EU Commission Calls For Substantial Law Enforcement Boost to Fight Piracy

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The EU Commission is calling for the capacity of law enforcement agencies around Europe to be "substantially strengthened" to fight piracy and other IP crimes. Promising to reinforce cooperation between rightsholders, intermediaries, police and prosecutors, the Commission says that dealing with these threats must become a higher priority.

EU CopyrightWhile cooperation across borders has been a regular feature of piracy and similar IP crime investigations across Europe, there is considerable momentum in Brussels to make better use of international resources.

Recent actions to tackle unlicensed IPTV providers, resellers and related infrastructure reveal that law enforcement entities are able to pool resources to shut down huge operations. But according to the EU Commission, more needs to be done.

Law Enforcement Needs to Give More Priority to IP Crime

In a paper published this week directed at the European Parliament and European Council, among others, the Commission details an intellectual property action plan designed to support the EU’s “innovative potential”. The 15-page document covers a wide range of IP-related topics, from general counterfeiting to pharmaceuticals, patents, and online piracy.

“As regards counterfeiting and piracy, the Commission sees a clear need to step up efforts. In 2016, imports of counterfeit and pirated goods into the EU amounted to as much as EUR 121 billion, which represents up to 6.8% of EU imports (against 5% of EU imports in 2013),” the paper reads.

“New forms of IP infringements have arisen on the internet, such as cyber theft of trade secrets (accounting for an estimated EUR 60 billion of losses in the EU, illegal internet protocol television (IPTV) and other forms of illegal (live) streaming. They raise particular challenges for manufacturing, the creative and cultural industries as well as the sports sector.”

Part of the problem, the Commission notes, is that IP crime doesn’t receive the necessary resources at the enforcement level, something that needs to be corrected in order for the EU to maximize its potential.

“The capacity of law enforcement authorities has to be substantially strengthened. Counterfeiting and piracy must become a higher priority,” the Commission notes, urging Member States and the European Council to include IP crime among the priorities for the next EU Policy Cycle.

EU Commission Promises to Reinforce Stakeholder Cooperation

Noting that all relevant stakeholders should continue their exchanges with Europol in order to further improve threat assessment and coordinated action against IP crime, the Commission says it will do its part to improve and increase cooperation between all players involved in or affected by infringement online.

At the top end, this will not only encompass numerous rightsholders but also intermediaries, including online platforms, social media companies, and the advertising industry. Enhanced cooperation will be sought from other entities too, such as those that may play a more passive role in piracy – payment services and domain name registrars and registries, for example.

This cooperation will form a part of what the Commission describes as the “EU Toolbox”, which among other things will clarify roles and responsibilities while identifying how stakeholders can work together. It will also promote new technologies such as image recognition, artificial intelligence and blockchain, to increase the effectiveness of the EU’s IP protection systems.

Protecting EU Companies From Unfair Competition

Noting that its large single market puts the EU in a special position to act as a “global standard-setter in IP”, the Commission says that must be accompanied by better protections against IP theft originating from non-EU countries.

Part of the effort to promote a global level playing field will come via the fledgling Counterfeit and Piracy Watch List, which late last year called out a broad range of alleged ‘pirate’ sites in the BitTorrent, cyberlocker, stream-ripping spaces.

The EU Commission’s paper can be obtained here (pdf)

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