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Europe Struggles With Three Strikes, Fox Exec Wants It Anyway

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The passage of the EU’s Telecoms Reform package yesterday and a new survey from UK ISP Talk Talk cast new doubts about so-called “three strikes” copyright laws against file sharers, but that doesn’t stop Fox Filmed Entertainment Chairman Jim Gianopulos from suggesting that the U.S. need similar legislation. The European parliament passed a wide-ranging package of regulations for the member states’ Telecom companies. It includes an amendment ensuring that any measures that would cut off end users’ Internet access would have to be “fair and impartial” and offer a “timely judicial review.”

In the meantime, British ISP Talk Talk has reiterated why precautions like these are so important. According to a survey conducted by the ISP, only half of its P2P-using customers actually realize that they have file-sharing applications on their computers. Kids would oftentimes install P2P apps without their parents knowledge, according to the ISP, and hijacked PCs that share files without the users’ knowledge are apparently also more common that we’d assume.

The EU’s Telecoms Reform package has been in the works since late 2007, but its passage has been delayed multiple times by disagreements over measures that would disconnect file sharers from the Internet after three acts of copyright infringement. France enacted a three strikes law in March, only to have it thrown out by the courts before passing a modified version in September. The UK government just last week introduced similar legislation. Unsurprisingly, both countries strongly opposed any attempts to regulate these type of measures through the Telecoms Reform package.

However, their efforts were met with strong opposition from both members of the EU parliament as well as Internet activists, and the final version of the package now states that “these measures may only be taken with due respect for the principle of presumption of innocence and the right to privacy.” The most important part of this regulation is probably that any suspected infringer has the right to be heard before he gets booted of the Net and that there has to be a judicial review of any such decision.

That runs counter to the original idea of a three-strikes law, as favored by the entertainment industry, which would have forced ISPs to disconnect any customer after receiving three takedown requests from rights holders. Internet activists still aren’t sure what effect these new EU regulations will have on three-strikes laws in countries like the UK, but EU Commissioner Vivane Reding already celebrated the new rules as “a great victory for the rights and freedoms of European citizens,” adding that it was now time to create legal offerings that were available across borders.

That assertion is supported by the findings of Talk Talk’s P2P survey. Twenty percent of its respondents said they were using P2P networks to download content not yet legally available in the UK, according to a report from StrategyEye. In other words: BitTorrent wouldn’t be that much of an issue if Hulu would offer users in Europe same-day access to U.S. TV shows. “You can’t say the Internet is different in the UK from the U.S.,” Talk Talk products and strategy director Sylvain Thevenot told StrategyEye.

Fox Filmed Entertainment Chairman Jim Gianopulos thinks a different approach should be taken to combat file sharing: The U.S. should adopt three-strikes laws like France and the UK, Gianopulos stated on Monday. “If we can do that, it would be a big victory against piracy,” he said.