EU Copyright directive
On 11 April German parliament agreed on the implementation-proposal of the EU Copyright Directive (EUCD). Only the small liberal opposition party opposed. Public debate centered around new educational and scientific limitations on copyright. The new law allows teachers to make works available to a limited group of class members, e.g. in an intranet, for the sole purpose of teaching, or to a limited group of persons for their own scientific research to the degree necessary by a given purpose and only for non-commercial use.
Academic publishing houses feared that they would loose a major source of income, suggesting that libraries would purchase one copy of a book and make it available on the Internet to all the world.
On 9 March the Italian Associazione Software Libero opened an on-line petition against the proposed implementation of the European Copyright Directive. The petition is an open letter to the Culture Committee of the Lower House, inviting them to reconsider their almost unanimous approval of the copyright law on 25 February 2003. Like in most other EU-countries, resistance against the implementation is focused on the very broad legal protection of anti-circumvention measures. Quoting from the open letter: 'It will be illegal to possess equipment and usable algorithms for the circumvention of technological measures. Under the new norm, it is totally irrelevant if the equipment is intended for lawful or illegal use; it will be prohibited per se, treated similar to narcotics.'
Last week, the Finnish parliament returned the national copyright law proposal back to the ministry that originally drafted it. Electronic Frontier Finland heavily criticized the anti-circumvention provisions and other controversial issues of the proposal. After a parliamentary hearing on the 31st of January, the chair of the hearing committee announced it was impossible to continue with the proposal.
Mr Jyrki Katainen, member of the parliament committee and vice chairman of the Conservative Party, confirmed to EFFI that the main reason for this very rare dismissal was the extreme unclearness of the law. The possibility of a 2 years jail sentence for the circumvention of copy protection for example, would have posed a serious risk to unwitting citizens.
Mr. Katainen was also worried the law would have harmed the Finnish competitiveness as an information society. "The proposal was simply overreaching", he said.
One month after the implementation deadline of the European Copyright Directive, only 2 of the 15 member-countries have implemented the law. All over Europe, scientists, legal experts, civil rights and open source groups are warning about possible negative effects on free speech, innovation and academic research. In many countries, civil rights groups joined forces with open software promotors and wrote comments and implementation suggestions. Civil rights advocates in Austria and Finland have organised fruitful seminars. Public awareness was raised through petitions in Denmark and Germany, while in France money is collected to afford professional legal backing throughout the implementation process.
The European Copyright Directive (EUCD), adopted in 2001, strives to harmonise