EU's all-out war on piracy sparks protests

European Commissioners have sparked outrage by calling for the widespread interception of Internet traffic across Europe to tackle piracy.

Opponents of the clampdown called on the public to voice their concerns, after Commissioners this week began a three-month consultation process on the findings of a report into the effectiveness of the EU's Intellectual Property Rights Enforcement Directive (IPRED).

Directive 2004/48/EC requires the governments of member states to apply "effective, dissuasive and proportionate remedies and penalties" against counterfeiting and piracy, and was implemented in the UK by the Intellectual Property (Enforcement, etc.) Regulations 2006.

The European Directive has been widely criticised for its draconian provisions, said to mimic those of the controversial US Digital Millennium Copyright Act. But Commissioners, it seems, don't think they're nearly draconian enough.

"Despite an overall improvement of enforcement procedures, the sheer volume and financial value of intellectual property rights infringements are alarming," states the report.

"One reason is the unprecedented increase in opportunities to infringe intellectual property rights offered by the Internet. The Directive was not designed with this challenge in mind."

But in spite of warning that the Internet posed an increased threat to copyright holders, Commissioners see fit to draw little or no distinction when it suits them between online piracy and the "a real threat to consumer health and safety" posed by the physical counterfeiting of drugs and other commodities.

The report calls for the "cooperation" of Internet service providers in handing over the details of alleged illegal file-sharers, and suggests privacy laws in member states should not be allowed to interfere with the business of pursuing supposed pirates, stating:

"In some Member States the right of information provided for in the Directive seems to be
granted very restrictively, mainly due to national laws on the protection and retention of
personal data. This issue could deserve special attention. National laws must also allow the
courts to apply EU law on enforcement of intellectual property rights."

Digital rights group La Quadrature du Net slammed the Commission's report on Thursday, describing it as "one more sign of the collusion between EU policy-makers and the copyright lobby".

LQdN criticised the report for supporting "more repression in the name of dogmatic vision of the alleged prejudice caused by file-sharing", and urged EU citizens to speak up as part of the consultation process.

You have until 31st March to make your feelings felt here.