A proposed European law will turn millions of file sharers into criminals, a top technology analyst has warned.

The European Intellectual Property Enforcement Directive will target those who use peer-to-peer networking software to share unlicensed copies of music, movies and other products. and even argues that file sharers should be sent to prison.

Bill Thompson, a technology analyst writing for BBC News who admits to using file-sharing service KaZaA, said: "That means me, and it probably mean you as well, if you're a regular Internet user who has realised that there is a lot of old music out there that you simply can't find in record stores, but is easily available over one or other of the P2P networks."

"If passed, this law means that anyone who thinks that their copyrights are being breached could use the courts to obtain personal information from internet service providers or web hosting companies.

"But it also means that breaking technical copyright protection measures for any reason, even if it is to make a legally-permissible copy of a file for backup purposes, would itself be illegal.

"It's important to press for changes before the Directive is finalised, since national governments have limited scope for changing things after that point."