UK online piracy proposals contrary to EU law

Government proposals to force internet service providers (ISPs) to block illegal peer-to-peer file-sharers

Government proposals to force internet service providers (ISPs) to block illegal peer-to-peer file-sharers are contrary to impending legislation in Europe designed to create a single market in telecommunications, says a telecoms law expert.

The government wants to force ISPs to block individual repeat infringers' access to download sites, restrict their broadband speeds, or suspend their internet accounts. The government calls these "technical measures".

Monica Horten, who is studying the development of the Telecoms Package for a PhD at Westminster, said the measures involve the application of network filtering and deep packet inspection technology.

"They clearly contravene the EU Telecoms Package Amendment 138, which states that users may not be sanctioned without a court judgement," she said.

"Specifically, Amendment 138 says that users rights to freedom of expression may not be restricted without a prior judicial ruling.

"In the internet context, the right to freedom of expression is interpreted as the right to use all applications and services, in addition to the right to have an internet connection," Horten said.

"The right to freedom of expression, without interference from the state, is guaranteed under EU and UK human rights laws law. The key words here are 'without interference'. Technical measures would constitute interference."

Horten said other amendments in the Telecoms Package that were now Articles (clauses in the law) provided the legal foundation for the proposed UK measures.

"That is why Amendment 138 is so important; it is currently the only thing stopping them," Horten said.

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