EU telecom industry tries to boost legal music downloading

European telecoms are pushing legitimate download sites, but content owners still want actions to curb illegal file sharing

Telecommunications companies are trying to encourage subscribers to turn to legitimate ways of downloading music, movies and TV shows, but the music industry wants them to take more direct action to prevent illegal file sharing.

ETNO, the European Telecommunications Network Operators Association, launched a Web site Monday designed to raise awareness about the music, movies and TV programs legally offered online through its members, Europe's largest telecom providers.

The aim is to reduce the amount of illegal downloading of content online, and comes as European lawmakers consider pleas from the record industry and Hollywood movie studios to clamp down harder on the practice.

Some countries, including France, have taken a more draconian approach to online copyright abuse by threatening to ban illegal file sharers from the Internet with the so-called three strikes and you are out rule.

However, pressure during the French presidency of the European Union during the second half of last year failed to spread this approach to European Union law, partly due to lobbying from telecom companies.

But far from giving up, content owners are now trying to persuade lawmakers that two pending reviews of Internet-related laws be used to clamp down both on the file sharers and the ISPs.

The two laws due for a review are the e-commerce directive and the copyright directive. The telecom industry insists that no changes are needed. In other words, if content owners suspect a copyright infringement, they should go to a court and get a formal injunction to investigate, as they have always done.

Content owners, on the other hand, want ISPs to be responsible for making sure their networks aren't used for copyright infringement, and for action to be taken without the bureaucratic hassle of going to court.

"The rapidly growing choice of legitimate online content services illustrates the increasing cooperation between e-communications providers and content owners in order to respond to consumer demand for price-worthy, secure and user-friendly services," says Michael Bartholomew, director of ETNO.

Increasing choice of legitimate content online and raising awareness among users are the best instruments to fight against illicit file sharing, he said.

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Paul Meller

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