The Conservative EuroMP for Dorset and East Devon, Bryan Cassidy, has backed network operators in their row with content providers over copyright protection in the digital age.
Cassidy, speaking at the European Parliament's legal affairs committee hearing on the draft directive on copyright, said he did not agree that network operators should bear the ultimate responsibility for breaches of copyright on the Internet.
"I fully understand the anxieties expressed by ETNO (the European Public Telecomms Network Operators' Association) on being held liable for copyright abuse. I have described them before as the mere conduits of the information society," he said.
Cassidy, who is the copyright directive expert for the parliament's economics committee, also said he did not agree with calls from content providers for strict access controls to prevent copyright abuse.
Speaking for the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), Polygram's legal adviser Richard Constant said without adequate protection Europe's cultural industries will suffer.
"The reason why the music business is hesitant about the electronic market place is that it is genuinely worried that its only asset - its repertoire - may be put in peril if it embraces new technology when the protection it needs is missing," he said.
But Cassidy, commenting on the Internet's potential as an alternative means of entering the market, said it would be a mistake to grant content providers exclusive rights over all forms of communication to the public.
"If technology is moving in a way that cuts them (IFPI) out of the loop so be it. I do not think that we as parliamentarians should stand in the way," he said.
To add to the concerns of the content industries German Socialist EuroMP Erika Mann warned against placing too severe restrictions on consumer electronics or IT equipment that may also be used for piracy.
"I am worried about article six (of the draft directive), I think there could be big problems here. The Commission has been too tough. I do not think we need to criminalise people in advance of the event," Mann said.
The legal affairs committee expert, Italian Socialist EuroMP Roberto Barzanti, said there were a number of issues that the draft directive did not cover adequately, such as liability - which is the subject of a horizontal directive expected later this year - and private copying, but gave no details on any amendments he may propose.
One participant in the debate said there were some concerns from network operators that Barzanti, a former professor of literature, was overly sensitive to protests from content providers about the potential for abuse of copyright on the Internet.
But Barzanti said: "I will know it is a good report if everybody is dissatisfied with it."
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