The legislation was proposed in the hopes of, among other things, preventing the creation and sale of pirated DVDs and music and protecting intellectual property rights. The European Commission estimates counterfeit products — ranging from fake Viagra to designer sneakers — costs EU manufacturers up to $680 billion annually.
The law's opposition, however, fears that taking the authority to prosecute away from individual nations, and creating such a broad definition of copyright crime, could make it easier for criminals to use loopholes to escape punishment.
"The problem is that while having 20 fake CDs in a suitcase in France may constitute piracy on a commercial scale, that may not be the case in other countries, and this legislation leaves open too much room for interpretation," said Christina Sleszynska, spokeswoman for the International Trademark Association.
Nicola Zingaretti, an Italian member of the European Parliament who sponsored the proposal, said that the law is aimed at criminals and would not affect "kids who downloaded music from the Internet."
Peer-to-peer sharing or illegal downloading of music or movie files for nonprofit use, however, are exempt from the law.
"We want to make sure that all over the EU, pirates and counterfeiters are punished," Zingaretti said. "Over the last 10 years, more than 125,000 workers lost their jobs because of unfair competition from counterfeiters around the world."
Creators of pirated and counterfeit products in a large scale could face up to four years in prison and up to $408,709 in fines. Smaller-scale violations could bring up to $136,249 in fines.