A Europe-wide clampdown on piracy has been welcomed by the software industry, although anti-piracy supporters believe there is a lot of work to be done before it can be enforced.
Piracy costs billions a year in lost revenue, but a proposed European Commission (EC) directive is aiming to harmonise national laws on intellectual property rights to put a stop to unscrupulous counterfeiters.
The proposal, which aims to unify the sentencing of convicted software pirates across Europe, will now go before the European Parliament for discussion. If approved, it could be in place within three years.
Frits Bolkestein, EC internal market commissioner, said: "Pirates and counterfeiters are, in effect, stealing from right holders the fair payment they deserve for their work. We have to get tough with the pirates and counterfeiters and make sure they can find no safe havens in the EU."
The Business Software Alliance (BSA), which recently launched a channel drive to encourage asset management adoption, welcomed the directive.
Francisco Mignoranci, director of public policy BSA Europe, said: "There are currently patchworks of civil remedies across Europe. Piracy is flourishing in some countries and causing disparities in the EU.
"There is still much to be done to improve this directive before complete harmonisation is achieved, but it is a good start," he said.
Marie Therese Huppertz, director of corporate affairs EMEA at Microsoft, one of the biggest victims of piracy, was also positive. "In some countries courts do not award as high damages as in others. If enforcement actions are harmonised, it will be a good thing for all players in the industry," she said.
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