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Secret talks at DG Markt may not comply with EU procedures, especially transparency. And are the industry lobbyists getting preferential access?

Iptegrity.com has previously exposed these talks. Now the European Parliament is putting direct questions to the Commission.

Two members of the European Parliament yesterday put questions to DG Markt (European Commission) in respect of talks taking place about copyright enforcement measures for the Internet. Stavros Lambrinidis and Francoise Castex, both from the Socialist and Democrat group, allege that the secret talks could lead to the imposition of Hadopi-style copyright enforcement measures through the back door - with the Commission's blessing. They ask whether the talks comply with EU procedures for transparency, and whether certain industry groups are getting special access to the policy-making process.

In a press statement, they said: "These talks, if true, could well lead to the back-door imposition of a 'hadopi-type' regime throughout Europe, with the Commission's imprimatur, and without any prior legal scrutiny and preconditions. It is indeed very curious that the Commission apparently decided to hold such talks without involving elected representatives of the European Parliament, Data Protection Supervisory Authorities, civil society or anybody else who might bring to the discussions differing points of view. The Commission must explain under which authority it acts as a facilitator for such secret talks and for the negotiation of such an MoU between private parties, under its auspices".

Mr Lambrinidis and Mme Castex, want confirmation of dates, agendas and topics discussed at the meetings. One concern they express is that the Comission is aiming at an agreement to impose a Hadopi-style copyright enforcement measures throughout the European Union - as these are measures which affect the fundamental rights of EU citizens, the talks could be in breach of procedure.

The other concern is that the Commission could be offering exclusive access to those representatives of the entertainment and telecoms industries who attend - access to the current review of the IPR Enforcement directive.

Specific questions raised by Mr Lambrinidis and Mme Castex ask:

-whether DG Markt is trying to broker a Memorandum of Understanding between the entertainment and telecoms industry lobbying associations, which could result in the back-door imposition , without any Parliamentary scrutiny, of a "hadopi-type regime throughout Europe"

- whether DG Markt is holding discussions with these industry lobbying groups on the IP Enforcement directive in a way which could give these groups priority access over others (such as citizens and privacy advocacy groups).

The talks are understood to have been going on for over a year, with industry representatives from IFPI (music) and ETNO (telecoms) but no civil society representation. In particular, there are no citizens groups, and the data protection supervisor has also been excluded.

From what is known about the talks, DG Markt is taking a cloak-and-dagger approach to the talks, which are held behind securely closed doors, and attendees are not allowed to speak about them externally (ISPs & rights-holders in dust-up over Europe-wide MoU ). They are chaired by Margot Froehlinger, who heads up the IPR and copyright work at DG Markt.

Mr Lambrinidis and Mme Castex raise some serious issues. If the Commission is trying to broker an agreement which affects users fundamental rights, then surely it should involve a wide range of representatives, and the European Parliament, as well as experts on the specific fundamental rights issues? And surely it is inappropriate for such discussions to take place among a closed group of industry lobbyists who are paid to advocate specific business positions? The apparent exclusion of the Data Protection Supervisor, on a matter which affects privacy, is an obvious example which is cited.

Moreover, if the likes of IFPI and ETNO get priority involvement and exclusive access to a major public policy review, such as that of the IPR Enforcement directive, it is not unreasonable to suggest that this would be a breach of policy-making protocol.

We eagerly await what Mrs Froehlinger will pull out of her handbag in response.

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Written questions to the European Commission from MEPs Stavros Lambrinidis and Francoise Castex:

1. Does the Commission confirm that such talks have been taking place? If so, what was the agenda and the list of invitees [...]?

2. Were the data protection authorities, including the European Data Protection Comissioner, invited to the meetings that dealt with personal data sharing? If not, why not?

3. Is it true that the Commission is engaged in closed-door negotiations of a "MoU" between trade associations on matters directly relating to fundamental rights? What is the exact role of the Commission in these negotiations and how is the Commission's involvement in negotiating and MoU among private parties complying with the established procedures and the principles of transparency?

4. Does the commission deny the information that the Participants of the Stakeholders dialogue in Online Copyright Infringements have been offered exlcusive access and priority involvement in DG Markt internal decision-making process on the review of the IPRED? If so, could it inform us on who else has simlar access and involvement with the Commission on the IPRED matter?

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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 (2011) MEPS ask Commission: come clean on 'EU hadopi'talks http://www.iptegrity.com 29 January 2011

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About Iptegrity

Iptegrity.com is the website of Dr Monica Horten. I am an  independent policy advisor: online safety, technology and human rights. In April 2024, I was appointed as an independent expert on the Council of Europe Committee of Experts on online safety and empowerment of content creators and users. I am a published author, and post-doctoral scholar. I hold a PhD from the University of Westminster, and a DipM from the Chartered Institute of Marketing. I cover the UK and EU. I'm a former tech journalist, and an experienced panelist and Chair. My media credits include the BBC, iNews, Times, Guardian and Politico.

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