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22nd Feb 2020

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MEPs reject calls for 'filtered internet'

  • Mr Sarkozy has backed an initiative that would see ISPs automatically disconnect customers who illegally download copyrighted material (Photo: EUobserver)

In defiance of the major music companies and film industry, the European Parliament has voted against punishing alleged file-sharers by shutting off their internet connection, an idea that has been pushed by both record labels and French President Nicolas Sarkozy over the last year.

An amendment to a report on Europe's Cultural Industries that was narrowly adopted by the parliament on Thursday (10 April) describes such a manoeuvre as disproportionate to the act of downloading a copyrighted music track or film.

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Recognising the internet as a "vast platform" for cultural expression and democratic participation, the amendment, proposed by 31-year-old Swedish centre-right MEP Christofer Fjellner and French Socialist MEP Michel Rocard, calls on the European Commission and member states "to avoid adopting measures conflicting with civil liberties and human rights and with the principles of proportionality, effectiveness and dissuasiveness, such as the interruption of internet access."

The International Federation of Phonographic Industries – the music industry's trade association - had heavily lobbied MEPs to adopt the so-called three strikes approach, whereby repeated violators of copyright through the sharing of songs, films, games or software would have their internet connection cut off.

In January the IFPI called on the EU to follow French President Nicolas Sarkozy's lead and force internet service providers to disconnect customers who illegally download music.

The previous November, President Sarkozy backed an initiative in partnership with the record industry and internet providers that would see ISPs automatically disconnect customers who illegally download copyrighted material.

The French president's scheme, the so-called Mission Olivennes, requires ISPs to disconnect customers using an automated system. The Mission - named after the head of record and electronics shop FNAC, Denis Olivennes, one of the main backers of the initiative - would also see ISPs test filtering technologies.

MEPs were strongly opposed to Mr Sarkozy's scheme.

Austrian Socialist MEP Christa Prets said: "Commercially-driven internet piracy must be punished because it seriously harms the artists. But a clear distinction is needed between commercial and private users. Criminalizing ordinary people who are not out for financial gain is an inappropriate response."

"Criminalising consumers who are not seeking to make a profit is not the right solution to combat digital piracy," said French Socialist MEP Guy Bono, author of the report.

"The central message of this report is to find a balance between the possibility to access cultural events and content while ensuring cultural diversity and genuine income to the right holders," he added.

Although the report has no legal weight, it is a strong cross-party rebuke to the plans for a 'filtered internet' of the French president and the record industry.

The report looked at a range of cultural topics, noting that around 6 million Europeans are employed in the field of culture, a sector that generates some €700 billion every year.

The report also calls for the creation of tax credits and VAT exemptions to encourage cultural industries, and for the European Commission to build on its culture programme – know as MEDIA.

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