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EU Approves Illegal File-Sharing Policy Amendments
By: MarkJ - 08 July, 2008 (9:06 AM)

Lilian Edwards, a University of Southampton law professor, has confirmed that yesterdays vote on several controversial amendments to the EU's 'Telecoms Package', which could see illegal file-sharers (P2P) being disconnected from the Internet, has gone through (original news). However, the package of changes will not be formally voted on until early September 2008, leaving time for further adjustments.

Writing on her blog (Pangloss), Edwards noted that the policy drafter, Malcolm Harbour, is keen to dampen fears over the proposals. Harbour claims that it is not the intention of the amendments to lay the foundations for legitimising member states introduction of "Three-Strikes" style anti-piracy laws:

"Harbour added that if the amendments could be so interpreted, were too wide basically, then he'd be happy to accept other amendments making it clear this wasn't intended to be the case. Pangloss thinks this an excellent way to proceed, and 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 3 strikes legislation," said Lilian Edwards.

The recent media coverage and interpretation clearly suggests that Harbour's draft is being seen as a means to help legitimise an EU-wide ‘three-strikes’ system, which will hopefully prompt further amendments to counter that. Readers can also check out our 'To Ban or Not to Ban (Illegal File Sharers)' article for some more background on this subject.

In related news, last weeks Intellect Conference in London (news) saw Ofcom's chief, Ed Richards, commenting on more than just the next-gen broadband debate. He also hinted that the regulator might become more involved in the issue of online piracy:

"The issue is critical. An operator investing in next generation networks will not want it clogged up with illegal peer-to-peer content if that means no-one will pay to ensure a return on the investment, as we have seen in some Asia Pacific markets. And content providers, self evidently, do not want illegal traffic undermining their investment in IPR," said Richards.

"This is a crucial issue for both network providers and content creators. It has not touched every company in these spheres yet, but it will do. We very much hope that a commercial or voluntary agreement can be found to resolve these difficult issues. As the converged communications regulator, if we can play a constructive role in helping to find a common solution in the best interests of companies and consumers we would be very happy to do so."

However, Richards did concede that Ofcom’s formal involvement in this would be limited by its own remit as a regulator and could not elaborate on what it might do.

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