A vote on Tuesday by the French National Assembly to restrict file sharers' and illegal downloaders' internet access has given hope to copyright pressure groups across the Channel that similar measures will soon be adopted in the UK.
The assembly passed the bill by 296 to 233 after the European Parliament rejected the idea last week. The bill will mean that individuals involved in copyright infringement online will be banned from using the internet for up to a year if they are third-time offenders.
Although the bill still needs to be accepted by the French Senate and the Constitutional Council, citizen rights groups, such as La Quadrature du Net, have warned that French president Nicolas Sarkozy's determination to see the proposals passed is going to be difficult to overcome.
Sarkozy pressed ahead with the idea, although the EU is still in disagreement over the policy. The Tuesday vote was also the second time that the French Assembly was called to vote on the same proposal, following the second round of voting by the European Parliament to decide on the measures. In parliament's case, there remained an overwhelming opposition to the plans.
In February 2008, there were reports that the UK government's Department for Culture, Media and Sport was considering a similar 'three strikes' proposal put forward by the music and recording industry, although nothing has come of it.
The UK Intellectual Property Office has since argued that any UK policy that comes into force to protect copyright will be agreed by both industry bodies, including internet service providers and entertainment organisations, and relevant government departments. However, the government's exact stance on the issue will be laid out in next month's Digital Britain report.
In March, the government added to the proposals outlined in the report with a plan for a Digital Rights Agency that would raise public awareness around copyright issues and take charge of enforcement measures.
But ahead of the report's publication, UK copyright groups are demanding fierce regulation for copyright infringement spurred on by the French decision yesterday.
"The UK approach should differ in detail to what has been proposed by the French, but what we need is concrete action," said Richard Mollet, public affairs director at industry trade association the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) in response to the Tuesday vote.
Mollet expressed hope that the European Union's conciliation phase would see the European Parliament's decision on the copyright measures sidelined. The conciliation phase is when Parliament and the Council try to reach a compromise.
Meanwhile, BPI chief executive Geoff Taylor called on the government to use the time available in this parliament to introduce legislation requiring ISPs to act against persistent illegal downloaders.
"An endless free lunch for consumers when it comes to digital content is unsustainable," Taylor said on Tuesday at a joint meeting of the Federation of Entertainment Unions, the UK Film Council and BAFTA on the future of the creative industries.
"Unless ministers strengthen proposals for ISPs to deal with illegal behaviour online, a 'creative crunch' will follow and investment in new British talent will ultimately dry up."
Taylor's calls were followed by a joint statement by the BPI, the Federation Against Copyright Theft and the National Union of Journalists, asking the government to take action against illegal dowloaders. The statement was issued at a conference in London called The Future of the Creative Economy.
But the Internet Services Providers' Association (ISPA) is disappointed that the creative industries continue to advocate legislation on enforcement without considering other means by which consumers can be provided with the content legally.
"It is our view that legislation on enforcement should only be introduced on the condition that the rights holder industry commits to significant licensing reform," said ISPA in a statement on Wednesday.
"ISPA continues to dispute calls from some elements of the creative industries for the disconnection of users or technological measures as a method of dealing with potential infringers of copyright online.
"ISPA members have consistently explained that significant technological advances would be required if these measures are to reach a standard where they would be admissible as evidence in court."
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