EU Telecom Rules Are User-Friendly, But Do Little To Curb Piracy

The new rules -- two years on the drawing board -- reportedly aim to strike a balance between a crackdown on illegal downloaders and a broader set of rights for telecom users.

The compromise guarantees that European mobile phone and Internet users will be protected from arbitrary service cutoffs.

Services will only be terminated if providers have proof that a user was downloading illegal copies of movies or music files. That is a major change from a compromise reached earlier this year that would have permitted national authorities to cut off Internet access without providing evidence of illegal activity.

The Associated Press reported Spanish lawmaker Alejo Vidal-Quadras saying, "Full due process rights will have to apply in any administrative case, except in cases of duly justified urgency, like serious crime, terrorism, child pornography."

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The bill requires the final approval of the European Parliament and EU governments, which is expected later in November.

Telecom groups had lobbied for greater crackdown on illegal downloaders of music and movies. The agreed-upon rules now requires only "appropriate, proportionate and necessary" measures be taken to enforce copyright.

France, in particular was in favor of tougher measures against illegal downloaders. French President Nicolas Sarkozy's "three strikes and you're out" rule would have meant tracking Internet use. Those found downloading illegally would receive two warnings before being cut off from the Internet for a year. That plan has been aborted and decisions to terminate Internet access will be left to the judicial system.