EU committee gives 'file-sharing' law go-ahead

The Telecoms Package, which still needs to pass a September vote, could have its wording tightened to avoid being used for a copyright crackdown, experts suggest

A set of telecommunications laws has been given the green light by a European parliamentary committee, which includes amendments that some argue could lead to file-sharers being disconnected by their internet service providers.

The 'telecoms package', which on Monday gained approval by the Committee on Internal Market and Consumer Protection (IMCO), has sparked concern over its support for greater collaboration between ISPs and the content industry — an association that many fear could lead to a so-called 'three strikes and you're out' law being introduced in European countries.

Such a law would force ISPs to warn, then disconnect, those customers they think have been sharing copyrighted material online. The telecoms package will, however, need to pass a vote in the European Parliament in September before it can be enacted.

One of the authors of the amendments, the British Conservative MEP Malcolm Harbour, told the BBC on Tuesday that the amendments "have nothing to do with copyright enforcement".

"The interpretation of them is alarmist and scaremongering and deflects from the intention which was to improve consumers' rights," Harbour said.

Lilian Edwards, a law professor at the University of Southampton and author of the Pangloss blog, wrote on Tuesday that she was "relieved" to have heard Harbour say he would accept further revision of the amendments if they were deemed to be too open to interpretation. Edwards had told ahead of the vote that the wording was "definitely wide enough to provide a legitimate foundation in EC law for 'three strikes and you're out'".

"Pangloss… hopes there is an opportunity in the remaining legislative process to tighten these provisions up in a way that retains their public interest intent (eg public education about child pornography) but could not be subsequently misinterpreted as legitimising three strikes legislation," Edwards wrote on Tuesday.


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