The debate over new laws that could force broadband service providers to throw suspected file-sharers off the Internet has reached the European parliament. BBC News reports that MEPs voted narrowly in favour for an amendment to a report on the creative industries written for the European parliament.
The amendment raised the issue of human rights and civil liberties - "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 the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) has said the amendment was badly drafted and a contradiction to the contents of the full report.
"We look forward to a full discussion in the European Parliament in the coming months on how best to address copyright theft online"The International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI)
As the law stands, media rights owners can take individuals to court over copyright infringement, but this path is generally slow and may for the average file sharer cost more to pursue than the sales lost from the sharing. The discussion in the UK is generally around a set of laws not unlike what France is to implement, whereby those found sharing copyright material without permission will receive warnings via their Internet service provider and face eventual disconnection.
Many UK broadband providers have opposed these plans since the list of data showing who has been engaging in allegedly illegal file sharing will not have gone via a court and would appear to be very open to errors. Issues like hijacked wireless connections, kids who don't understand the law, cloned cable modems and plain old human error could result in users getting warnings by mistake and some people losing their broadband connection, particularly if they ignore warnings in the belief they were not responsible.
If broadband providers are to act as the copyright police, it will make them even more unpopular and is unlikely to force the heaviest offenders to convert into music buying people. The root cause of illegal music sharing is the cost of filling an MP3 player--A physical album CD will cost between £7 and £15 whilst downloading a full album can at times be more expensive than buying the CD. A single track generally costs between 60p and 90p, so someone wanting to put 100 songs onto their MP3/WMA player will end up spending more on the music than the cost of the player itself. Also, if they bought music with Digital Rights Management (DRM) technology, they may have to spend this money again to fill up a new player that they have bought.
The whole music and video copyright issue needs to be tackled from various angles. Most proposals so far are punitive with no reward for those who follow the law.