The music industry today (Dec. 14) welcomed the European Parliament's backing of new rules on data retention which could help in the fight against music piracy.

The music industry today (Dec. 14) welcomed the European Parliament's backing of new rules on data retention which could help in the fight against music piracy.

As expected, European Members of Parliament voted in Strasbourg, France, to oblige telecommunications companies to keep data on customers' phone calls, faxes, e-mails and even text messages for up to two years.

"The recording industry has a legitimate interest in protecting its intellectual property and in the ability of law enforcement agencies to make use of data to pursue online copyright infringements," IFPI regional director for Europe Frances Moore commented. "The proposal on data retention risked hampering our Internet piracy activities in the Member States, so we were obliged to intervene in the debate. Our concerns have been allayed by today's vote in the European Parliament."

The parliament today voted by 378 to 197 to approve the bill, which had already been agreed by the assembly's two biggest political groups, the conservative People's Party and the Socialists.

The measures were originally drafted as part of the European Union's efforts to fight terrorism. Members of parliament voted today on a broad law that ensures enforcement authorities will still be able to have access to data in order to pursue copyright violations.

The compromise text covers serious crimes but leaves it up to EU governments to define what that means. The European Arrest Warrant list, which includes piracy, is given by way of guidance: it sets the period of retention from six months to two years. "This is an important European instrument to fight terrorism and serious crime," said Ewa Klamt, a German European Member of Parliament.

Numerous telecommunication companies, Internet service providers and cable companies are skeptical of the measure, saying that saving data will be expensive and will clog up their database.

The measures aim to harmonize rules on how long data is held and the type of data. Until now, EU data protection laws allow companies to store this information - such as time of phone calls or fax transmissions -- only as long as it is needed for billing purposes, usually a month or two.

The legislation will be adopted as soon as it is confirmed by EU justice ministers. A decision is expected by the end of the year.

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