Bulgaria Approves Draft Law That Turns Pirate Site Operators Into Criminals
The stated aim of the bill is to solve identified weaknesses by upgrading substantive law to counter computer-related crimes against intellectual property. The text references those who “build or maintain” an information system or provide a service to the information society for the purpose of committing crimes. The notes offer further clarification. “The bill aims to prosecute those who create conditions for online piracy — for example, by building and maintaining torrent tracker sites, web platforms, chat groups in online communication applications for the online exchange of pirated content, and any other activities that may fall within the definition of ‘information society service’ within the meaning of the Electronic Commerce Act (pdf) and which are carried out with the specified criminal purpose.”
The Bulgarian government notes that the amendments are part of its response to criticism in the USTR’s Special 301 Report. [When countries are placed on the USTR’s ‘Watch List’ for failing to combat piracy, most can expect years of pressure punctuated by annual Special 301 Reports declaring more needs to be done. Bulgaria was on the Watch List in 2015 when the USTR reported “incremental progress” in the country’s ability to tackle intellectual property infringement, albeit nowhere near enough to counter unsatisfactory prosecution rates. In 2018 the United States softened its position toward Bulgaria, removing it from the Watch List on the basis that the government would probably deliver.] The fact that Bulgaria has been absent from the ‘Watch List’ for the last five years is down to “specific commitments” made by the authorities, with progress being monitored closely by the United States in respect of Bulgaria’s future status. The draft approved by the Council of Ministers last week envisions sentences of up to six years imprisonment and a fine of up to $5,600. According to the draft, there is no intent to prosecute individual users who simply consume pirated content.
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