Euro U-Turn Over Internet

The European parliament appears to have given up on the idea of making it hard for member states to cut off pirates from the Internet, according to the latest draft of its Telcoms Package.

It has dropped an amendment that would have made it hard for countries to cut off pirates without court authority.

Although both countries will face tough opposition from various civil rights and consumer groups, the U.K. and France are two of the larger and long-term EU members that have favoured a tougher approach to illegal file-sharing.

The French government has just approved plans that could see pirates removed from the net for up to a year. If U.K. business secretary Peter Mandelson gets his way, the next version of the government’s Digital Britain report will likely include a clause about disconnecting persistent offenders.

The clause that’s been dropped from the EU bill was Amendment 138, which was designed to protect citizens against being automatically cut off from the net.

“Any such measures liable to restrict those fundamental rights or freedoms may only be taken in exceptional circumstances…and shall be subject to adequate procedural safeguards in conformity with the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights,” it said.

Dumping Amendment 138 effectively means that individual countries would be able to ask Internet service providers to remove users deemed to be persistent pirates without needing a prior court order.