An independent study into intellectual property breaches must be carried out before any further relevant legislation is proposed, the European Parliament's legal affairs committee has recommended.
On Tuesday, the MEPS adopted a draft resolution on the harmonisation of copyright, put forward by France's Marielle Gallo. As part of that resolution, the MEPs noted that "data on breaches of intellectual property rights are incomplete".
Existing studies on the effects of copyright have been lambasted for their apparent bias towards rights holders, with some critics pointing out the frequently-drawn false equivalence between unlawful downloads and lost sales.
The committee also said that any new copyright legislation had to respect the 'private copy' as an "exception" to intellectual property rights. The committee said it wants "individuals who copy originals for private use not to have to prove that their copies are legitimate". As things currently stand in UK law, it is illegal to rip a CD for use on one's own iPod.
The MEPs also urged the European Commission to make sure that the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (Acta) fully complies with existing European IP rules and fundamental freedoms.
However, the committee also called for the Commission to the "issue of the balance between free access to the Internet and the measures to be taken to combat this scourge [of unlawful file-sharing] effectively".
"The Commission is therefore asked to propose a comprehensive strategy on IPR which will remove obstacles to creating a single market in the online environment and adapt the European legislative framework in the field of IPR to current trends in society as well as technical developments," a statement from the committee read.
The "enormous growth of unauthorised file sharing of copyrighted works is an increasing problem for the European economy in terms of job opportunities and revenues for the industry as well as for government," the MEPs said, calling for the harmonisation of IP rights and multi-territory licences across Europe so people can have "access to the widest possible choice of content and not at the expense of European local repertoire".
This closely chimes with digital agenda commissioner Neelie Kroes's drive for the creation of a digital single market across the continent. As Kroes has pointed out previously, people will turn to the easiest solution for downloading music and movies, and that is currently an illegal solution, due in part to intensely fragmented IP rights.
The digital rights group La Quadrature du Net reacted in typically direct fashion, referring to Gallo's resolution as "copyright dogmatism" that "reflects the asphyxiating influence of corporate lobbies on EU policy-making".
"Though the Gallo report is a non-legislative text, it shows that the Parliament may be unable to appreciate the need to reform copyright and its enforcement in a direction that serves the development of a creative economy and society," La Quad said. "Whether or not the final report is adopted in its present form, citizens will express their views on the upcoming legislative projects and value policy makers who demonstrate their independence and forward thinking."