Convictions for File-Sharing Violate Human Rights!

This is really great!  The European Court of Human Rights has declared that the copyright system stands in direct conflict with fundamental Human Rights.  Meaning that you can’t be taken to court for breaking copyright law unless there are other factors that could lead to a conviction.

This news is fantastic for normal people like me and you, who buy media regularly but sometimes feel the need to illegally acquire content for testing and preview purposes.  Just to be clear at this point, this site does not condone piracy.

For the first time in a judgment on the merits, the European Court of Human Rights has clarified that a conviction based on copyright law for illegally reproducing or publicly communicating copyright protected material can be regarded as an interference with the right of freedom of expression and information under Article 10 of the European Convention. Such interference must be in accordance with the three conditions enshrined in the second paragraph of Article 10 of the Convention. This means that a conviction or any other judicial decision based on copyright law, restricting a person’s or an organisation’s freedom of expression, must be pertinently motivated as being necessary in a democratic society, apart from being prescribed by law and pursuing a legitimate aim.

It is, in other words, no longer sufficient to justify a sanction or any other judicial order restricting one’s artistic or journalistic freedom of expression on the basis that a copyright law provision has been infringed. Neither is it sufficient to consider that the unauthorised use, reproduction or public communication of a work cannot rely on one of the narrowly interpreted exceptions in the copyright law itself, including the application of the so-called three-step test […]

It’s worth remembering that this verdict is not an excuse to illegally obtain anything.  This doesn’t mean that nobody in Europe will ever be convicted of sharing copyrighted material, if other factors can also be used in court then there could still be an issue.

Clearly this is a positive step-forward for European nations although it’s unclear how the changes to the law will impact cases.  This will take time for a precedent to be set and for everyone, including Judges and other officials to gauge the new regulations. [falkvinge]

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