The fate of the European Telecoms Reform Package and what kind of action member countries can take against illegal downloaders is likely to be decided in Brussels this evening as the European Union's conciliation procedure draws to a close.
Five EU directives, collectively known as the EU Telecoms Rules of 2002, are currently being reworked in an attempt to make the European telecoms market more unified.
There has been broad EU agreement on four of the directives. However, the Framework Directive, which has raised the possibility that illegal downloaders may lose access to the internet, has caused so much disagreement that it had to enter an EU process whereby it is further debated and negotiated.
The final details are likely to be ironed out tonight when the EU conciliation delegation meets at 8pm. The debate could last into the early hours of the morning, according to an EU spokeswoman.
The disagreement is between the European Council, formed from ministers from each of the EU member states, and the European Parliament, which holds the EU's elected members.
In two votes, 88 per cent of the European Parliament decided that internet service providers (ISPs) and regulators, such as Ofcom in the UK, cannot restrict individuals' access to the internet, even if they are illegal file sharers and downloaders.
The European Parliament formed what is known as Amendment 138, which reads: 'No restriction may be imposed on the fundamental rights and freedoms of end users without a prior ruling by the judicial authorities, notably in accordance with Article 11 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union on freedom of expression and information, save when public security is threatened in which case the ruling may be subsequent.'
Since the beginning of the conciliation procedure in September, the amendment has been watered down by both EU bodies as they have tried to reach a compromise.
The Parliament's version of the amendment promises to protect citizens' access to the internet, but the Council's version leaves room for private corporations to restrict an individual's internet access.
If the Council version of the amendment is accepted, business secretary Peter Mandelson will be able to continue with his plans to introduce a three-strikes rule to tackling illegal downloading, under which the cost of enforcement will fall to copyright holders and ISPs.
Jérémie Zimmermann, co-founder of citizens' rights group La Quadrature du Net, warned the Parliament not to bow to any pressure from the Council.
"What will citizens think if, after having seen their representatives defending them on two occasions before the elections, when they had everybody's attention, they now witness the Parliament giving in to the Council in closed-door meetings," he said.
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