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Music biz to 'hijack' Europe's data retention laws

From terrorism to filesharing

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The entertainment industry is trying to commandeer the proposed European directive on data retention to help it prosecute filesharers in the European Union, it has emerged.

The newly-formed Creative and Media Business Alliance (CMBA), an informal grouping (it says) of companies including Sony BMG, Disney, EMI, IFPI, MPA and Universal Music International, says it wants the data protection directive to be modified specifically so that it can be used to go after pirates.

In a letter to all MEPs, the CMBA said:

"We would appreciate your support in ensuring that this becomes an effective instrument in the fight against piracy".

It went on to ask MEPs to amend the directive so that it covers all criminal offences, not just the "serious" ones of organised crime and terrorism, and that law enforcement's access to the data should not be limited.

When it voted on Wednesday, the European parliamentary committee on civil liberties did keep the word "serious", but only as defined in the European arrest warrant, which includes piracy.

According to Suw Charman, founder of the Open Rights Group, this means the door is officially open for the entertainment industry to use legislation designed to protect European citizens from terrorists to prosecute them instead.

"The industry is attempting to pervert this legislation, to back up a failing business model based on little more than speculation [that downloading is harming the music business]," she told The Register.

"There is no public good in creating legislation that empowers the creative industry to sue its own customers."

She also notes that if IPRED2 is passed (legislation that would make filesharing a criminal, not civil, offense), Europe's tax payers will have to pick up the tab for the prosecutions.

Charman is dismissive of suggestions that the directive is much more balanced now that the committee has amended it, saying that the core problems with the directive remain.

"It is still undemocratic, disproportionate legislation that may well contravene Europe's human rights conventions," she said.

The directive will now go to the European Council, who may chose to reject of the parliamentary committee's amendments, before proceeding to a plenary vote on 13 December. It is only slated to get one reading in parliament, and MEPs will have a matter of days to examine the text before the vote. ®

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