The EU executive had been expected to bring forward two initiatives in the first half of 2009, both of which could have forced a more restrictive EU-wide approach to free and illegal downloading.
The most ancipated measure was a follow-up to a Communication on online content, presented at the beginning of 2008, which hinted at restrictive measures to curb online piracy. Proposals included a mandate for Internet service providers (ISPs) "to suspend or cut access to the web for those who illegally file-share," the so-called three-step model proposed by France (EurActiv 10/12/07).
Brussels had planned to present actual proposals in the form of a recommendation in April. But now the plan has been frozen "after a radicalisation of the debate which has left no space for manoeuvre," a Commission official told EurActiv, referring to strong lobbying by the content industry (in particular music), supported mainly by France, in negotiations over the telecoms package.
"There will be no recommendation. The Commission will only later present issue papers," which may be used by the next Commission after it is sworn in at the end of 2009 or in 2010, explained Martin Selmayr, spokesman for Viviane Reding, the EU's information society commissioner.
E-commerce Directive review
Other initiatives to curb online piracy were envisaged in the review of the E-commerce Directive, which contains vague indications on how to counter the illegal use of copyrighted products online.
A questionnaire was to be sent to relevant stakeholders on 26 February, a Commission official said. "We want to clarify the directive to avoid different interpretations of the liability regime," he said, referring to the different interpretations by national courts of the copyright-related aspects of the E-commerce Directive. A report was supposed to follow suit (EurActiv 30/01/09).
"There will be no questionnaire and no report. The Commission is not going to revisit the directive before the end of its mandate," Oliver Drewes, spokesman for Internal Market Commissioner Charlie McCreevy, who is in charge of the dossier, told EurActiv last week.
This looks like a temporary victory for the telecoms sector, which had feared being forced to carry out extensive monitoring activities and enforcement actions against users, with ISPs transformed into "policemen of the Net," in the words of ETNO Director Michael Bartholomew, the association which brings together the main European telecoms operators.
Consumers can rejoice too, although restrictive measures at national level are planned in many EU countries. Meanwhile, a new EU-wide attempt to regulate may be made during the current negotiations over the telecoms package, where the Council and the Parliament have the final say.