EU to put ISPs in piracy cross-hairs?

Copyright With political leaders and technology executives from the G8 countries set to gather in Paris this week to discuss global Internet policy ( the “e-G8”), the European Commission is apparently poised to unveil its own proposal for enlisting Internet service providers in fighting online piracy “at [the] source.”

According to a Reuters report Monday, the executive arm of the European Union “will propose amendments to the [EU] (IPR) Enforcement Directive in order to create a framework allowing, in particular, combating infringements of IPRs via the internet more effectively.”

Those amendments, a leaked document seen by the news agency said, “should tackle the infringements at their source and, to that end, foster cooperation of intermediaries, such as internet service providers.”

While the Reuters report does not elaborate on what exactly the commission has in mind for tackling infringements “at their source” — filtering? domain seizures? — it clearly sees ISPs as instrumental to the plan.

Although the new proposal from the European Commission is not officially related to the e-G8 meeting (half the members of the G8 — the U.S., Canada, Japan and Russia — are not part of the European Union and are not bound by the EU IPR Enforcement Directive), any proposal to conscript ISPs into the anti-piracy fight is certain to become a main topic of conversation in Paris.

The e-G8 forum is the brain-child of French president Nicolas Sarkozy, who has pressed for greater domestic and international regulation of the Internet, particularly with respect to protecting intellectual property online. He was the father of France’s controversial “three-strikes” policy that allows for disconnecting users from the Internet if they’re caught repeatedly downloading copyrighted content illegally.

The French system has so far met with mixed success, at best, and is likely to come in for criticism at the e-G8 summit. Sarkozy has not backed down from his support for greater regulation, however, and his position is likely to be bolstered by the timing of the European Commission announcement, which could shift the discussion from three-strikes to even more controversial topics like mandatory filtering and “rogue” domain blacklists.

It’s worth noting, however, that the European Commission proposal will be just that: a proposal. Any changes to the EU IPR Enforcement Directive would have to be approved by the European Parliament, where steps such as those outlined in the leaked documents are bound to face fierce opposition. Any changes approved by Parliament would then have to be enacted by the individual EU countries through enabling legislation. So there’s a long way to go yet before yet before anything becomes law.

Still, the proposal should start the e-G8 summit off with a bang.