European Greens Want to Legalize File-Sharing, Ban DRM

The European Greens have released a landmark position paper that should guide their policies on copyright in the digital era. The overall theme is a reduction of the copyright monopoly to the benefit of consumers. Among other things the Greens want to legalize file-sharing for personal use, ban DRM entirely and restrict the copyright term to five years.

The Greens / EFA is one of the parliamentary groups in the European Parliament. The group currently hold 57 seats, including one Pirate Party seat held by Christian Engstrom.

This week the Greens released a position paper with their view on copyright in the digital era, which mimics the Pirate Party agenda. The paper goes directly against the current trend of increasing control over copyright, and calls for a society that secures the interests of the public instead of a few multi-million dollar companies.

One of the key proposals is to legalize file-sharing for personal use. “Non commercial sharing between individuals should be allowed, for instance by widening the scope of the existing private copying exception,” the Greens write.

In addition, restrictive technologies such as DRM should be banned entirely, or at least decriminalized.

“It must always be legal to circumvent DRM restrictions, and we should consider introducing a ban in the consumer rights legislation on DRM technologies that restrict legal uses of a work,” the paper reads.

“There is no point in having our parliaments introduce a balanced and reasonable copyright legislation, if at the same time we allow the big multinational corporations to write their own laws, and enforce them through technical means,” it adds.

The Greens also want to reduce the copyright term from 70 to 5 years, with an option for copyright holders to extend it to a maximum of 20 years. The Greens call the current situation “absurd” and argue that society will greatly benefit from a more reasonable copyright term.

“Today’s protection times — life plus 70 years — are absurd. No investor would even look at a business case where the time to pay-back was that long,” they write.

Overall the paper suggests a reduction in the current stranglehold on creativity and a boost for the Internet to allow it to show its full potential. According to the Greens this also means that Net Neutrality should be guaranteed, and that remixes and mashups of copyrighted works for commercial use should be allowed.

Talking to TorrentFreak, Pirate Party MEP Christian Engstrom says that the Greens proposal perfectly resembles what the Pirate Party has been fighting for in recent years.

“I think it’s great,” Engstrom says. “The paper starts off by first going through what the situation is and what the goals are from a Green perspective, and then ends up in the same proposal for copyright reform that the Pirate Party advocates. This makes perfect sense.”

“The idea of copyright reform has existed among Greens before the Pirate Party got involved, but we have helped giving the Greens a push to really put it on the agenda,” he adds.

For Engstrom and all the other Pirate Party employees in Brussels this confirms that they can make a difference, and that the support the Pirate Party got in the 2009 elections was justified.

“I was sent to Brussels by 225,000 Swedish voters who voted for the Pirate Party, with the task to spread the Pirate ideas in the parliament, so that we can one day get the majority for the ideas that we need. This is of course a very big job, but this is a first milestone. It shows that the Pirates can deliver when they get the chance,” Engstrom concludes.

The enthusiasm of the copyright reform paper isn’t limited to Brussels either. Many pirate party members and volunteers will see it as a sign that they can make a difference.

“We know that our ideas are sound for the future, says Rick Falkvinge, founder of the first Pirate Party.

“It is great to see that they are getting larger and larger support. To see one of the seven party groups in the European Parliament adopt our entire perspective as its own is a gigantic leap forward for the civil liberties of the next generation.

“Just like the Green perspective took some time to be fully understood 40 years ago, so will ours. But understanding and endorsement of the pirate perspective keeps growing, and I expect it continue doing so until it is as common sense as acting sustainably,” Falkvinge adds.

The position paper of the Greens can be called revolutionary. However, the group is only a minority in the European Parliament, so there’s a long way to go before it will become law. It’s nonetheless a clear sign that copyright reform is gaining broader acceptance.

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