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EU accidentally orders ISPs to become copyright police

Legislator: 'No we never'

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Part of the EU Telecommunications Package, agreed by MEPs on Monday, could be interpreted to endorse cutting off P2P users after a written warning or two, even though the author claims that was not the intention.

The disputed text, which some are claiming is deliberately concealed within impenetrable legalese, states that national regulators - such as the UK's Ofcom - must promote "cooperation" between access providers and those "interested in the protection and promotion of lawful content".

This would seem to be beyond the provision of basic information, and could be interpreted to mean regulators have a responsibility to turn ISPs into law enforcement bodies policing the internet for copyright holders.

Arguments about the technical feasibility of such an action are irrelevant. It's not the law-maker's job to know how a law can be enforced, it would be up to the ISPs and copyright holders to work out who to accuse and what action to take, and up to the courts to decide if action was taken inappropriately.

More fundamentally, the question is if ISPs should take responsibility for the traffic they carry.

But one of the MEPs responsible for the text, Malcolm Harbour, was quick to explain that this is not the intended meaning at all:

"The interpretation ... is alarmist and scare-mongering and deflects from the intention which was to improve consumers' rights," he told the BBC. Harbour also found time to debate the text on Radio 5 (mp3 - first item), where he reiterated that the legislation has more innocent intentions, and promised to amend the text before the final vote in September if enough people found it misleading. ®

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