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European Commission seeks tougher penalties for pirates

The European Commission is planning to align national criminal laws on counterfeiting and piracy across the EU's 25 states. Those who infringe copyright on a commercial scale would be fined at least €100,000 under today's proposal.

The Commission today adopted proposals for a Directive and for a framework decision to combat infringements of intellectual property rights. Apart from harmonising national laws, its plan is to improve European cooperation in the fight against counterfeiting and piracy activities, which are often carried out by criminal organisations.

Most piracy is already illegal across the EU; but the Commission says the penalties vary considerably and are often too lenient.

Under the proposal for a Directive, intentional infringement of any intellectual property right on a commercial scale, and attempting, aiding or abetting and inciting such infringements are treated as criminal offences.

It's not just CDs and DVDs that attract the pirates. In a study of counterfeit and pirated goods seized by Customs in 2004 at the external borders of the EU member states, Hungary seized 300,000 counterfeit face and body lotions, Malta seized 10,000 car parts, Lithuania intercepted 400,000 batteries, and Estonian customs intercepted 11 shipping vessels full of counterfeit clothes.

The proposal for a framework decision sets a threshold for criminal penalties applicable to the perpetrators of these offences: at least four years' imprisonment if the offence involves a criminal organisation or if it jeopardises public health and safety. The applicable fine must be at least €100,000 to €300,000 for cases involving criminal organisations or posing a risk to public health and safety. The proposal allows Member States to apply tougher penalties.

The texts of the proposals for the Directive and framework decision were not available at the time of writing.

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