European antipiracy law could stymie broadband rollout, telecoms firms claim

Europe's 40 largest fixed-line telecommunications operators have warned that a proposed law on intellectual property enforcement...

Europe's 40 largest fixed-line telecommunications operators have warned that a proposed law on intellectual property enforcement will hamper the rollout of broadband services if it is worded too broadly.

The European telecommunications network operators association (ETNO), said an amendment being proposed in the European Parliament would stretch the reach of the proposed European Union law too far.

Janelly Fourtou, the EMP charged with shepherding the draft law through the parliament, has suggested an amendment removing the words "for commercial purposes" from the original text published by the European Commission. If amended in this manner, the law, if passed, would allow prosecution of private individuals as well companies for copyright-infringing activities including illegal swapping of music files.

"Amendments to expand the directive's scope would make its measures applicable to any and all infringement of IPR, regardless of intent, purpose or harm caused," said ETNO director.Michael Bartholomew.

"This could have important consequences for the sector and the consumer if random, trivial or innocent acts are pursued with the full weight of this proposed rigorous enforcement system."

Peer-to-peer file sharing shows there is great demand for content on the internet, Bartholomew said. "Industry should respond by offering attractive business models that match this demand, and not by seeking to sue or prosecute customers," he added.

If Fourtou's amendment is adopted as law it would "hamper broadband's development", ETNO said.

Only last month, some of Europe's most eminent intellectual property law professors said the draft law is too far-reaching. "Instead of relating only to piracy and counterfeiting, the draft is couched in more general terms," the academics said.

They questioned whether there is a need for such a law, and if there is, whether the text proposed by the commission is proportional to the problem it seeks to address.

"It is vitally important that this directive strikes the right balance between protecting the interests of rightholders without unfairly impeding others from competing in the same market," said Tim Frain, director of intellectual property at Nokia.

Paul Meller writes for IDG News Service

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