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World Wide Web set to become World Wide Wait

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The Internet could grind to a halt if draft legislation going before the European Parliament today is not amended. MEPs are considering the Draft Report on Copyright in the Information Society which, if passed unchanged, would outlaw the widespread practice of caching information. Although a cross-party group of MEPs has tabled an amendment which would exclude caching, the general secretary of the UK Internet Service Providers Association (ISPA), Nicholas Lansman, is unsure there is enough support for the change. "We have around 60 MEPs on our side at the moment and lobbying is continuing right up to the vote, but I just don't know how it will turn out," said Lansman. "If it does go through, though, it will be very serious for the Internet," he said. A vote is due to be taken around lunchtime today in Strasbourg. The creation of temporary files -- or caching -- is a common practice that helps speed up access for users, while reducing demands on limited Internet bandwidth. The proposed legislation would make caching an infringement of software developers' copyright. ISPA maintains that caching is not a threat to copyright holders but outlawing this practice would have serious consequences for the speed of Internet traffic and the development of electronic commerce in general. Even if the draft report is passed without this amendment the practicalities of policing caching would be almost impossible, said one technical expert. Every piece of Internet-related software on every single PC and server would have to be altered to take account of the changes, he said. A spokesperson for the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry, which has been lobbying in favour of copyright issue, was unavailable for comment. ® See also Eurocrats back tighter protection for digital copyright Anti-caching lobby wins round one of Euro vote Musicians demand EU protect copyright on the Net

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