MEP: Media industry must not infiltrate data retention laws

Baroness Sarah Ludford has accused the film and music industry of opportunism over its attempts to extend data storage rules to cover copyright infringement

The music and film industry has been criticised by a member of the European Parliament for pushing for an extension to the proposed Data Retention directive to cover copyright infringement.

Speaking to ZDNet UK on Monday, Liberal Democrat MEP Baroness Sarah Ludford accused the Creative and Media Business Alliance (CMBA) of taking advantage of the directive for its own ends.

"I think they are being very opportunistic," said Baroness Ludford of the CMBA.

As first reported by ZDNet UK last Thursday, the CMBA wants the scope of the Data Retention directive extended to cover all crimes, not just terrorism and other serious offences. This was rejected by the European Parliament's civil liberties committee, which approved the directive as it stood, without the proposed changes, and sent it onto the full European Parliament. The CMBA hopes to persuade the full Parliament of its case, when it considers the issue in December.

CMBA sent a letter to Members of the European Parliament last week claiming that it was wrong to restrict any new data retention powers to merely "the prevention, investigation, detection and prosecution of serious criminal offences such as terrorism and organised crime".

"This Directive is of major importance for our sector and we would appreciate your support in ensuring that this becomes an effective instrument in the fight against piracy," wrote the CMBA.

Baroness Ludford, who is a member of the civil liberties committee, is confident that parliament will not be persuaded.

"The Parliament will not carry this," she said. "The committee said this should extend to [offences that merit] a serious arrest warrant and it must be an offence which carries a minimum of three years, so this will not include music downloads," Baroness Ludford added.

At present, downloading copyright-protected material is not a de facto criminal offence. But a second proposed directive under consideration in Europe would criminalise intellectual property violations in Europe.

While Ludford's comments will hearten those who oppose the CMBA's plans, others appear to support the Alliance.

According to the Open Rights Group, another Liberal Democrat MEP, Bill Newton Dunn, asked that the word 'serious' be removed from the text of the proposed directive, so it would cover all criminal offences. Newton Dunn could not be contacted for comment at the time of writing.

With the European Parliament set to vote on the measures in December, it is unclear what the European Commission's overall position now is with regard to the CMBA's request.

The Commission, the body which introduces new proposed European legislation, had not responded to repeated requests for comment at the time of writing.