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Eurocrats, MEPs clash on telecoms reform to flush out pirates

Cutting off is hard to do

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The European Parliament and its member states are reportedly on a “collision course” over tackling online piracy, after the two parties failed to agree on a final sticking point in a massive reform of the telecoms industry.

As a result final adoption has been pushed back until May at the earliest, according to Reuters.

It had been broadly agreed by MEPs and EU member state ambassadors that allowing internet service providers to cut off a copyright infringer’s service should be granted official approval from “a competent legal authority.”

However, some MEPs want such a provision to be included in the law itself, while Eurocrats insist such a move should be placed simply as guidelines in the report’s “legislative preamble”, that doesn’t form part of the legal text.

Members of the European Parliament industry committee passed an amendment yesterday to the telecoms bills requiring that web cut-offs could only be imposed after a decision by judicial authorities.

The committee voted overwhelmingly in support of placing the amendment within the law, rather than simply as a prelude to it, with votes 40 to four in favour.

"This is the major sticking point. It is clear member states won't agree to this going into the body of the text," an EU diplomat told Reuters last night.

"It would be a shame if the whole reform was held back just because of something which was not in the original proposal."

Although Commissioner Vivien Reding’s telecoms reform bill, which covers infrastructure rather than content, has been widely accepted by both parliament and EU member states, MEPs have previously expressed concern about some of the small print.

In September last year members of the European parliament backed a similar amendment that intended to end France’s “three strikes law”, in which copyright violators would have their internet access cut-off for up to a year if they failed to stop pirating content. Some Eurocrats had described such a practice as unjustly harsh.

Last month French legislators rejected the 'Hadopi' bill which would terminate the internet connections of copyright infringers. Assembly members rejected the measure by 21-15 in a poorly attended vote, a week after the lower house passed the measure.

The latest battle of the telecoms reform legislature comes just days after four co-founders of The Pirate Bay were convicted in a Swedish court of copyright offences. ®

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