Is restricting consumer rights good for Germany’s future? (Yeah, right.)

In an interview published today, the German Minister of State and Commissioner for Cultural and Media Affairs Bernd Neumann (CDU) explains why he thinks that making fair use copies illegal is not only necessary, but also great for Germany’s future. He takes responsibility prides himself of being the person who got rid of that nasty little paragraph in the new German copyright law (Urheberrecht) which would have protected kids and consumers from prosecution for private, non-commercial music downloads.

Here’s a part of the interview followed by a quick and dirty translation:

Was nicht zulässig ist, muss wahrnehmbar verboten sein. Wir müssen ein Unrechtsbewusstsein dafür schaffen, dass illegales Kopieren Diebstahl geistigen Eigentums ist. Dabei geht es nicht darum, die Nutzung von legalen Privatkopien zu verbieten oder die Schulhöfe zu kriminalisieren. Die Verletzung geistigen Eigentums muss ebenso ernst genommen werden wie die Verletzung gegenständlichen Eigentums durch Diebstahl. Mir ist es gelungen, so, wie ich es der Musikwirtschaft bei der jüngsten MIDEM in Cannes versprochen hatte, die im ursprünglichen Entwurf der Justizministerin enthaltene sogenannte Bagatellklausel zu entfernen. Diese Bagatellklausel sah vor, illegales Kopieren in beschränktem, kleinem Umfang von vornherein von der Strafverfolgung auszunehmen. Das wäre ein verheerendes Signal gegen den Schutz des geistigen Eigentums gewesen. Translation: It must be clearly visible what’s illegal. We need to create the feeling that it’s wrong to make illegal copies and that it’s theft of intellectual property. This is not about ruling out legal private copies or about criminalizing school yards. Violation of intellectual property must be taken as seriously as violation of physical property by theft. As I promised the music industry at the last MIDEM in Cannes, I managed to remove the so called Bagatellklausel [the paragraph that stated that minor offenses wouldn’t be prosecuted] from the Minister of Justice’s original draft. This Bagatellklausel would have allowed for not prosecuting illegal copying of restricted, small amounts. This would have been a devastating signal against the protection of intellectual property.

Yuck! I had been wondering where that paragraph had gone all of a sudden, as it was still in all the drafts I had seen before the parliamentary vote. He really didn’t do German consumers a favor with this one.

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