E.U. debate to take up P-to-P filesharing

Sharing music over the Internet could become a criminal offense if some members of the European Parliament get their way in a debate next week. The Parliament is set to debate a draft law designed to stamp out mass pirating and counterfeiting of digital products such as music and movies.

But instead of focusing on law breakers as the European Commission intended, the Parliament’s legal affairs committee wants to stretch the proposal to include peer-to-peer (P-to-P) exchanges of digitized music. The proposed changes to the intellectual property rights enforcement directive collide head-on with citizens’ rights to privacy, and have angered consumer groups and legal academics.

Internet service providers (ISPs) are also opposed to the changes to the bill because they say they would be required to snoop on their subscribers or face fast-track injunctions in the courts to reveal private information. A provision of the enforcement bill would subject ISPs to criminal sanctions if they fail to provide information to copyright holders about subscribers who may be infringing copyrights.

”The balance between privacy of subscribers and the duty to cooperate with right holders seeking to protect their intellectual property that was reached in the e-commerce directive could be changed by this directive,” said Tilmann Kupfer, British Telecommunication PLC’s (BT’s) European regulatory manager.

No one on either side of the debate doubts that counterfeiting, the main target of the new law, is a major problem. According to the European Commission counterfeiting and piracy cost the union

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