New Euro law could make criminals of us all

New Euro law could make criminals of us all

Summary: New legislation from the EU could lock up buskers and criminalise spare tyres. But it's not all good news

TOPICS: Tech Industry

Welcome, European citizen, to a new world of criminality -- a world where you're the star. The IP Enforcement Directive, a proposed new law from the EU, has been attracting some attention from the usual quarters. In particular, the sainted Ross Anderson of Cambridge University has rolled out a masterly analysis of the threat to many of our accepted civil liberties and commercial freedoms. Yet even a cursory readthrough reveals much to be worried about. 

The proposal is a hefty document with no shortage of long sentences. A third of the way through the 54 pages, we've learned that piracy and counterfeiting is bad and that different states have different ways of dealing with it -- also bad. So far, who's arguing? But the solution proposed is to criminalise many civil infringements and to back that up with thudding great powers spring-loaded in favour of the big guys.

By page 20, we're into the meat. Impressed by the UK's Anton Pillar orders -- where your premises can be searched and documents and computers seized without warning -- the proposal seeks to make this a standard European-wide process for intellectual property rights infringements. This is to be backed by freezing of bank accounts and other assets. You can do this now in the UK and many states with legislation based on English law, but it's a fairly rare procedure. Making it the backbone of new law will widen its scope tremendously: you only have to look at the way the RIAA in the US is throwing everything into all-out legal war with its customers to imagine how certain people would behave with this arrow in their quiver.

The really nasty bit comes in Article 21, which creates legal protection for ‘technical systems' intended to protect and authenticate products. That's stuff like the hologram on your credit card and Microsoft licence document, and things like RFID tags. The protection for these systems includes outright bans on the creation, selling and use of equipment that can interfere with their operation -- either by letting you clone the authentication devices, or blocking their use. As with the American Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), this can be extended to the act of analysing how the systems work.

Topic: Tech Industry

Rupert Goodwins

About Rupert Goodwins

Rupert started off as a nerdy lad expecting to be an electronics engineer, but having tried it for a while discovered that journalism was more fun. He ended up on PC Magazine in the early '90s, before that evolved into ZDNet UK - and Rupert evolved with them into an online journalist.

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  • This looks clearly like it was written by lawyers working for the major record labels and film companies. let's look at some history.

    When sheet music was sold, it was these companies who wanted to ban recorded music, until they found a way to sell and make money from records.

    When records were the major money-spinner, they attempted to stop the cassette system from being introduced, then moved to "home taping is killing music", until they introduced their own cassettes.

    In recent years, they lobbied the EU to ban Internet caching as a "prima facie case of copying".

    Now they are after the file-sharers, of course this will stop as soon as they have a way to gather money from it.

    Personally, I have bought many records and CDs from artists who I first heard because someone made me a copy, radio and especially Internet radio stations introduce us to new artists.

    I have also paid multiple times for the same record, on single, vinyl album, CD and multiple compilations, "Make me smile" by Steve Harley anyone?

    More power to those artists who eschew the large record companies and issue releases themselves - a plague on all your houses.
  • I read with great interest the article on how new Euro laws could make criminals of us all - Rupert Goodwins dated 05/08/03, especially the part regarding RFID tags and how - "The protection for these systems includes outright bans on the creation, selling and use of equipment that can interfere with their operation" - I assume that the RFID tags are Susceptible to microwave energy since they are sensitive electronic components, this could mean that if I purchased a pair of jeans that had RFID tags imbedded in them I could place them in a microwave oven and blast them with microwave energy to disable the tags, would this make microwave ovens illegal? Or how about hammers, I could in theory hit every part of the clothing in question to destroy the chips (and the clothing itself as well I suspect), would this make hammers illegal?

    Where and when is all of this madness going to end? At current rates it will be impossible not to break a law every day of our lives.
  • I don't down load Songs off of the internet and never did but to be told that I can't put differant brand of tires on my car is wrong or for some one to be arrested for singing a song on the street to make a living because he didn't pay dues for that song is simply stupid.

    These Guys need to get a Job or find a hobby anything to keep them bussy enough that they don't have time to think.
  • There is a God Who so loved the world that He gave His only Son so that we might learn how to live with one another. The world as a whole has rejected His instructions and is now forced to rely on its own wisdom. Despite our scientific gains humans aren't clever enough to run their own affairs and we must now face the consequences of rejecting the only One Who had the power to prevent this madness descending upon us. You may still save yourself by bending the knee to Jesus and asking for forgiveness.
  • Hey Frank Selch.

    God doesn't exist. If he did, surely he would strike me down for saying that?....



    Hmm, I'm still here.

    So take your god bothering elsewhere. It has no place here.
  • I think people need to take a greater interest in what is going on in the world, collectively.
    We are well aware that there is going to come a time when it will be difficult to buy food, clothes etc if we do not have "the mark".
    Some people believe this will be some kind of chip which will contain personal details about ourselves such as national ID no, address, blood group.

    You belittled the gentleman who dared to mention God but I think we all need to look more deeply as to what and why things are happening.
  • Dear Squiffy,

    why do you sem so bothered and threatened by some one elses opinions? What are you afraid of by accepting that everyone is entitled to their ideas. So you don't believe in God, that is ok for you, but if i don't believe in something all that means is my opinon is different to yours and that is acceptable. what a boring world if we all had the same ideas.

    P.S. Frank Selch is my Dad, and we don't have the same ideas on most topics but we still love and respect each other non the less, and allow each other those ideas
  • You make a stand I am poud of you, you have respect and consideration for others - your mother xxooo