Saturday, February 19, 2005

German Film Board Fears Loss of MPAA Lawsuit Tactics

The board of directors of the German Federal Film Board, the national film promoter and levy raiser, has pressed the government not to include the so-called "Bagatellklausel" (trifle clause) in th upcoming reformed copyright law. This trifle clause exempts the exchange of a small number of songs that are exclusively for private use from prosecution. What the exact number is before an exchange gets punishable is to be determined by the courts, announced the Secretary of Justice. She only noted that a one-digit number of songs should be excluded from prosecution, two-digit numbers were questionable, and downloaders going into the three-digit numbers were surely liable to prosecution.

This is an interesting clause, possibly standing in the way to massive individual lawsuits like the one's being filed by the movie (and music) industry in the US. The Federal Film Board indirectly acknowledges this in a press release (German) condemning the trifle clause:
"[It] prevents an effective fight against pirates, by opening the air-locks for the justification of the mass phenomenon of "digital theft". The signal effect, which comes to criminal law standards usually, is lost in this case." [italics added]
The signal effect, that is taking individuals as an example to scare the mass away from file-sharing. The German Film Board fears that it will not be able to use the same tactics as the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), and its musical counterpart the RIAA. The German government has not yet reacted to the Film Board's demand. So, for the moment, no little Hans and Gretchens being sentenced over swapping songs online.
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Related earlier post analyzing the draft for German copyright reform
Thru urheberrecht (German)

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