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Ministers Pushing EU Directive that will Harm Industry
FOR IMMEDIATE USE: 4 October 2005
The government is using the UK's presidency of the European Union to push an intellectual property enforcement directive (IPRED) which will harm British industry and undermine basic freedoms, according to Internet think-tank the Foundation for Information Policy Research (FIPR).
The directive will force the UK to make patent infringement a crime, and will also criminalise incitement to infringe patents or copyrights. It is being promoted by the big drug companies and the music industry.
If passed, the police will have more powers against copyright infringers than they have against terrorists. At present, the EU cannot freeze assets if a suspected terrorist financier is a European citizen. Yet the Government wants to empower IP lawyers to seize the assets of EU citizens accused of aiding and abetting infringement -- such as the parents of children who might have downloaded music files.
Innovation will also lose out. A technology entrepreneur today has to take risks with patents, as it's impossible to tell what patents might be in the pipeline. If her business succeeds, she can afford to fight legal cases and pay royalties if she loses. But if patent infringement becomes a crime, then the risks involved in starting a technology firm will be much greater. Britain will be at a particular disadvantage to the USA, where patent infringement will remain a civil matter. It will be very tempting for entrepreneurs to just start their businesses in America instead.
The FIPR response to these proposals may be found at http://www.fipr.org/copyright/ipred2.html
This issue is particularly topical because tomorrow (Wednesday) the Right Hon. Tessa Jowell MP, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, is launching the Creative Economy Conference in London. for details see http://www.creativeeconomyconference.org
Said Ross Anderson, Chair of FIPR and Professor of Security Engineering at Cambridge University:
"Whitehall spin-doctors are telling us that the Government will foster the creative industries, but the IPR Enforcement Directive will have exactly the opposite effect. It will interfere with enterprise and choke off competition. It will push up prices for consumers at a time of rising global inflation, and do particular harm to the software and communications industries. It will also harm universities, libraries and the disabled."
Said Terri Dowty, Director of Action on Rights for Children and member of FIPR's Advisory Council:
"We have already seen the kind of pressure that companies are prepared to exert on the parents of children who download music without due thought. We fear that they would not baulk at mounting criminal prosecutions of children.
Said Nicholas Bohm, FIPR's General Counsel:
"Criminalising patent and other IPR infringement could expose a range of business advisers (accountants, lawyers, bankers) to threats of prosecution as accessories if a company involved in a deal they were arranging or implementing was subject to an infringement complaint."
Contact for enquiries
Ross Anderson Chair of FIPR and Professor of Security Engineering, Cambridge University 01223 334733 0791 905 8248 chair AT fipr.org Terri Dowty Director, Action on Rights for Children 020 8558 9317 Archrights AT aol.com Nicholas Bohm General Counsel, FIPR 01279 871272 07715 419728 nbohm AT ernest.net
Notes for editors
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