UK broadband provider TalkTalk has applauded an EU agreement which could disconnect illegal downloaders from the web, saying the legislation "puts into legal language what fair-minded people instinctively knew was right and just".
The UK government has proposed anti-piracy measures that will see web users accused of illegally downloading sent two warning letters, with repeat offenders being cut off from the web by their ISP.
While Lord Mandelson said "technical measures will be a last resort" and those facing suspension would be offered a "proper route of appeal", the measures have come in for heavy criticism in particular for its ‘guilty until proven innocent' stance.
However, Under the New Telecoms Reform Package, which was agreed by the EU last week, web users accused of illegally downloading are put through a "fair and impartial procedure" before being disconnected.
"The recently agreed wording is clear. Rights holders cannot act as judge and jury in these matters," said Scott Fairbairn, a specialist in telecoms and intellectual property law at CMS Cameron McKenna.
"They cannot simply instruct ISPs to disconnect their customers or restrict their internet connections. In no way can that be considered to be a 'fair and impartial' procedure".
The ISP, which is behind the Don't Disconnect Us campaign aimed at persuading the government not to disconnect web users without a fair trial, believes that establishing whether an accused illegal downloader broke the law can only happen via an impartial legal process that starts with a presumption of innocence.
"The need for a fair process is critical because the evidence that rights holders use can only identify the broadband connection not the individual file sharer. This means that millions of account holders are at risk of being wrongly punished due, for instance, to unauthorised Wi-Fi hijackers using their connections," he said.
Heaney called for the government to "respect the spirit of what is intended and to drop its draconian plans to disconnect users without a proper judicial process".
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