Music and movie industries muscle in on EU anti-terror law

The film and music industries are demanding equal rights with anti terrorist agencies. An industry grouping called the Creative and Media Business Alliance (CMBA) has written to European MEPs asking that powers given to law enforcement agencies to monitor private phone calls, emails and Internet surfing be extended to record and movie industry investigators to help combat piracy and copyright theft.

In the letter to the MEPs, the music and movie companies said they ‘would appreciate your support in ensuring that this becomes an effective instrument in the fight against piracy’.

The proposals to harmonise data retention across the EU have been hard fought. The current position is that the power to snoop on digital communications should be restricted to agencies investigating ‘serious crimes’. It also compels ISPs to keep all communications for up to six months and telecoms operators for up to one year. Originally, the plan was for all communications to be kept for up to three years.

The CMBA is an umbrella group for various large corporations including Sony BMG, Disney and EMI. The organisation’s parent body is the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) whose secretariat is based in London and is affiliated with the Recording Industry Association of America.

In the letter, the CMBA says it wants the scope the EU ruling extending to all criminal activity. It argues that as an ISP has data that may help to detect and convict criminal activity under European law, why not use it to cover all illegal activity.

The group also says it is alarmed at proposals to restrict further the use of the data retentions proposal. It claims that six months is the bare minimum it would require to complete investigations into criminal piracy rings.

Civil rights groups are not pleased. The Open Rights Group points out that the list of ‘serious’ criminal offences has been defined as being those crimes listed for use in the EU Arrest Warrant legislation. The arrest warrant list includes ‘piracy’ that could possibly include aiding, abetting and incitement to file sharing.

The Data Retention Petition Campaign says that the CBMA changes – if passed – would ‘undermine public support… by equating private copying and file-sharing with terrorism… by this move, you’ve placed the file sharing public (a large portion of the public) in the same camp as terrorists.’

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