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Colombia to railroad US-backed anti-piracy law

US-backed anti-piracy laws are being rushed through in Colombia that will force ISPs to censor Internet content, spy on and even disconnect users accused of copyright infringement.

A new bill, put before legislators on Monday by Colombia's Minister of Interior and Justice; German Vargas Lleras, will make ISPs liable for online copyright infringement by their subscribers.

The laws have been introduced in line with the 2006 US-Colombia Free Trade Agreement, and bears striking similarities to US Online Copyright Infringement Liability Limitation Act introduced under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).

Critics in Colombia, including online rights group Fundacion Karisma, have voiced concern over the lack of public consultation regarding the bill before it was submitted to Congress, in spite of promises to the contrary. Protests have prompted the National Directorate of Copyright (NDNA) to belatedly offer an online forum for the public to express their views.

The Colombian legislation is the latest in a strong of draconian anti-piracy laws introduced after heavy pressure from the US. A leaked diplomatic cable released by the whistle-blowing organisation WikiLeaks revealed that Hollywood studio bosses had even helped to draft Spain's controversial 'Sinde' anti-piracy law.

Other countries have followed suit in the wake of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, whose final text was released last November. A number of countries, including Mexico, Ireland, New Zealand, have followed the lead of the US in instituting a 'three strikes' policy in disconnecting alleged infringers after a third offence.

Legislators in France rejected an initial plan by the country's government to introduce a 'three strikes' rule in its controversial HADOPI anti-privacy/liberty law. Three-strikes disconnections carried out under the version of the Act eventually passed now require the consent of a judge.

The UK's own 2010 Digital Economy Act, which also contains a three-strikes provision, is currently under judicial review, after being challenged by leading UK ISPs BT and TalkTalk. The Act includes a 'three strikes' provision, and makes ISPs jointly responsible with right holders for the costs of information requests concerning alleged offenders.