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EU agrees with guidelines on Internet restriction

European MEP's and Council representatives have agreed on a set of guidelines that state restrictions to Internet usage may "only be imposed if they are appropriate, proportionate and necessary within a democratic society," and that users are entitled to a "fair and impartial procedure" before disconnection.

The Telecoms Reform Package that the restriction guidelines are part of will go before the European Parliament and Council for a final decision in late November. The compromise is the result of all night negotiations and is the last hurdle for the package which also include, amongst other things, a rule that will require mobile phone companies to help users change contracts within 24 hours.

Although the guidelines seem to a step in the right direction, there are still some doubts over just what will constitute a "fair and impartial" procedure.

"It has been long hard battle but at least all sides have acknowledged that fundamental rights of users need to be guaranteed in the digital world," said Monique Goyens, the director general of BEUC, the European Consumers' Organisation.

"However, these rights will be meaningless if Hadopi-style laws are allowed to be enforced at national level," she added, referring to the controversial "Hadopi" law passed in France earlier this year. The law states that file-sharers would receive warning by email and letter before being disconnected for a year if they did it a third time. It is named after the organisation that will police it - Higher Authority for the Distribution of Works and the Protection of Copyright on the Internet.

The BEUC has also called for a "fundamental re-examination and overall assessment" about what is and isn't illegal downloading, as well as an evaluation of the economic impact it actually has on the music and film industry.

According to the BBC, a recent study suggested that 72 percent of file-sharers who admit to downloading illegal content also spent the most on legal downloads.

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