The Closing of the Net  "original and valuable"  Times Higher Education

ETNO calls for an open and transparent ACTA process. Concerns relate to disproportionate measures, freedom of expression, privacy and an Open Internet.


ETNO, the organisation which represents Europe's largest telecommunications companies*, has weighed in publicly to the debate surrounding the Anti-counterfeiting Trade Agreement, known as ACTA. The ACTA is known to contain measures for copyright enforcement on the Internet - measures which include network filtering and 3-strikes. The measures could also target ecommerce companies such as eBay.


ETNO is concerned that the ACTA** is being negotiated behind closed doors and is calling on Members of the European Parliament to raise

the issue publicly with the aim of opening up the process.  It wants to see this happen before the ACTA negotiations are concluded, which could be as soon as this coming  January.


ETNO's concern are that ACTA does not distinguish between counterfeiting and piracy, which are two entirely different issues. It is also worried that the ACTA will have a disproportionate effect on hi-tech industries, with resulting increases in costs for businesses and consumers.


It further expresses concern at the attack on the ‘mere conduit' principle which underpins EU telecoms law, and has the de facto effect of protecting democratic speech and the open Internet. Imposing network filtering onto network operators to enforce copyright, represents  a threat to fundamental rights of EU citizens.


There could be some interesting politics behind this. Perhaps the real point is not that ACTA is being negotiated behind closed doors, but that it is in  rooms where ETNO members are not permitted to enter. And yet, political decisions  are being taken in those rooms  with serious implications for  its members' businesses.


And ETNO's comments may seem somewhat disingenuous, given that two of its members lobbied hard in the Telecoms Package to be permitted to restrict users' access to Internet services and applications.


My feeling is that within ETNO there are divergent opinions, as there are within all telcos. Their problem is that they want it both ways.  ETNO has quietly behind the scenes opposed graduated response and copyright measures in the Telecoms Package.


In the ACTA situation, ETNO has come out on the side of the angels. On the other hand,  for a £260 billion  organisation,  an ‘expert contribution' on a website amounts to  little more than wagging its finger at the EU.


ACTA is forcing Europe's  telcos  to take a difficult decision. The very heart of their  business is being dictated to and threatened by another industry, which sees only one issue. They can no longer have it both ways and will have to fight hard and fast. ETNO  will need to do  more than a bit of expert finger-wagging if it is to win any victories.


*ETNO members include BT, Deutsche Telekom, France Telecom, Telefonica, Telecom Italia. It claims to represent £264 billion in annual revenue to the European economy.


**ACTA is the Acnti-counterfeiting Trade Agreement being discussed secretly between trade representatives of the US, the EU, Japan, Canada, Australia and other governments. As a "trade agreement" it  sits in a legal hierarchy above EU and national law and this is a key reason why it is of concern. Decision made in ACTA could be forced onto the EU and governments without the European or national parliaments having any say in it.

Details of ACTA have leaked, and they are known to include Internet copyright enforcement measures such as 3-strikes, and secondary liability for ISPs.


Read ETNO's 'expert contribution' on ACTA


EU DG Trade comments on ACTA

ACTA Analysis by FFII



This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial-Share Alike 2.5 UK:England and Wales License. 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) Europe's telcos call to open up ACTA 18 December  2009.







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