France wants to remove intellectual property aspects from the telecoms package
The French European Council Presidency no longer wants to deal with the especially thorny issue of fighting internet copyright infringement within the framework of the revised telecoms package. The Presidency made its views known in a draft of a Council position paper expected to be finalised on Thursday by the Telecommunications Council, which has the lead on the issue. With its suggested compromise, France is hoping to speed up the legislative process and, at the same time, reach a consensus amongst all of the EU councils without a second reading in the European Parliament.
In the first reading in September, delegates had favoured increased "cooperation" between internet service providers and the entertainment industry in order to encourage "legal content"; for instance, by sending out warning e-mails within the framework of the Universal Service Directive. On the other hand, in Amendment 138 of the Framework Directive, the MPs voted that "no restriction may be imposed on the rights and freedoms of end-users" without the prior ruling of a judicial authority.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy filed a complaint about the amendment with the European Commission without regard to the democratic decision making process in Brussels – the complaint was rebuffed. Amendment 138 can be interpreted as a signal against France's controversial plans to create a system of "graduated responses" to copyright infringements culminating in a complete internet block. Authorities in Brussels confirmed the amendment much more explicitly in their own compromise paper in early November.
The European Council working group responsible for telecommunications and information society had already advocated striking Amendment 166 from the Universal Service Directive. The Member States wanted to use Amendment 166 as a basis to ensure that necessary restrictions to "users' rights to access content, services and applications" could only be implemented by "appropriate measures, in accordance with the principles of proportionality, effectiveness and dissuasiveness." This paragraph is also lacking in the French Presidency’s final draft. Last week, EU ministers of culture had followed "with interest" national moves against internet "piracy", including graduated responses in which judicial authorities remained on the sidelines.
According to British legal expert Monica Horten, the new suggested compromise would make life easier for telecommunications providers, since it no longer affects either existing indemnification guidelines with regard to transferred content or legal violations. On the other hand, she pointed out that the suggested revision did not explicitly protect users from national programmes to block internet access following repeated illegal file sharing offences. In principle, however, she expressed the view that intellectual property issues had never really been a necessary part of the telecoms package.
The French draft of the Privacy and Electronic Communications Directive revision also contains a simplified version of European Parliament Amendment 181 regarding processing of connection and location data. Civil-rights activists had been up in arms about the amendment in its original form because it permitted "voluntary data storage". The German government had also voiced reservations about the amendment. The new version now simply states that traffic may only be stored to the extent that it is "strictly necessary" for maintaining the functionality and security of the network.