Europe May Vote Three Strikes Out

Countries such as France and Britain may adopt a “three strikes” policy against illegal file-sharers but still find themselves at odds with European law.

While the French national assembly readied itself for another look at the proposed “Internet And Creation Law” on April 29, European parliamentarians were meeting to discuss whether countries can create agencies to disconnect illegal downloaders before an infringer is convicted of the offense by a court of law.

The general opinion of a growing number of Euro MPs headed by Guy Bono, a French member of the European parliament, is that national authorities should be made to seek court permission before disconnecting customers.

In September, Bono forced an amendment to include such a clause in the telecoms reforms package currently going through the European parliament, although it was later removed by the council of ministers.

However, it has now been reintroduced by Catherine Trautmann – a former French minister of culture who’s now a Euro MP for the east of France – and her campaign to bring back the amendment is gaining support.

A meeting of the European Parliament’s industry, research and energy committee in Strasbourg April 21voted 40 to 4 in favour of a clause that appears to undermine the graduated response (three strikes) legislation.

Part of the amendment says: “No restriction may be imposed on the fundamental rights and freedoms of end-users, without a prior ruling by the judicial authorities, notably in accordance with Article 11 of the [European] Charter of Fundamental Rights on freedom of expression and information, save when public security is threatened in which case the ruling may be subsequent.”

If the European parliament passes the telecoms reforms with the amendment intact, France would struggle to reconcile it with its domestic efforts to disconnect file sharers.

The reintroduced bill before the French assembly April 29 would create an agency to issue two warnings to Internet freeloaders and disconnect the offender’s connection upon a third infraction.

The proposal was rejected in a poorly attended session April 9, but – as the bill has the backing of French President Nicolas Sarkozy and culture minister Christine Albanel – it’s likely the ruling UMP party will have enough members in the assembly to see the bill gets a majority vote next time.

Trade organisations including the BPI, the IFPI and IMPALA have expressed their support for the French law and said they would like to see similar legislation rolled out on a global basis.