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Anti-piracy law threatens EU telecoms revamp

28 апреля 2009

An effort by the European parliament to limit the reach of anti-piracy prosecutions is threatening to derail the European Union’s ambitious plans to revamp telecommunications legislation.

A parliamentary proposal to turn internet access into a fundamental human right is proving unacceptable to member states, with time fast running out for a deal to be struck before the parliamentary elections in June.

Though intellectual property protection was not part of the original telecoms package, which is set to give Brussels the upper hand in scrutinising phone operators, diplomats fear that failure to tackle the contentious issue could derail two years of negotiations.

Framing internet access as a human right would effectively scupper the entertainment industry’s efforts to hamper illegal file sharing by threatening to cut off persistent copyright transgressors’ internet connections.

EU diplomats painted the parliament’s position as “extreme” and accused it privately of raising the issue to attract publicity ahead of the elections.

“If the parliament doesn’t stand down, the telecoms package will simply not go through,” said one person involved in the negotiations.

The parliamentary proposal would mandate that only a court order could authorise the termination of an internet connection. Opponents say this is an issue of legal enforcement over which Brussels has traditionally had few powers.

The parliament’s stance is a reaction to France’s proposed “three strikes” law, personally championed by Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president, which critics say makes it too easy for internet service providers to cut off access.

France originally pushed to have a version of the law adopted at European level. The move prompted a group of parliamentarians, led by Catherine Trautmann, a French Socialist, in turn to suggest that cutting off internet access was a restriction on human rights.

A spokesman for the rotating EU presidency said: “None of the existing conventions and laws recognise internet access as a fundamental right on its own. It is simply one of the means of access to information.”

A final meeting between the parliament, Commission and member states is due tonight, with no further opportunities to agree a deal before the elections without the entire package being reopened.

A spokesman for the Commission stressed that “a solution [on intellectual property protection] must be found, and we believe it will be found”.


Источник: Financial Times

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