Agreement Reached on Internet Access in New EU Telecom Laws

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European lawmakers reached agreement on most of the outstanding issues obstructing a new draft of E.U.-wide telecom laws Wednesday, including how to balance people's rights to information against the need to prevent illegal Internet behavior.

But anyone hoping that the new laws will force countries such as France and the UK to scrap their rules against copyright abuse will be disappointed, said Malcolm Harbour, a member of the European Parliament.

Wording designed to force member-states to consult a judge before cutting someone off from the Internet has been scrapped. Instead the new law states that any limits on a citizen's rights to information from the Internet must be applied in full compliance with the European Convention on Human Rights.

France is in the process of adopting a law that would allow people to be cut off from the Internet if they repeatedly breached copyright laws. The code is designed to combat illegal file sharing of music and movies over the Net.

"The telecoms package was never going to be able to force member-states to change their civil and criminal laws," Harbour said. "Some people wanted the telecoms package to do this, but they were unrealistic," he added.

Harbour reached an agreement with the national governments Wednesday on how these issues should be tackled under the new laws. The agreement has also been endorsed by all the biggest political parties in the European Parliament, meaning that when it goes to the full Parliamentary plenary meeting next week it is almost certain to be adopted.

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