updated 12:20 pm EST, Thu November 5, 2009
EU sees Internet a right in music cases
The European Parliament today agreed on a new set of legal protections for those threatened with losing Internet access under anti-piracy rules. The new measure in the EU's Telecoms Reform Package considers Internet access a "fundamental" right and will require that EU countries implement a "fair and impartial" process if their laws allow for disconnecting alleged pirates. It will also permit those facing a disconnection to legally dispute their case, though this won't necessarily be part of the regular process.
The extra protection is meant to curb possible excesses from laws such as France's "three strikes" law, which cuts off Internet access for anyone accused of illegally downloading media a third time. It allows for an accelerated legal defense but doesn't treat Internet access as a right. Critics have complained that even the steps put into place as part of the French law effectively let music labels and movie studios administer their own laws by letting them accuse customers without definitive proof.
Besides the anti-piracy element, the Package will also give EU member states the right to separate carriers from services they provide if the carrier is found to be abusing a dominant market position. Customers should see some additional benefits, including among them a requirement that carriers port cellphone numbers over within a day of a customer switching services. The reforms also help reassign unused analog TV wireless spectrum for future 3G and 4G mobile data services.