The European Union's Council of Ministers on Monday approved a pan-European directive on Internet copyright rules that sets out to protect copyright holders while allowing private copying of some audio and video material. The directive seeks to stem the tide of Internet piracy by giving copyright owners the right to limit the illegal downloading of digital audio and video files. It also provides for the use of encryption to block duplication of digital files, the EU said in a statement. In an attempt to balance the rights of both copyright owners and users of copyrighted material, the EU directive also allows for private copying of such material for personal use, the EU said. In February, the European Parliament voted in favor of the directive, which then went on to the government ministers for approval. The EU member states now have 18 months to ratify or reject the directive, the EU said. The directive has been the subject of intense lobbying, with some of the music industry's heaviest hitters, including former Beatles producer George Martin, personally showing up to testify to the European Parliament before its vote in February.