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Germany

New Copyright Law Gets Tough on Music Pirates

Computer addicts nonchalantly offering and downloading music and films on the Internet in Germany now face legal crackdown as the country’s new copyright law comes into effect this weekend.

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No more free bootlegs from the Internet.

Around three billion pirate copies of CDs and DVDs are produced in Germany every year. New copyright legislation which takes effect starting Saturday will now change that.

The "law to regulate copyright in the information society" as it is called makes it illegal to reproduce copy-protected or bootlegged CDs and DVDs in Germany. It is seen as an additional tool in the fight against Internet and software piracy and is meant, in particular, to prevent people from downloading music or films from Internet file-sharing platforms.

Brigitte Zypries, Justizministerin

Brigitte Zypries, German Justice Minister

German Justice Minister Brigitte Zypries (photo) warned on Friday in Berlin that whether it was commercial, private, free or against payment, those who "offered or spread music, films or computer games as a download on the Internet without being authorized to do so, were liable to punishment."

The minister added that with the advent of the digital age, it had become necessary to extend the realm of copyright protection and intellectual property to the Internet.

She warned that the cracking or violation of copyright procedures and codes would be pursued with penalties and imprisonment if it "wasn’t exclusively meant for the personal use of the accused" or close family and friends.

Music industry lauds new legislation

The new legislation has been welcomed by the music industry.

The German Music Publishers’ Association said the amendment would finally spell an end to the long wait for copyright protection and said it expected that "the illegal copying of music would now be pursued seriously."

The organization also stressed last month that "enormous economic damage that the music branch has suffered from intellectual theft over the years" could be fought more effectively and added that now everyone should know that there was no legal Internet exchange.

Being fair

Scorpions Musical Wind of Change

Klaus Meine, right, and Rudolf Schenker of Germany's rockband Scorpions

The Scorpions (photo), the most successful German band on the international stage, have also taken a stand on Internet exchanges. "As a band, the Scorpions, who've been together for thirty years now, have never suffered that much from this phenomenon," band member Matthias Jabs told Deutsche Welle recently. "But we do have a natural interest in seeing a fair relationship between artists producing the music and customers purchasing it. In whatever form. As long as people are actually paying."

But the Scorpions said they were concerned that the music industry was losing sight of its customers. They said that CDs were too expensive and that made it more attractive for people to download from the Internet at no charge.

"Record companies need to create new structures so as not to lose customers," Rudolf Schenker, another band member said. "Some kind of compromise must be reached to enable people to download music at any time. We have to get closer to our fans and communicate more quickly with them and respond to trends more quickly."

Up to industry

Many consumers use the Internet to track down new music, to get a taste of new bands. Although the industry has developed legal Web sites where consumers can pay for and download music, peer-to peer sites remain much more popular.

Industry would possibly be wise to find a way to allow peer-to-peer Internet exchanges though, since many consumers use the Web to track down and listen to new music.

"It makes it easy to expand my taste in music and listen in to new sounds," Sven Hansen, an editor at the German computer magazine "c't" told Deutsche Welle. "The Internet is the ideal medium for music and it doesn't have to be a disadvantage for the music industry. It means more people listen to music."

But the impetus in now on the industry. With the new law now in effect, people using the Net in Germany ought to think twice before downloading material from Internet exchanges. At the least they could be sued, at the most they could spend three years in jail.

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