A group of European music and film artists led by the legendary Beatles' producer Sir George Martin lobbied the European Parliament on Tuesday, seeking changes to proposed laws on piracy in the Internet era.
The EU assembly is due to vote on the new legislation on Wednesday, ending a three-year battle to define how to protect artists' rights and incomes in an age when music and film can be distributed easily and freely around the world.
If approved by MEPs, the new directive would give owners the right to use advanced technology such as encryption to block the illicit copying of works protected by copyright and to limit the illegal downloading of audio and video files from the Internet.
But artists believe the legislation is too weak and fails to protect rightholders adequately from piracy.
Martin said it was not the big music stars that needed protection but the hundreds of thousands of struggling artists that were just starting out in their careers.
"If there is no curb on this, you will stifle creativity," he told a press conference.
"The John Lennon of the future will not materialise and that's too terrible to contemplate."
The EU vote follows a move by a U.S. appeals court on Monday to order online song swap company Napster to stop its millions of users trading copyrighted material in what the recording industry hailed as an end to "electronic shoplifting".
ARTISTS VS CONSUMERS?
European legislators have had to weigh strong lobbying from artists' groups, such as the powerful IFPI (International Federation of the Phonographic Industry) and consumer organisations, which have argued that tough rules may limit individual liberties.
Jay Berman, IFPI chairman and CEO, said that in the current climate, there was no such thing as private copying.
"The directive needs to be narrowed," he told the press conference. "Technology makes private copying public."
The parliament's key legal affairs committee approved the latest compromise draft last week, paving the way for the vote by the full 626-member assembly on Wednesday.
MEPs acknowledged on Tuesday that they had a difficult job.
"I think this delicate and difficult compromise is a step forward," said Enrico Boselli, the Italian socialist who guided the legislation through the parliament.
Toine Manders, Dutch member of the Liberal group and member of the legal affairs committee, signalled his party's willingness to support the final version.
"As far as the Liberals are concerned, we have some differences, but I think as a whole we can stand behind this document and we think it is a good thing," Manders said.