EU agenda: more carrot, less stick

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BRUSSELS -- European Union copyright laws need to be overhauled for the digital age, but criminalizing consumers who download illegal movies and music for their own use should not be part of it, the European Parliament voted Thursday in Brussels.

In a rebuke to studios and music majors, MEPs said that industry efforts to slap stiff penalties on file-sharing were a symptom of an inability to change the business model. The vote, by a narrow 314-297 margin, was also a rejection of the "Graduated Response" raised in France by the Oliviennes Report, which aimed at cutting off Internet access of people suspected of illegal downloading.

The MEPs said that "a reform of intellectual property rights is vital for promoting creativity and encouraging the development of cultural works," but "criminalizing consumers who are not seeking to make a profit is not the right solution to combat digital piracy."

The Parliament bill was drafted by French Socialist Guy Bono, and initially took on board industry calls for "Internet service providers to apply filtering measures to prevent copyright infringement." Music lobby the IFPI had suggested not only content filtering, but protocol blocking and blocking access to infringing online locations.

However, amendments pushed by Swedish MEP Christofer Fjellner and former French Prime Minister Michel Rocard scrapped these demands, instead calling on EU governments to "avoid the adoption of measures running counter to human rights, civic rights and the principles of proportionality, effectiveness and deterrent effect, such as interruption of access to the Internet."

The Parliament bill appealed to authorities to recognize that, thanks to the Internet, traditional ways of using such cultural products as films and television had changed completely.

The bill called on the Commission to back efforts "to introduce new business models in the digital age that enable the consumer to reap the full benefits of new technologies and at the same time preserve the legitimate right to payment for artistic and cultural creation."
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