ISPs to Ban P2P with New European Telecom Package?

An new European-wide package for ISPs has been discussed before, but new amendments could turn European Internet Service Providers into copyright police. Perhaps the only good news out of this is that network neutrality activism may get a new boost in Europe.

The disturbing report comes right out of todays posting on EDRI.org, a European Digital rights activism website.

The amendments just about speak for themselves and can be found here. Here’s a few of them:

“Article 2 — point 5 a (new) amending Directive 2002/58/EC Article 14 — paragraph 1

1. In implementing the provisions of this Directive, Member States shall ensure, subject to paragraphs 2 and 3, that no mandatory requirements for specific technical features, including, without limitation, for the purpose of detecting, intercepting or preventing infringement of intellectual property rights by users, are imposed on terminal or other electronic communication equipment which could impede the placing of equipment on the market and the free circulation of such equipment in and between Member States.”

Paragraph 1 and 2:

2. Where provisions of this Directive can be implemented only by
requiring specific technical features in electronic communications
networks, Member States shall inform the Commission in accordance
with the procedure provided for by Directive 98/34/EC of the European
Parliament and of the Council of 22 June 1998 laying down a procedure
for the provision of information in the field of technical standards
and regulations and of rules on information society services(9).

3. Where required, measures may be adopted to ensure that terminal
equipment is constructed in a way that is compatible with the right
of users to protect and control the use of their personal data, in
accordance with Directive 1999/5/EC and Council Decision 87/95/EEC of
22 December 1986 on standardisation in the field of information
technology and communications(10).

Here’s another amendment:

Article 1 — point 12 xx amending Directive 2002/22/EC Article 21 — paragraph 4a (new)

Members state shall ensure that national regulatory authorities oblige the undertakings referred in paragraph 4 to distribute public interest information to existing and new subscribers when appropriate. Such information shall be produced by the relevant public authorities in a standardised format and may inter alia cover the following topics :

(a) illegal uses of electronic communications services, particularly where it may prejudice respect for the rights and freedoms of others, including infringement of copyright and related rights ;

(b) the most common illegal uses of electronic communications services, including copyright infrigement, and their consequences; and

(c) means of protection against risks to personal security, privacy and personal data in using electronic communications services.

Significant additional costs incurred by an undertaking in complying with these obligations shall be reinbursed by the national regulatory authority.

So basically, they are demanding mandatory notice-and-takedown systems run by the ISP and paid for by the government. It would definitely make the job of the copyright industry a lot easier to have state sponsored copyright police run by the ISP.

One has to wonder how ISPs are suppose to “[prevent] infringement of intellectual property rights by users” outside of an outright ban on file-sharing entirely given that encryption and restricted access p2p (ala private P2P websites) has become increasingly adopted by the file-sharing community at large. What about blocking YouTube? Would that be considered a preventative measure?

The amendments go even further with this:

Without prejudice to national rules in conformity with community law promoting cultural and media policy objectives, such as cultural and linguistic diversity and media pluralism, national regulatory authorities and other relevant authorities shall also as far as appropriate promote cooperation between undertakings providing electronic communications networks and/or services and the sectors interested in the protection and promotion of lawful content in electronic communication networks and services. These co-operation mechanisms may also include coordination of the public interest information to be made available as set out in Article 21(4a) and Article 20(2).

How can kowtowing a dying business model be more obvious in legislation with “the protection and promotion of lawful content in electronic communication networks and services”?

La Quadrature du Net, the website that has a large amount of information on the matter has some ways of stopping these amendments from becoming European law:

Contact your MEPs and their assistants before July 7th, the date of the vote in IMCO and ITRE committee, to inform them that the “Telecoms Package” amendements are dangerous for users’ freedom and harmful to network neutrality

Ask them to drop or reject the amendments related to Intellectual Property Rights, which are completly unrelated to the Telecoms Package. All the MEPs need to be contacted to prepare themselves to vote against the rapporteurs and draftspersons proposals on September, if such amendements are voted on July 7th.

European citizens have until the 7th to contact their MEPs (Member of European Parliament) and voice their concerns.

From EDRI:

Some amendments will transform the ISPs from technical intermediaries that have no obligation to prior surveillance of contents into law enforcers. Therefore they might be asked to block their users from lawful activities in the interests of their security or to work with content producers and rights-holders’ organizations, including sending intimidating messages, with no judicial approval. The amendment meant to support Intellectual Property Rights owners could open the door to censorship and might mean in practice the loss on privacy on the Internet.

“The politicians who engage in these summer manoeuvres dishonour Europe and their mandate. They rely on the fact that nobody watches them few days before Parliamentary holiday, to divert the Telecom package from its primary objectives of consumer protection. They pave the way for the monitoring and filtering of the Internet by private companies, exceptional courts and Orwellian technical measures. It is inconceivable for freedom but also for European economic development. We call on all MEPs to oppose what they have already rejected.” said Christophe Espern, co-founder of La Quadrature du Net (Squaring the Net).

The appeal of the three organisations comes just before the 7 July vote in the ITRE and IMCO Committees of the European Parliament on the suggested amendments to the telecom package. The plenary discussion and vote for the whole package will take place in September, but the vote in the two committees could have a significant impact on the final result.

Protests over the new “telecom package” have already taken place in Germany.

Open Rights Group is also covering the story:

Could Europe be drafting a new law to disconnect suspected filesharers from the internet? MEPs have already signalled their condemnation of this approach. But last-minute amendments to telecommunications legislation could bring the so-called “3 strikes” approach in by the backdoor. If you want your MEP to stick to their guns on 3 strikes, write to them today to voice your concerns.

Back in February, we reported that the UK Government was considering a law to ban illicit filesharers from the ‘net. A promised consultation on proposed legislation is yet to materialise (although we’re still hoping it will appear before the Summer recess). Meanwhile, pressure on ISPs and rightsholders to come to a voluntary arrangement has had some effect, with both Virgin and BT recently starting to “educate” those customers they believe are infringing copyright in their use of p2p networks.

As we pointed out at the time, neither the voluntary nor the statutory approach will put a penny in artists’ pockets unless accompanied by viable legal alternatives that deliver consumers what they want. A recent survey commissioned by British Music Rights [pdf] indicates that 80% of those currently downloading music would pay for so-called “legal p2p” – properly licensed and competitive filesharing alternatives. Rumours that industry is close to developing such an offer are yet to be confirmed. But without it, any enforcement move is likely only to drive illicit filesharing further underground.

Over in France, President Nicolas Sarkozy (who also took over the European presidency yesterday) has put his weight behind legislation proposed by the Olivennes report. The bill, which has been delayed until the Autumn, will mandate termination of internet connections. It goes without saying that it is the subject of much controversy across the Channel.

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