European Parliament Rejects Plan to Disconnect File-Sharers

Slim majority votes for amendment to eliminate the the "three-strikes-and-your-out" policy that would have permanently disconnected accused file-sharers from the internet.

Today the European Parliament rejected attempts to criminalize file-sharing by a slim majority vote. Some 314 Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) cast their votes in favor of an amendment to the Report on the Cultural Industries by French MEP Guy Bono to scrap its proposed "three-strikes-and-your-out-policy" on illegal file-sharing. It narrowly passed with 297 MEPs voting against the amendment.

"The vote shows that MEPs want to strike a balance between the interests of rights holders and those of consumers, and that big measures like cutting off Internet access shouldn’t be used," said Malene Folke Chaucheprat, a European Parliament spokeswoman, shortly after the vote.

The International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) was quick to denounce the decision, calling the report an important effort to "…underline the economic and social importance of the cultural sector in the European Union."

Frances Moore, IFPI Executive Vice President writes:

Many of the recommendations in this Report stress the need to protect intellectual property as a driver of growth in the creative sector. The Report also calls on the European Commission and Member States to provide the necessary resources to ensure that intellectual property is respected and protected.

However, one badly drafted, rushed through amendment was adopted which is in contradiction to the rest of the text. If the aim of the Report is to protect creative content, including in the online environment, we should be looking at all options available in the fight against copyright theft. Instead, this amendment suggested discarding certain options before there is even a proper debate.

We should not allow this last-minute amendment to take away from the overall value of the Cultural Industries Report. We look forward to a full discussion in the European Parliament in the coming months on how best to address copyright theft online.

It’s kind of disturbing that the IFPI is so convinced that it equates the need to "protect creative content" with plans to permanently ban repeated file-sharers from the Internet. Aside from the fact that the plan is fairly ludicrous, the notion of effectively screening people for file-sharing convictions before they can access the internet, it also points to a disturbing possibility that some may be permanently disconnected from the information superhighway that is so vital in the 2st century. The Internet is not just for file-sharing, but for communicating, for learning, and for educating.

The MEPs were right to reject the report’s calling for a ban on copyright infringers, though it being by such a slim majority, a mere 17 votes, means that the European public needs to stay informed and aware of any such future proposals.