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EU votes against disconnecting file-sharers

Two reports from the European Parliament argue that if filesharers of copyrighted material are not trying to make money from their actions, they should not be criminalised or thrown off the internet
Written by David Meyer, Contributor

People should not be criminalised for the file-sharing of copyrighted material if they are not profiting from doing so, the European Parliament has recommended.

On Thursday the parliament voted through two reports on the cultural industries. Both contained amendments that were directly related to the ongoing argument between the content industry and internet service provider (ISPs). In this conflict, the ISPs are claiming that they should not have to disconnect those users who are persistent filesharers, but the content industry is calling for a "three strikes and you're out" rule in order to protect intellectual property.

The argument encompasses not only the prospect of users being "banned" from internet use, but also the deep packet inspection techniques that would have to be employed in order to catch them.

One of the reports urged the European Commission and member states to avoid allowing measures that are in conflict with civil liberties, human rights and the principle of proportionality. The other, which passed with a much thinner majority, specifically called for the Commission to "rethink the issue of intellectual property in order to assure solutions that are equitable for both big and small actors and strike a balance between the respect of intellectual property and the access to cultural events and content".

"[The European Parliament] underlines that on the battle against digital piracy, the solution should not be to criminalise consumers who do not intend to make profit out of their actions," a parliamentary statement read.

A spokesperson for the parliament told ZDNet.co.uk on Friday that, while the reports were recommendations and not legally binding, they summed up "what the mood is now" in Europe. "People downloading from sites — often they don't know that it's not legal, so they shouldn't [be criminalised] if they're not trying to make a profit out of it," the spokesperson said, adding that people or companies who were trying to make a profit from the filesharing of copyrighted material should be criminalised.

However, another recommendation in the report called on the Commission to "do what is necessary to enforce and protect literary and artistic property rights, especially in the digital environment".

The International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) was quick to react on Thursday, saying that the European Parliament's recommendations on filesharing were "badly drafted [and] rushed through".

"If the aim of the report is to protect creative content, including in the online environment, we should be looking at all options available in the fight against copyright theft," said IFPI executive vice president Frances Moore. "Instead, this amendment suggested discarding certain options before there is even a proper debate."

However, IFPI has welcomed the news from France that filesharers of copyrighted material there may soon be thrown off the internet. The organisation called the French move "the single most important initiative to help win the war on online piracy that we have seen so far".

A spokesperson for the UK ISP Association was not available for comment at the time of writing.

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