EU may better protect alleged file sharers

Residents in the European Union who are accused of downloading and sharing copyrighted music may be shielded from being disconnected from the Internet, according to the European Parliament and Council.

Each nation is being urged to create a “fair and impartial procedure” to protect ISP users who face possible six-month or 12-month bans.  The problem is that no one is sure what qualifies as a “fair and impartial procedure,” as European nations have never had to deal with an issue like this before.

Critics of the earlier ruling said no one should face a ban unless they are prosecuted for the copyright infringement charges.  Since many accused file sharers in Europe haven’t been taken to court for copyright infringement, the overall probability of anyone being booted off the Internet would be low if the critics’ plans are adopted.


France became the first government to impose possible punishment for repeat file sharers.  The United Kingdom plans to cut off accused file sharers only after sending summons — and only as a “last resort.”

Prior to cutting Internet connections, each alleged offender is sent an e-mail and then a written letter before the connection is cut.  However, several large British ISPs expressed their discomfort of essentially carrying out the dirty work for music copyright holders.

In late September, at least 100 British musicians met at an organized summit to discuss online music piracy.  The musicians discussed the possible ramifications of disconnecting Internet users who are accused of downloading and sharing music files — despite recent reports that indicate file sharers are the biggest buyers of legal music.