The European Commission has reversed its decision to prohibit Web caching, in which temporary copies of Web pages are stored to speed up access and reduce bottlenecks.
Following intense lobbying by EuroISPA (the European ISP Association), the EC added wording last week to its draft directive that would allow temporary copies of copyrighted information to be made. The additions specify protection for copies made that "facilitate the effective functioning of transmission systems."
The strong copyright lobby in the EU had pressed for a ban on all copying of copyrighted material.
Nicholas Lansman, head of the EuroISPA secretariat, said lobbying to remove the ban became a process of educating legislators and rights owners about the benefits of Web caching, and showing them that a ban would be detrimental to their own cause by outlawing technology that actually helps deliver digital content to customers.
"Part of the issue was to make EU officials aware of what was technologically achievable," Lansman said. "Our lobbying has had an educational effect."
Lansman gave the example of Sony, which had recently invested in caching technology yet was part of the rights holders' lobby. Companies such as Sony simply didn't understand caching and therefore couldn't differentiate between illegal copying and caching, he said.
Nigel Hawthorn, EMEA marketing director for cache vendor CacheFlow, pointed out that most modern caching products would make it impossible to steal copyrighted material from the cache.
"In theory, caches based on standard OSs do allow the unscrupulous to grab (a small amount of) data. But the thrust of the proposals put forward months ago was aimed at catching people 'placing' copyrighted material illegally."
Lansman was confident that progress on the issue had been made but warned that EuroISPA was "still a long way from home."
He called next for a compromise position between rights holders and ISPs and warned that the caching industry was still young and needed to find its voice.
"The caching vendors haven't grouped together to find a common voice," he said. "It's not a particularly unified way of dealing with this threat."
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