Write to your MEP: say no to “3 strikes” through the backdoor

Could Europe be drafting a new law to disconnect suspected filesharers from the internet? MEPs have already signalled their condemnation of this approach. But last-minute amendments to telecommunications legislation could bring the so-called “3 strikes” approach in by the backdoor. If you want your MEP to stick to their guns on 3 strikes, write to them today to voice your concerns.

Back in February, we reported that the UK Government was considering a law to ban illicit filesharers from the ‘net. A promised consultation on proposed legislation is yet to materialise (although we’re still hoping it will appear before the Summer recess). Meanwhile, pressure on ISPs and rightsholders to come to a voluntary arrangement has had some effect, with both Virgin and BT recently starting to “educate” those customers they believe are infringing copyright in their use of p2p networks.

As we pointed out at the time, neither the voluntary nor the statutory approach will put a penny in artists’ pockets unless accompanied by viable legal alternatives that deliver consumers what they want. A recent survey commissioned by British Music Rights [pdf] indicates that 80% of those currently downloading music would pay for so-called “legal p2p” – properly licensed and competitive filesharing alternatives. Rumours that industry is close to developing such an offer are yet to be confirmed. But without it, any enforcement move is likely only to drive illicit filesharing further underground.

Over in France, President Nicolas Sarkozy (who also took over the European presidency yesterday) has put his weight behind legislation proposed by the Olivennes report. The bill, which has been delayed until the Autumn, will mandate termination of internet connections. It goes without saying that it is the subject of much controversy across the Channel.

La Quadrature du Net – a French pressure group – have been actively campaigning on the issue. They’re also tracking the progress of the Telecoms Package, a review of European telecoms law currently in the European Parliament. Ordinarily this bill would deal with network infrastructure, universal service and other purely telecoms matters.

But as La Quadrature du Net announced yesterday:

“One week before a key vote in the reform of European law on electronic communications (“Telecom Package”), La Quadrature du Net (Squaring the Net) denounces a series of amendments aimed at closing the open architecture of the Internet for more control and surveillance of users..

…this set of amendments creates the unprecedented mechanism known as graduated response in European law; judicial authority and law courts are vacated in favour of private actors and “technical measures” of surveillance and filtering. According to rules set forth by administrative authorities and rights holders, intermediaries will be forced to cooperate in monitoring and filtering their subscribers, or they will be exposed to administrative sanctions”

If you want to voice your concerns about 3 strikes legislation brought in through the backdoor in Brussels, you have until 7 July, the date of the vote in IMCO and ITRE committees, to contact your MEP and inform them that the “Telecoms Package” amendments could bring in disproportionate and ineffective law.

You can find details of your MEPs here. Suggestions for topics to raise in your letters are here and analysis and commented amendments with other resources about the Telecoms Package are also available.