File-sharing should not be a crime, says European Parliament

The European Parliament has said that copyright-infringing music and film file-sharing should not be criminalised. The Parliament has said that file-sharers should not be prosecuted as criminal offenders unless they seek to profit from the sharing.

The Parliament has adopted a report on Europe's cultural industries which rejects the idea of criminalising non-profit making file-sharers.

"Criminalising consumers who are not seeking to make a profit is not the right solution to combat digital piracy," said a motion passed by the Parliament.

"In the context of rapid technological and market evolution, and with a view to ensuring that cultural industries and creators benefit from the development of digital platforms, [the parliament] urges the Commission to rethink the critical issue of intellectual property from the cultural and economic point of view," it said.

The motion said that the Commission should rethink its policies in the interest of "a balance between the opportunities for access to cultural events and content and intellectual property that guarantee fair, effective remuneration to all categories of right holders, real choice for consumers, and cultural diversity."

The Parliament's report and motion is not binding on the European Commission, but is designed to influence that body's thinking when it creates its next programme of government.The Parliament said that piracy should be dealt with not by criminalising it, but through education. "[The Parliament] urges the Commission, in the fight against piracy, to make all parties, including consumers, aware of their responsibilities and to put in place awareness-raising and education campaigns [and] invites the Commission to take measures relating to prevention, education and awareness-raising among consumers, especially among young people in schools on the value of intellectual property and creativity in general and to encourage consumers to respect intellectual property," it said.

The motion also addressed some of the wider issues about culture and economics and said that the European Commission should pay more attention to the interplay of the two.

"The Commission [should] put in place a structure for strengthening coordination of activities and policies which have an impact on the cultural and creative sector and set up a task force for culture and the creative economy, so as to explore more closely the direct contribution of culture and of creativity on innovation, economic growth and social development in the European Union," it said.

In its motion, the Parliament was keen to stress the rights of users as well as the rights of content producers. "As a result of the internet, traditional ways of using cultural products and services have completely changed and … it is essential to ensure unimpeded access to online cultural content and to the diversity of cultural expressions, over and above that which is driven by industrial and commercial logic, ensuring moreover, fair remuneration for all categories of right holders," it said.

The Parliament last year approved a measure which criminalised intellectual property infringement, though supporters said that it was only relevant in cases of large scale, industrial copying.

The Second Intellectual Property Rights Directive (IPRED2) was passed last April by the Parliament and is aimed at organised crime's IP-infringing activities.