The Telecoms Package Conciliation committee meets again on Tuesday. Consumers and ISPs have called on them to uphold the Parliament's position opposing Hadopi-style administrative sanctions and supporting the rights of access to the Internet. After last week's betrayal of citizens by the rapporteur Catherine Trautmann and her negotiating team, what should the European Parliament now demand?
The key political issue for the European Parliament as the Conciliation committee meets again next Tuesday to discuss the Telecoms Package, is whether Europe what to do about copyright enforcement on the Internet, and the principle of restriction of access. Does Europe want Hadopi -style privatised, administrative punishment for
downloading? And does it want the Internet to be restricted by private operators and governments?
Euro-ISPA, the European ISP trade association , has asked the European Parliament to respect the democratic mandate received from European citizens, and the defend the principles in the European Convention of Human Rights. The Charter forms part of European law, via a reference in the current Treaty, and is ratified by member states (including the UK).
BEUC, the Euro- group representing consumers association, has said that graduated response is an undemocratic and ill-founded response to peer-to-peer filesharing of copyrighted content. BEUC says that if Amendment 138 does not remain, ISPs will be asked to disconnect users alleged to have violated copyright, without having to wait for a judicial authority to make an independent decision as to whether or not the violation has actually taken place. BEUC points out that deep packet inspection techniques that will almost certainly need to be used at some part in the process, and they represent a clear violation of the right to privacy.
BEUC reminds the European Parliament that, in the digital era, cutting off someone's Internet connection deprives them of among other things, essential social, health and government services. It further reminded the Parliament of the Bono report vote of April 2009, which was a conscious expression by the European Parliament of its opposition to graduated response / 3 strikes measures.
In last Tuesday's Conciliation committee meeting, the rapporteur, Catherine Trautmann , and the negotiating team (Herbert Reul and Alejo Vidal-Quadras, ) were given a clear mandate NOT to accept either the Council's old proposal for an Amendment 1.3a, or the Commission's alternative version of it. MEPs Stavros Lambrinidis, (Socialist, Greece), Phillippe Lamberts (Green, Belgium) and Lena Ek (Liberal, Sweden) asked them to obtain the Council's written objections to Amendment 138 and the policy principles which it protects. Since then, the Green group has publicly issued a call for the European Parliament to concentrate on the policy principles enshrined in Amendment 138.
Yet, Mrs Trautmann went into the trialogue meeting with the Council and did the exact opposite . According to reports, she agreed to what the Council asked her to do, and did not insist on the Council responding to the Parliament's position.
Following some unfavourable media coverage, including the Asociación de Internautas , Italian IT website Punto Informatico , and Heise.de , as well as La Quadrature du Net , Mrs Trautman has circulated a statement in the European Parliament where she attempts to defend her position. However, it is also clear from her statement that the Council is pressuring her.
"Yesterday, the Council made clear that working on the basis of Amendment
138 was impossible for them (as demonstrated by the rejection of the
Trautmann report during last Friday's Council A point)"
Firstly, the Council's opening position is that it cannot work on Amendment 138. The Council insists that the ‘basis' for negotiation must be its own text. It is trying to force the European Parliament to agree to drop Amendment 138 and with it the principles that it is there to protect.
The Parliament must remember that the reason Amendment 138 was tabled, was that amendments had been inserted by MEPs close to copyright industy lobbyists, which underpin graduated reponse /3-strikes copyright enforcement measures, and which support restrictions on access to Internet services and applications.
Secondly, if the Council had rejected the Package on the previous Friday, that gives the process until February next year. It is in the Spanish Presidency's agenda. So the question must be asked, why the Council and the Commission are putting on pressure to the Parliament to concede so quickly?
Mrs Trautmann's statement also said:
"The text from the Commission is an interesting contribution; however,
contrary to what we could read in the press, we insisted during the
trialogue that this proposal was not acceptable as such for our
delegation, since it was not including some of the Parliament's concerns."
And that the following items need discussion:
*A prior judgement before taking any action to cut the Internet
(and the EP's legal opinion on this matter)
* The reference to the Convention of European Convention of Human
Rights and/or the general principles of Community law (on which
the Presidency showed some flexibility)
* The refusal of the list of exceptions as they stand in the
* A declaration from the Commission on net neutrality which would be
formalised at the same time as a possible compromise agreement.
The problem is that Mrs Trautmann still continues to ignore the policy issue, and to focus only on the narrow legal technicalities (the references to the EP legal opinion; the Convention v Charter, and exceptions are all legal technicalities). As I have previously reported (See my article European Parliament rifts over users rights) the European Commission's statement on net neutrality is not something that most people would recognise as net neutrality and seems to reflect the Council's position underpinning Internet restrictions. Mrs Trautmann's list for discussion therefore would appear to contain the Council's priorities, and not the policy which the European Parliament seeks to defend.
Post-script: MEP Stavros Lambrinidis report was voted in March last year. In the report, Mr Lambrinidis made two reommendations to the Council::
Full and safe access to the Internet for all: recommendations include participating in efforts to make the Internet an important tool for the empowerment of users, an environment which allows the evolution of ‘bottom up' approaches and of e-democracy, while at the same time ensuring that significant safeguards are established as new forms of control and censorship can develop in this sphere.
Member States must ensure that freedom of expression is not subject to arbitrary restrictions from the public and/or private sphere and to avoid all legislative or administrative measures that could have a "chilling effect" on all aspects of freedom of speech.
For the full story of the Telecoms Package, see my book The Copyright Enforcement Enigma: Internet politics and the Telecoms Package
This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial-Share Alike 2.5 UK:England and Wales License. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/uk/ It may be used for non-commercial purposes only, and the author's name should be attributed. The correct attribution for this article is: Monica Horten (2009) Telecoms Package - does Europe want Hadopi's? , http://www.iptegrity.com 17 October 2009.