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The European Commission has confirmed that is is looking at a Europe-wide approach to intellectual property enforcement on the Internet. In light of its ACTA defeat, the Commission is being deliberately ambiguous as to the nature of the measures under consideration. But could it mean pan-European web blocks?

The new EU position has emerged just as a public consultation has closed. In an opaque 'road map' for enforcement policy, the European Commission has indicated that cross-border enforcement has been highlighted in responses from external organisations. The Commission clarifies that 'cross-border' enforcement is linked in its mind to the Internet, which has no borders.

Although that may seem illogical, in Commission-speak it means that the Internet carries intangible goods and services across borders, and therefore enforcing protection of intellectual property at any given geographic border, is not possible.

In other words, the Commission is trying to say that all European countries should have the same IPR enforcement measures, implemented in the same way.

That is exactly what the copyright industries want. And, if it were any other industry, it might seem completely logical.

Of course, this is copyright and in that context, a consistent implementation of IPR enforcement measures might well mean EU-wide 3 strikes measures. Or some kind of the pan-European web blocking.

The roadmap hints at 'fast track procedures'. Fast-track measures could include blocking injunctions that can be obtained quickly, without a long court process.

There is an indication that such fast-tracking could be presented as a way to help out small to medium size businesses (SMEs). The paradox is that fast tracking will be a great help to large corporate businesses, who want to sue lots of small infringers.

Fast tracking will be of little help to small businesses who have been harmed by large corporates for infringing or stealing their designs. A friend of mine is trying to take legal action in just such a case. She already has a lawyer's bill of many thousands of pounds, and no fast-track service would help her.

The European Commission is only too aware of the incentiary nature of such cross-border, fast-track proposals, and seems to be saying nothing more for the moment.

The timing for the IPR roadmap is unclear. The Commission has to go through all the responses in detail before it make any further statements. Given the length of the questionnaire, that may take some time.

Ultimately, the outcome will be determined by the internal politics. The Commission has already said that legislative proposals are not expected until next year. (See EU puts IPR enforcement on the back burner). We may see various ideas floated, and there will be ongoing consultations. But I still think there is a fair chance that any serious legislation will be pushed to the other side of the European elections.

More comment here from La Quadrature du Net

This is an original article from Iptegrity.com and reflects research that I have carried out. If you refer to it or to its content, please cite my name as the author, and provide a link back to iptegrity.com. Media and Academics - please cite as Monica Horten, EU puts fast-track IPR enforcement on the map , 22 April 2013, in www.iptegrity.com. Commercial users - please contact me.

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About Iptegrity

Iptegrity.com is the website of Dr Monica Horten. I am an  independent policy advisor: online safety, technology and human rights. In April 2024, I was appointed as an independent expert on the Council of Europe Committee of Experts on online safety and empowerment of content creators and users. I am a published author, and post-doctoral scholar. I hold a PhD from the University of Westminster, and a DipM from the Chartered Institute of Marketing. I cover the UK and EU. I'm a former tech journalist, and an experienced panelist and Chair. My media credits include the BBC, iNews, Times, Guardian and Politico.

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