back to article EU accidentally orders ISPs to become copyright police

Part of the EU Telecommunications Package, agreed by MEPs on Monday, could be interpreted to endorse cutting off P2P users after a written warning or two, even though the author claims that was not the intention. The disputed text, which some are claiming is deliberately concealed within impenetrable legalese, states that …


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  1. FlatSpot

    sign me up

    "promised to amend the text before the final vote in September if enough people found it misleading"

    So how exactly can I vote for this? 10 downing street poll maybe?

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    there will be a scapegoat

    They will be opening out letters next to see if have bought Region 1 DVDs....

    And how are they going to keep enforcements of torrent sites not residing within EU ? Demonoid has moved to Ukraine... all that we need now is SSL to torrent websites and keep encryption on during downloads....

  3. Peter Fairbrother

    Consumer rights?

    I can't see how this might improve consumer rights.

    "Arguments about the technical feasibility of such an action are irrelevant. It's not the law-maker's job to know how a law can be enforced"

    When I was in the Army one of the first things I learned was not to give aorder which would not, or could not, be obeyed ...

  4. Anonymous Coward

    "Promised to amend if ... "

    "promised to amend the text before the final vote in September if enough people found it misleading"

    Surely, the text of a law that misleads EVEN ONLY A FEW people is still misleading text and both could and should be amended to eliminate the ambiguity.

    Its bad enough that laws are written in shades of grey instead of black and white, leading to unnecessary confusion about precisely what is legal -- but when a law has been proven to be capable of a "supposedly incorrect" interpretation even before its passed, surely its elementary common sense to redraft it in a manner that removes the ambiguity.

  5. Kyle

    Aw, isn't that nice?

    Because we all know how, when a case comes to court, the verdict is dependent on what the legislator *wanted* rather than what they actually put down as law.

  6. Anonymous Coward

    Freetard paranoia

    There's nothing leechers love more than getting their knickers in a twist over fake scares.

    Give us a decent legal P2P option and then go after the Freetards clogging up the networks. Then the rest of us won't have to subsidize them.

  7. Andraž Levstik

    Amend it

    "where he reiterated that the legislation has more innocent intentions, and promised to amend the text before the final vote in September if enough people found it misleading."

    So please amend it... consider this an official request...

    Maybe el-reg could forward this and other such to him so he knows it :)

    On a side note... unclear laws should be made illegal by a new law...

  8. Dr. Mouse

    I haven't

    read the document, but just from your quote:

    must promote "cooperation" between access providers and those "interested in the protection and promotion of lawful content".

    This reads to me more like they should be cooperating to provide lawful content. Not necessarily to stop UNlawful content.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    not shocked. But heyho, the interwebs will be a completly government/corporate network within a decade or so, so have fun while you can.

  10. Anonymous Coward

    Does his statement mean

    That if a single court case appears that uses this as the basis for mpaa/riaa/mafiaa witch hunt of users, that we can sue this MEP for everything he, his family, and anyone standing near them, ever will own, for blatant lies regarding the laws he has helped pass?

  11. Aypok
    Dead Vulture

    Didn't Intend To...

    I know I was driving on the pavement, officer, but I didn't /intend/ to run over any pedestrians. That makes it okay, right?

  12. Simon.W

    Does this mean....

    that the UK Highways Agency will become responsible for all the crime roads facilitate, being the access provider between the proverbial A and B?

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    They're closing in on us.

    <must promote "cooperation" between access providers and those "interested in the protection and promotion of lawful content".>

    This is clearly not intended to promote or improve consumer rights.

    It is a blatent instruction to ISP's that they must co-operate with the music/film associations.

    That means doing whatever they are told and handing over all and any data requested.

    Governments all over the West are now telling corporations to spy on us and giving the corporations legal immunity and even putting legal obligation on corporations to do this.

    So - the corporations run our hospitals, schools, prisons, CCTV cameras, transport (all areas), and now they will spy on every aspect of our lives on instruction from the government and be entirely above the law in this realm of activity.

    Fuck it, I'm moving to a desert island and planting lots and lots of herb, using solar power for electricity to power my games consoles and computers and growing my own veggies.

    I'll get a pet goat.


  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Write to your MEPs's the only avenue open to y'all.

  15. Anonymous Coward

    Other hidden gems in there

    I'm more worried about the clause which "allows governments to decide what software can be used on the web." No need for 3 strikes and you're out if you can't connect to the net with your fav P2P software in the first place.

  16. Dunstan Vavasour

    Once again ...

    The intention of lawmakers is totally irrelevant: the only thing which matters is the provisions of the law which is enacted.

  17. Naich
    Flame seems somewhat limited in scope. If only there were a

  18. Steve Loughran

    Feedback from Neil Parish, Conservative MEP for the south west

    One of my MEP's wrote back saying he backed int. Here's a quote

    "The amendments have been created to strike a balance between the need for

    monitoring of unlawful activity, thus protecting ordinary lawful users of

    the Internet, whilst ensuring "sweeping powers" are not handed down to

    authorities. It is evident that this protection should not extend to any

    unlawful content or applications. In fact, the question of lawfulness is

    outside the scope of this legislation and depends on the national laws of

    each country. It is to be decided by the relevant judicial authorities of

    each country, not by the ISPs. The intention is however not to turn ISPs

    into "copyright police". Whilst I appreciate that P2P and other filesharing

    devices are invaluable for businesses such as your own, the aim of this

    package is to clamp down on its illegal usage. I have no doubt that the

    Internet will move fast to fill the void left by their absence for

    legitimate, legal usage; already there is talk of a "legal P2P" alternative

    being created."


    I like that "The Internet will move fast to fill the void left by their absence". Hmm. Like encrypted data exchanges that resemble HTTPS connections, perhaps?

  19. Graham Dawson Silver badge

    Badly written law

    In my occasional gracing of these comment threads I'm sure I've built up a reputation as someone who, to put it mildly, isn't particularly keen on the EU as a concept. Now I'd love to be able to point at this as another example of why the EU is evil incarnate and scream "Told ya!" from the rooftops, but I can't. I can't because our own dear parliament is just as prone as the EU to writing laws with such sloppy logic and such over-broad terminology as to be essentially useless. The "extreme porn" thing a while back was an example of that - it could easily have included just about everyone, so badly was it written. There are hundreds of examples from the last decade of similarly badly written law, either implementing EU directives or just made up on the spot by a Minister with a need for some publicity.

    Laws shouldn't be confusing and shouldn't need the author to "clarify" them in order to assuage fears. They should explain exactly what they're doing and why they're doing it and if they aren't they should be rejected and re-written until they are.

  20. Norman Nescio Silver badge

    Re: Other Hidden Gems

    "I'm more worried about the clause which "allows governments to decide what software can be used on the web." No need for 3 strikes and you're out if you can't connect to the net with your fav P2P software in the first place."

    It may shock you to know that governments have always had the power to decide what software can be used - on the web or anywhere else. That's why they're the government. The government can do what it likes, subject, of course, to the will of the people as determined by free and democratic elections.

    ...irony? That's like coppery or silvery, just darker and not so shiny (with apologies to Baldrick)

  21. Mick Sheppard


    Where law is concerned the intention is not relevant, all that matters is what is written in the law. Witness the abuse of RIPA for checking on school catchment areas. That wasn't the intention of the law but a side-effect of it being written is such broad language.

  22. frymaster

    Consumer rights

    The spokesman was obviously talking bollocks about that part of the law having anything to do with consumer rights. Producer's rights, now that's a different thing ;)

    It depends what is meant by "co-operation". I don't think details of ISP's customers (ie tying an IP to a name) should be handed out to _any_ third party without a court order or warrant or similar.

    In the same way that if I provide an ISP with details of, say, a spammer, I don't expect anything back from them other than "we'll look into it"*, I don't expect them to say anything much different to, say, the BPI.

    So, sending out "educational" letters to filesharers, fair enough. RIAA-style divulging of details and customers being sued, please no.

    *Not that I ever even get that. Apart from orange, and some dedicated server provider. Universities, AOL, forget it, they're not interested :(

  23. Magnus


    @"Freetard paranoia"

    "Freetards" pay for the same service from their ISP as you do. If the stupid ISPs have mis-priced and/or mis-advertised their offering that is a different matter in my eyes.

    @Hidden gems and otherwise

    All the first paragraph Quadrature is quibbling with seems to state is that National Regulators can set minimum standards for devices and software as long as these standards don't prevent the functioning of the free market within the EU. As far as I can tell this just re-affirms the status quo.

    On the "cooperation" one I can see a bit firmer ground as that seems to be in effect whatever the current stance of a particular country is. That and "cooperation" could be very broadly defined by some companies we all know and love.

    Then again all this stuff is so badly written...

  24. Anonymous Coward

    CCTV all over again

    "thats not the intention of the law..."

    Thats what they said about the RIPA - and yet it has been used to spy on dog poo, school applications and so forth. If the law /allows/ it, then someone will use it thus.

    The fix is to amend the law to say what it means. Otherwise it means what it says, until challenged at great expense...

  25. Luther Blissett

    "consumer rights"

    Kind of so very 1960's - Ralph Nader, racism, feminism, etc. Not far removed from the "supply and demand" excuse being floated currently to explain the price of foodstuffs and oil - ok when the options and futures markets didn't exist, but not today.

    It suggests the governing elites of the EU are (1) utterly clueless, (2) stuck in a time warp, (3) peddling a myth past its sell-by date, (4) helpless and hopeless, (5) of the opinion that European people are too stupid to recognize the same song twice.

  26. Anonymous Coward



    why not just find a women? oh wait this is an IT discussion......

  27. Dave Bell

    A very mixed result

    Some things good, some bad, a lot just plain sloppy.

    I'm afraid we might also have a problem with the way the EU uses multiple languages. We are, not unexpectedly, commenting on English versions of the text, but how many MEPs decided their votes in English? And the language could easily get a bit technical; it's not just legal jargon.

  28. Anonymous Coward

    Some strange stuff going on here

    We're getting very conflicting reports/spin about all this. It's either very good for us consumers or very bad, depending on who you listen to. Wish I spoke eurolegalese and could understand what it really means. Has anyone at the Reg actually read the legalese, or are you just passing on spin that's already circulating? (Normally you're quite good about not doing that.)

    One thing that makes no sense is the "allows governments to decide what software can be used on the web." bit. Surely all software these days connects to the web, if only to phone home and register you? How can you maintain a white list for every piece of software in the world (much of it never published remember)? Or how can you have a black list either, given that I can easily change a few bytes and - hey! - it's a new bit of software. Virus writers do that all the time. I'm sure you could come up with P2P protocols that gradually mutate as well, so they become a moving target.

    Bonkers stuff.

  29. Rob Darwin

    Malcolm Harbour...oh dear

    I have come across this gentleman, when they were trying to slip software patents through the EU. It was a time when there was more lobbying (an insider told me this) than ever before.

    I had a conversation with him, which left me with the conclusion:-

    1) I thoroughly disliked him

    2) I thoroughly distrusted him

    So frankly if he says it's OK, I rather inclined to think that it's not.

  30. Andre Thenot

    If you'll excuse another car analogy...

    So does this mean that companies that build and run highways should be charged in connection with all the crimes their users do? Clearly they have enabled this drug smuggler to carry his illegal cargo. Obviously they are at fault for providing a fast getaway route to that bank robber. They are even allowing child abusers to be in the same lane as vehicles with children...

    How crazy.

    Cooperation is along the lines of a road worker noticing some bank notes flying out of a van and calling the police. But the way things get implemented with data, it usually ends up as a full car search at each toll booth.

    (appropriate road sign)

  31. Colin Wilson

    I have serious concerns about the proposed EU Telecoms bill, and would ask that full clarification be made prior to its' final vote.

    Might I also add that I do not believe ISPs should be responsible for the traffic they carry, nor should they be forced to "police" their users - it is far too onerous an obligation to enforce, and spurious claims such as those made by SCO against users of Linux which were later thrown out of court following the heavy intervention of IBM might otherwise brand a user as a thief without any foundation in truth.

    SCO had, in the interim, accepted "insurance" payments from companies scared that their baseless allegations of copyright infringement might be held in a court of law. Extortion, bribery, protection money - call it what you will.

    Additionally, and more importantly, the "interested in the protection and promotion of lawful content" section is inherently dangerous and will lead to the malicious and unsafe persecution of innocent users.

    The person paying for an internet connection may not be personally responsible for any "illegal" file sharing, but the prevalence of open wireless networks (which is not a crime) may mean that someone else used it for nefarious purposes without permission.

    This can be seen in recent alleged breaches of civil copyright cases as brought by Davenport Lyons, based on the flaky evidence of a company that has already been found guilty of some very serious crimes abroad.

    These allegations lead to fines of £800 without actually being based on real defined losses to the copyright holder, or evidence of there being any breach of copyright by the payers' of a broadband service themselves.

    Add to that the game alleged to have been copied was being sold for £8.99 and was slated for being of very poor quality, suddenly the chance for making random lawsuits against anyone you fancy to more than make up any shortfall of income from the bad product, and you can see what a mess this will become.

    If you see this bill as a way forward, perhaps your next one should be to force the Royal Mail to be responsible for all the junk mail that is posted by third parties using its' services.

    From a personal standpoint, they should be classed as a common carrier - they are not a party to the content that may be delivered over their network.

  32. nommo

    'proprietary' music is dead..

    long live ccmixter and real peer-to-peer content sharing... (creative commons)

    i wonder how long it will take for the artists to realise that the labels offer them nothing at all these days apart from a coke fuelled veneer of marketing... production and distribution can be done better at home...

    i would rather pay an artist direct than pay the fat execs via my ISP subscription...

  33. Qev

    Meringuoid's Law

    Whenever a controversial law is proposed, and its supporters, when confronted with an egregious abuse it would permit, use a phrase along the lines of 'Perhaps in theory, but the law would never be applied in that way' - they're lying. They intend to use the law that way as early and as often as possible.

  34. RW
    Paris Hilton

    The thing that puzzles me

    is why on earth governments are so hot on the idea of stopping illegal music sharing.

    First of all, the music & movie industries are NOT major industries. If they withered away overnight, relatively few people would be out of work.

    Second, when the RIAA and the other liars start yapping about how much money they're losing, there's the implicit assumption that if illegal downloading weren't possible, the punters would pay list price for all the same stuff. This is not true.

    Third, with special reference to the FBI: terrorism is a real threat, yet the FBI feels that it has the resources to have a special unit devoted to IP-crime. Can we say "misplaced priorities"?

  35. William Wood

    those "interested in the protection and promotion of lawful content"

    Let's see:

    The Chinese Government : Falun Gong and Tibetan Buddhist sites

    The U.S. Government: Bookmaking sites

    SCO : Anything like Unix

    The German Government : Anything Nazi

    The Iranian Government: Anything Anti-Nazi

    and almost any political opinion is unlawful somewhere.

  36. Anonymous Coward

    @there will be a scapegoat

    ``all that we need now is SSL to torrent websites and keep encryption on during downloads....''

    FFS, how many times do people have to be told? Encrypting your bittorrent connection only hides the data from people who are watching your network traffic. As long as peers can connect to the tracker and see your IP address (which they need in order to share the files with you), snoopers from the copyright enforcement bodies can connect to the tracker and see that your IP address is downloading infringing material.

  37. Chris C


    "The interpretation ... is alarmist and scare-mongering and deflects from the intention which was to improve consumers' rights."

    The thing is, laws are laws. It doesn't matter what your intentions are. What matters is people's interpretation of the law. Here's a suggestion -- craft the law using clear and unambiguous language so that nobody has to guess your intent, and so that there is no way to misinterpret it. Don't forget, even if everyone agrees and holds to your intention now, it doesn't mean future civil servants will.

    I bet the US' founding fathers never intended for the US to turn out this way.

    I have a hunch the people who crafted child-porn laws never intended for under-18 girls to be arrested for voluntarily (and without coercion) posting semi/nude pictures of themselves on the Internet or sending those pictures to their boy/girlfriend.

    I bet the UK lawmakers who crafted the sex-offender rules never intended for a man simulating sex with a bicycle in his locked hotel room to be arrested and have his name on the sex offender list for the rest of his life.

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