Every year the United States Trade Representative (USTR) inventorizes what problems local industries face when doing business abroad.
The major Hollywood studios, represented by the MPAA, just submitted their latest overview listing trade barriers across the globe.
The MPAA points out that many countries don’t do enough to deter piracy. This is also a common theme in Europe, where privacy laws and regulations make it harder for copyright holders to go after online pirates.
“Privacy has always been a major issue in the European Union. EU Member States have implemented a number of privacy directives to protect individuals’ personal data,” MPAA writes.
According to the MPAA, European privacy rules are extremely complex and difficult. As a result they are often used against efforts that could help to prevent copyright infringement.
For example, IP-addresses are protected as private personal information in several countries including Italy, where they can only be used in criminal cases.
“All EU Member States have detailed data protection laws. These rules, often very strict, are subject to the interpretation of the national data protection authorities,” MPAA notes (pdf).
“Most of them consider IP addresses as personal data and believe that the privacy rules apply to their use,” they add.
The MPAA points out that privacy rights of citizens often trump the rights of copyright holders, which they believe is a “very problematic” development.
As a result, Internet providers often refuse to cooperate with copyright holders claiming that this violates the privacy of their users. This makes it hard for the content industries to cooperate with these companies in various anti-piracy efforts.
“Telecommunications operators and ISPs constantly invoke data protection rules to avoid any meaningful cooperation with the content sector,” MPAA writes.
“Such restrictive interpretations preclude meaningful cooperation with Internet intermediaries, such as telecommunications operators and ISPs, in particular cooperation to combat IP theft.”
In addition, the MPAA is not happy with the EU Court of Justice decision to no longer make data retention mandatory. As a result, many ISPs no longer keep extensive IP-address logs.
The movie studios believe that data retention is an important law enforcement tool, suggesting that it’s harder to track down online pirates without logs.
“Data retention remains a very valuable tool for law enforcement. Rights holders have always claimed the need for reasonable rules and legal certainty. This decision has created even more legal uncertainty in this field.
“Member States have started to respond to the consequences of this decision with legislation and some have invalidated their rules,” MPAA adds.
The data retention argument is not new, but it’s worth noting that the U.S. itself has no mandatory data retention laws. This makes it hard for the U.S. Government to demand that other countries adopt them.
It’s clear though, that the MPAA is not happy with the increased interest in online privacy. With or without help from the U.S. government, they will continue to try and minimize the impact it has on their enforcement efforts.