In contradiction to previous unverified reports, it now appears that Viviane Reding, European Commissioner for Information Society, does support Amendment 138 of the Telecoms Package - or at least, she won't go against it. Brussels sources close to Mrs Reding have confirmed that Mrs Reding will not oppose the amendment given that it was the subject of a very large majority in the Parliament.
Update 7 October 2008 This has now been confirmed by a Commission official at a press conference - see links below.
Amendment 138 of the Telecoms Package is the citizens' amendment, proposed by the French MEP Guy Bono, and reinforces a principle voted by the European Parliament in April 2008, within the Bono report (Report on the Cultural Industries in Europe). It states that a court ruling must be obtained in respect of sanctions against Internet users who are alleged to have illegally downloaded copyrighted material. It is widely being interpreted as the death of graduated response / 3 strikes measures.
Amendment 138 was subject to last minute horse-trading in the European Parliament, and the text as voted - with an oral amendment - was agreed on a cross-party basis, which is why it was able to obtain such a large majority - 573 in favour and only 74 against. The majority included a large number of the EPP conservative group, as well as the socialists and greens.
Reports (see previous article on iptegrity.com) have suggested that Mrs Reding wanted it withdrawn, but they were not officially confirmed. This view could have been inferred from a statement by the French Culture Minister, Christine Albanel, which alleged that the European Commission has never supported Amendment 138: "La ministre rappelle qu'aucun des Etats membres qui composent le Conseil, pas plus que la Commission, n'ont manifesté leur volonté de soutenir un amendement de cette nature". It is now apparent that the Commission's position is different from that suggested by Mme Albanel.
As I understand it, the Council position on the Telecoms Package is also not so clear cut. There are suggestions that the French are in a minority of one, and that other member states oppose the inclusion of content measures in the Telecoms Package.
Mrs Reding is between a rock and a hard place. She wants to beviewed as the champion of the low cost phone call, and the benefactor of consumers. And yet, she wants to retain the support of copyright lobby, as indicated in her recent interview with Silicon.fr , where she indicates possible support for some form of Internet filtering: 'contrôler ou filtrer le contenu qui passe par les réseaux doit être fait avec la plus grande prudence' (controlling or filtering the content which passes over the networks must be done with the greatest care').
The next stage in the process is that the Telecoms Package text which was adopted by the Parliament goes to the European Commission for an opinion, and at the same time, it goes to the Council. The Commission's opinion will be its formal response, however it is likely that there will be behind-the-scenes discussions. The Council's opinion is the one that counts the most. It can either approve the text as it is, or send it back with further amendments, in which case it goes to a second reading in the European Parliament.
A European Commission spokesperson confirmed the Commisson's support for the citizens amendment 138 at a press conference late yesterday.
You Tube video of the answer given at the press conference, by Commission spokesman and member of Reding's cabinet, Martin Selmayr.
Updated 9th October.
The Commission did put a press release online, but it has mysteriously disappeared so here is a pdf which you may download.