Euro MPs see the question of ISP and telco liability as the overriding issue in an upcoming electronic commerce directive.
German Socialist Euro MP, Erika Mann, said the issue of whether Internet service providers (ISPs) and telecomms operators should be held liable for online content carried over their networks will be a key issue when the parliament's legal affairs committee votes on amendments to the proposed electronic commerce directive.
Mann said amendments filed by other Euro MPs demanding that ISPs and telcos should monitor content on their networks "was not acceptable" to a large number of her colleagues, but that limited monitoring of, for example, intellectual property right (IPR) infringement, would have to be included in the directive.
"The liability question was debated strongly last week. It is a difficult aspect because some colleagues are focusing only on IPR issues. We need to persuade colleagues to withdraw the amendment," said Mann.
Brian Cassidy, Conservative Euro MP for Dorset and East Devon, agreed with Mann and said that a number of amendments to the directive showed an "unhealthy emphasis on surveillance" and said it was highly unrealistic to expect ISPs to monitor any traffic on their websites.
"I would be strongly opposed to ISPs having to monitor any of their website content," he said.
Other issues that have also provoked debate within the parliament committee include, junk electronic mail, known as 'spam', limits on advertising on the Internet and the application of country of origin legislation to electronic commerce operators.
"An amendment detailing an opt out solution to spamming, where you register to not receive junk electronic mail and where no additional costs should be acceptable for the consumer, has been tabled. If both are accepted, this will be a good solution on spamming," said Mann.
Mann said she had doubts over the outcome of the liability issue but said she was "quite comfortable" over other issues being resolved satisfactorily before voting takes place.
"Industry has been more or less happy with the European Commission's proposed directive, but it is clear that industry is not happy with the amendments on liability," she said.
Cassidy said the electronic commerce proposal would provide an opportunity for parliament to correct the balance after a first reading of a draft directive on copyright last month favoured rights holders over service providers.
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