A Copyright Masquerade - how corporate lobbying

  threatens online freedoms    

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Reads like a legal thriller!

The 2009 Telecoms Package & copyright

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Widely leaked since before Xmas. The biggest open secret in Brussels. What are we to make of  the new  EU plans for the Internet, presented today as  the Digital Single Market policy?  An analysis  exposes  a few hidden issues.

 Today the European Union will announce a wide ranging plan to tackle the Internet.    Top of its action list is a phenomenon that is becoming known as

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27 March 2015.
I was delighted to be invited by the Council of Europe to give a lecture at the University of Podgorica, MonteNegro. The lecture was one in a series of lectures arranged in collaboration between the University and the Council of Europe. My presentation was entitled: Online media – CoE standards, copyright & use of social media by journalists. It was an amazing experience to have my words translated into  Montenegrin and to give the lecture with simulatneous translation. I'd like to thank the students for being a wonderful audience, the translator for her patience, and the organisers at the University for doing such a great job. It was my first trip to Podgorica and indeed, my first time in the Balkans, and I have to say that I was made to feel very welcome. 

This year is the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta, the Great Charter that established the right to a fair trial and  put an end to arbitrary justice in private hands. What, you may ask, does this have to do with technology policy for the 21st century? It’s a strange twist of fate that this year, in Britain, we face calls for private companies to take on the role of  (secret) police-man, judge and censor all wrapped up in one.

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After much anticipation, the EU Council of Ministers released its  net neutrality mandate last week.  The announcement follows some  highly political back-room  wrangling, which has resulted in a text – seen by Iptegrity -  that  creates some very murky waters around Internet fast lanes, filtering and specialised services. The Council now goes into the so-called ‘trilogue’  talks with the European Parliament, and the prospect of a political battle looms.

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Yesterday’s  net neutrality announcement by the FCC  was a Red Letter day for Internet freedom in the US. How will  the European Union react ?  

The United States telecoms regulator, the Federal Communications Commission, yesterday confirmed its policy direction in favour of net neutrality. It has ordered that broadband providers are to come under the common carriage regulation, which means they must neither prevent nor favour traffic, but take all on an equal basis.  The  FCC’s message is simple and clear: no blocking, no throttling, no fast lanes. The rule applies equally to mobile and fixed network providers. Meanwhile, in the deep, non-enlightened corridors of Brussels,  the EU is threatening measures that would embed exactly

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Following the astonishing decision last week by the US Federal Communications Commission on protecting the open Internet - no blocking, no fast lanes, no throttling - the European Parliament today begins the political defence of  net neutrality on this side of the Atlantic. At around midday today, the Parliament will take a

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Opt-outs for self-regulatory filtering and FacebookZero plans? Is this really net neutrality?

 The Council of Ministers is to focus on net neutrality and roaming and throw out the remaining provisions in the EU Telecoms Regulation. It’s aiming for an agreement by March, so that it can open negotiations with the European Parliament. Unfortunately for those who may be hoping for a net neutrality law in Europe, the discussions are going the wrong way, with a number of get-outs being proposed to help those  governments that want to permit their Internet providers to block,  filter or favour.

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UK Prime Minister David Cameron has said he will put  communications data at the top of his list for  new laws after the May 7 general election. Assuming  he is re-elected, he wants to extend the range of data that would be legally accessible to  the police and intelligence services, on a scale thus far unprecedented.  His proposals, justified on the basis of an increased terror threat,  will also up the ante in terms of the technology companies that will be obligated to comply.  The concern is that Mr Cameron’s implied multi-dimensional data retention requirement will also create an apparatus that, without sufficient safeguards and in the wrong hands, will result in  a vastly disproportionate, over-arching and unacceptable violation of  personal privacy.

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ECTA regulatory conference copyright panel 19 November 2014

I was delighted to be a panelist at the annual conference in Brussels of the European Competitive Telecommunications Association (ECTA) on  Wednesday 19 November 2014.

The panel was entitled "What's next for copyright?" and panelists were asked to address European Union copyright policy moving forward into 2015, with a focus on the issue of cross-border availability of content.

As we are now at the beginning of the new year, and in eager anticipation of the European Commission's moves on copyright, the following text  is an edited version of my speech:

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In the 800th anniversary  year of Magna Carta, what of our free speech rights?

As we begin 2015, let’s remind ourselves that this year is the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta – the Great Charter that first established rights and on which later charters of human rights have been built.  In 2015, we are seeing more and more threats to those hard won rights by various interest groups (corporate and non-corporate) who want to block and take control of our communications systems that have been established over the Internet in the past two decades or so.  It does look like 2015 is going to be critical year for the protection of those rights.

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Who would knowingly request the invasion of their privacy and violation of their free speech rights?

There are rumours that the Council of Ministers  of the European Union is reviewing its proposal on net neutrality that leaked recently.  However, there seem to be many observers who are  puzzled by one piece of language in the proposal. That is the phrase "except where specifically requested by an end-user". Why would the EU Council would consider an individual ‘requesting’ traffic management  as an exception to a  net neutrality rule? I put forward one possible answer.

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The Council of Ministers is sharply divided over the net neutrality provisions in the new Telecoms Regulation. The split within the Council  emerged today  in a meeting of the Telecoms Council, where all 28 EU member governments gave their view on the Council’s new proposals for net neutrality. Broadly, the positions line up with the Dutch and Slovenians who are not happy with the Council’s text,  and (sadly) the Brits at the diametrically opposite position,  who support it.

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After President Obama’s recent statement in support of a strong net neutrality law, many European citizens will be disappointed at the EU’s latest  position as the political battle for the Internet reprises.

 The EU's  net neutrality battle is starting up again after a few months' hiatus. It’s all happening around the Telecoms Regulation, that was adopted last March by the European Parliament with a ground-breaking provision to enshrine net neutrality into EU law. Naturally, the large telecoms corporations are up in arms against it, and now documents - seen by Iptegrity -  have emerged  from the Council of Ministers that reveal an attempt to erase it. And, the Council proposals will enshrine traffic management  as the principle for running the Internet.

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Iptegrity.com is the website of Dr Monica Horten, European expert on Internet policy and Visiting Fellow at the London School of Economics & Political Science. She is an independent expert on the Council of Europe Committee on Cross-border flow of Internet traffic and Internet freedom (MSI-INT). She was shortlisted for The Guardian Open Internet Poll 2012. Iptegrity  offers expert insights into Internet policy. Iptegrity has a core readership in the Brussels policy community, and has been cited in the media. Please acknowledge Iptegrity when you cite or link.  For more, see IP politics with integrity

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A Copyright Masquerade - How corporate lobbying threatens online freedoms

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