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Spain warned on internet disconnections

24 Nov 2009 | 21.42 Europe/London
Opposition to three-strikes laws continues to grow. This week European Commissioner for Information Society and Media Vivane Reding warned the Spanish government against disconnecting copyright infringers from the internet without proper legal process - even though Spain has previously stated that it does not plan to pursue such a policy.

Speaking at the Telecommunications Market Commission (CMT) conference in Barcelona, Reding said: “Spanish measures that would allow for the cutting off of internet access without a prior fair and impartial procedure in front of a judge is certain to run into conflict with European law”.

“I would like to stress the need for any possible legislative initiative to comply with the agreement reflected in the Telecoms Reform Package,” she added. “I therefore invite the Spanish authorities to consult very closely with the European Commission before heading into a direction which could soon turn out to be a blind alley.” On Reding’s website, the part of her speech about disconnections is embellished with both bold and underline – she’s that serious.

It’s true that the Spanish telecommunications industry has been facing problems with illegal downloading. However, Spanish telecommunications executives were reportedly puzzled by the comments, according to music industry website

"Just one week ago, Spanish culture minister Angeles González-Sinde made it clear at a three-day trade fair on digital content that Spain would not pursue the three-strikes or disconnection path, but would instead seek to penalise Web sites that provide the option of downloading without paying," reports.

The newly adopted Telecoms Reform Package to which Reding refers contains an “internet freedom provision”, which was agreed by the European Parliament, Council and Commission as they worked late into the night on the final night of negotiations. This provision still allows for three-strikes legislation, but "reinforces the presumption of innocence, the right to privacy, and the right to judicial review under any Internet sanctions."

Reding has shown that she is ready to take a tough stance against countries that don’t fall into line with the new rules, which may have implications for the three-strikes policy contained in the UK’s Digital Economy Bill.

Another country that could clash with the EU over disconnection policy is Ireland, where the country’s largest ISP, Eircom reached a private agreement with the Irish Recorded Music Association (IRMA) to implement a three-strikes proceedure for alleged pirates.