EU votes to protect file sharing

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Plans to cut off internet access to people accused of file sharing have hit a hurdle after the EU voted to protect the rights of internet users..

A so-called 'three strikes and you’re out' plan, which is planned in France and proposed in the UK by the British Phonographic Institute (BPI) in this country, will now be much easier to challenge after a narrow vote in the European parliament which states that such bans conflicted with "civil liberties and human rights".

The parliament was voting on the Bono Report on the Cultural Industries, which examined the development of culture and intellectual property in the Union. Swedish MEP Christofer Fjellner and the former Prime Minister of France, Michel Rocard put in a last minute amendment saying that a three strike rule would:

"[conflict] with civil liberties and human rights and with the principles of proportionality, effectiveness and dissuasiveness, such as the interruption of Internet access".

The amended bill squeaked through, 314 in favour to 297 against, against a background of heavy lobbying from both sides.

"The European Parliament's file-sharer friendly statement is well timed," said Karl Sigfrid, a Swedish national MP, in his blog.

"France will soon get the opportunity to chair the EU, and one priority will be to force European ISPs to cut the internet connection of anyone illegally downloading a song or a movie. If insisting on his plans, Sarkozy now faces an uphill battle."

But the copyright lobby has expressed dismay at the move, with the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) expressed its dismay at the defeat of the legislation.

Frances Moore, IFPI executive vice president, said: "Many of the recommendations in this report stress the need to protect intellectual property as a driver of growth in the creative sector."

"However, one badly drafted, rushed through amendment was adopted which is in contradiction to the rest of the text. 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. Instead, this amendment suggested discarding certain options before there is even a proper debate."

The move will also be a boost to Carphone Warehouse and its internet service provider TalkTalk, which is being threatened with legal action by the BPI over its refusal to co-operate and introduce a three strikes policy.
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