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Europe drafts law to disconnect suspected filesharers

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France has suggested an amendment to the pan-European Telecoms Package, which would bar broadband access to anyone who persists in illegally downloading music or films.

Last month, the government of Nicolas Sarkozy insisted on a similar "three-strikes-and-you're-out" scheme for France. Under a cross-industry agreement, ISPs would have to cut off access for up to a year for third-time offenders. Sarko believes "there is no reason that the internet should be a lawless zone".

The French legislation, which still needs to be examined by the Senate and eventually by the National Assembly, is facing fierce criticism. The French ISP association says it is against the law.

Now Sarkozy, who took over the European presidency this week, is trying to stretch the measure across Europe through amendments (pdf) to the Telecoms Package, a review of European telecoms law currently in the European Parliament.

Critics fear that through this legislation European ISPs could also be mandated to block legitimate traffic in an effort to 'prevent' illegitimate traffic slipping by. Some amendments will transform the ISPs from technical intermediaries into law enforcers.

Action groups Netzpolitik.org, Open Rights Group and La Quadrature du Net (Squaring the Net) have been actively campaigning on the issue. They believe the amendments will "pave the way for the monitoring and filtering of the internet by private companies, exceptional courts and Orwellian technical measures".

The Industry Committee and Internal Market Committees will vote on the telecom package on Monday. The plenary discussion and vote for the whole package will take place in September. ®

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