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Tuesday, February 9, 1999 Published at 18:05 GMT


Pop versus Net pirates

CD-quality music can be transferred from the Internet in minutes

Pop stars are asking the European Parliament to tighten up their laws to stop people from illegally copying songs from the Internet.

Rachel Ellison reports on Internet piracy
Plans being debated by Euro MPs would extend existing rights to give musicians, composers and producers more protection against piracy.

Behind the proposals is Europe's powerful music industry lobby, led by the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry.

[ image: Jean-Michel Jarre: Artists rely on royalties]
Jean-Michel Jarre: Artists rely on royalties
It represents stars like Robbie Williams, Boyzone, the Spice Girls, Iron Maiden, Tom Jones and Irish band The Corrs, who have complained to Brussels about a huge loss of income every year because of the free use of musical and film works on the Internet.

Their names figure on a 400-signature petition lodged with the European Parliament in support of the first copyright update to take account of the growth of "information technology".

The musicians, composers and producers want clear, strict laws on the use of original works and copies relayed on the Internet.

French musician Jean-Michel Jarre said: "Apart from talent, copyright is all an artist has to make a livelihood from music."

Fair access

At the moment there is little to stop an entrepreneur from downloading music, recording it onto a CD and selling it.

The commission proposals are designed to avoid giving pirates a blank cheque to make perfect digital copies of music and other works distributed online.

The plan includes exemptions to the reproduction rights for "fair uses" such as the conversion of material into Braille for the blind, and for private copying for personal use of CDs, tapes and videos.

[ image: Musicians are lobbying the European Parliament to protect them from piracy]
Musicians are lobbying the European Parliament to protect them from piracy
Some MEPs, however, are pressing for even tougher laws, saying private copying should be "on condition that the right holders receive fair compensation".

If the idea became law, recording television programmes on video could become illegal, as would copying CDs on to music cassettes.

The only three EU countries which currently do not impose copyright levies on blank tapes and other recording equipment like re-writable CDs would be obliged to do so.

The three - Britain, Ireland and Luxembourg - are preparing to fight the private copying move if it goes through in a European Parliament vote on Wednesday.

But there are hopes that Euro MPs will recognise the need to safeguard the interests of the blind and partly-sighted, the deaf and partly-deaf, librarians, teachers and consumers generally.

Frank Harris of the European Fair Practices in Copyright campaign said: "Brussels must recognise that fair practices in terms of access to copyrighted works is not commercial piracy and causes no damage to copyright holders."

Meanwhile technical efforts to combat Internet music piracy are continuing.

The world's largest computing company, IBM, and five major record companies have just announced trials of a new system for distributing music over the Internet.

Consumers will be able to pay for and download music through their computers at home but will be prevented from making illegal copies.

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