illegal downloaders.

The other camp consists of the Greens, the Socialists & Democrats (S&D) and the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE). It does not dispute the need for measures to combat counterfeiting, as proposed by French MEP Françoise Castex, the report's co-author. But it opposes repression and the criminalisation of Internet users and wants alternative mechanisms and a creative contribution.

The Gallo Reports acknowledges that the information about copyright violations is "inconsistent, incomplete, insufficient and patchy." Aside from the TERA report, a study commissioned by Vivendi that claims that illegal downloading will result in the loss of 1.2 million jobs by 2015, the leading studies have found that its effect is neutral or even positive. US judicial authorities even concluded that the methodology of studies claiming financial losses were invalid.

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