Germany Adopts New DMCA-Like Law

Q Boyer
BERLIN — With a crackdown on peer-to-peer content sharing sites already in full swing, the upper house of the German parliament last week approved new legislation that is drawing comparisons to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act in the U.S.

The Bundesrat last week approved legislation that altered German copyright law in ways that favor the entertainment industry, while more clearly defining the rights of consumers with respect to content they have purchased, in comparison to its American copyright law equivalent, according to media accounts.

For many years, Germany has employed a tariff on blank media and some electronics products as a means of compensating artists, composers and content publishers for copying of their works by German consumers. Under the new law, only private copying of unencrypted, authentic and authorized source material will be permitted.

The law provides no consumer protection for private copying of material already distributed online without the authorization of the copyright holder, such as content obtained through P2P systems and torrent sites, or for making copies from a source other than the original.

Set to take effect in 2008, the new copyright law also prohibits the unrestrained copying of materials from libraries and museums, and sets regulations for the archival of encrypted content.

Adoption of the new law comes on the heels of several injunctions being issued by German courts that resulted in the shut down of seven servers used by the eDonkey P2P network.

The eDonkey servers were closed down as a result of series of legal actions taken by the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry, a group representing a collection of more than 1400 recording industry companies from around the globe. In addition to the actions it filed in Germany, the IFPI has gone through the courts to close down eDonkey servers in France and the Netherlands.

IFPI hailed the rulings of the German courts and subsequent eDonkey server closures as proof of their efficacy in combating content piracy, saying that in the last few weeks alone, “the number of eDonkey users worldwide has been reduced by more than a million, knocking an estimated third of users off the network.”

Although the primary eDonkey site has been down for several weeks, and currently carries a message reading in part that the “eDonkey2000 Network is no longer available,” other servers have remained up, and a significant number of users have continued to make use of the network.

IFPI vowed to continue the fight against eDonkey, and said that “fresh actions will continue to target the remaining eDonkey servers” wherever those servers are found.

“These actions show the reach of the recording industry’s internet anti-piracy operation,” said Jeremy Banks, director of IFPI’s Internet Anti-Piracy Unit. “IFPI has an expert team which traces the origin of illegal content on the internet and works with law enforcement agencies to get copyright-infringing content off the internet.”

According to IFPI, more than 50,000 legal actions have been initiated by the recording industry against alleged infringers around the globe.