By Richard Menta- 5/7/01
Something is rotten in Denmark are words the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) may be whispering to themselves soon. The Industry Standard has revealed that the Danes are proposing changes in their law that will give users the right to download music from the Net.
Looking to liberalize present Danish copyright laws that are more strict than other European nations the government is preparing a new law that will open up 'fair use' rules among its citizens. The existing laws forbid citizens from making any copies of digital media, including CD's, for personal use. The new law will allow all forms of digital copying for private use, including the right to download music from the Internet.
"We will make it legal to make digital copies for personal use," said Danish ministry spokesman Kenneth Jorgensen.
Needless to say, corporations that hold copyrights or represent copyright holders are not happy with this action by Denmark.
"I can't believe you can make a lawful copy from a completely illegal Internet copy," the Standard quoted Allen Dixon, general counsel for International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), the world equivalent of the RIAA. "In our view, that would be against the European copyright directive and violate World Trade Organization rules, as it would interfere with normal trade."
Indeed, copying music from the Net is still illegal in most European countries. Recent European Union (EU) law has further tightened restrictions on digital downloads and as a member of the European Union Denmark is expected to honor its tenets.
But the EU offers room for how each member country applies those tenets. While the proposed Danish law gives users the right to download, it does not legalize companies like Napster who provide such music without consent of the copyright holders.
This takes legal burden of Net downloading off of the user and only applies it to the delivery company. The end result is this will prevent copyright holders from using a tactic in Denmark they have already employed in the US and Taiwan. Holding the user responsible for the music they download, both the RIAA and the IFPI have turned law enforcement against the very consumers who buy their records by sending police to crash into user homes and dormitories, confiscate their computers, and jail them.
In Taiwan, the government backed the students arrested and denounced the raids, which were committed without the benefit of a warrant. The US was not so supportive, remaining silent as Oklahoma State student Scott Wickberg and Oregon student Jeffrey Levy were forced to plea bargain for fines and probation to avoid costly litigation.
These raids are expected to continue as a useful scare tactic to keep MP3 file trading in check. Presently, 37 million Americans actively download music from the Internet, which means a significant percentage of US consumers are vulnerable to criminal action based industry accusations of music piracy.
Such tactics are reprehensible and should be stopped. Hopefully this country and others will follow Denmark's lead.
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