German rights holders have proposed new sanctions against file sharers that are supposed to allow a more direct cooperation with ISPs while stopping short of cutting users' Internet access. Instead, German users will just see their Internet speed drop if they get caught sharing files.

The German anti-piracy organization GVU is adapting a proposal from French and British rights holders also known as the three strikes approach. Under that plan, rights holders would send the IP addresses of suspected file sharers to ISPs, which in turn would send a series of warning letters to the customers in question. Customers choosing to ignore these warning letters would get banned permanently from the Internet after the third incident of copyright infringement.

These ideas have drawn lots of criticism from politicians and civil liberties groups alike, but one argument against the practice hasn't been publicized too much: Millions of Europeans are using VOIP for their land line phones these days, and oftentimes they get their VOIP services from the same company as their Internet connection. Cut of the Internet, and you'll take away those peoples' phone service as well.

Combined packages of VOIP, phone and in some cases cable TV are particularly popular in Germany, which is why German rights holders apparently realized that the traditional three strikes approach won't work in their country. Their alternative idea is to make ISPs throttle the lines of infringers.

This idea might actually get some sympathy from ISPs looking to save on bandwidth costs, but it doesn't go over well with German Internet activists. Says one blogger: "This is an attempt to privatize law enforcement."

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