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The European Commission has terminated secret talks aimed at brokering a Europe-wide agreement on Hadopi-style measures, just one day after Commissioner Barnier defended the talks in a written answer to the European Parliament. But why does the Commission still pull a veil over the MoU?

The European Commission has formally replied to MEPs Stavros Lambrinidis and Francoise Castex on the matter of the secret copyright enforcement talks being hosted by DG Markt ( the talks were previously uncovered in iptegrity.com). The reply was sent by Internal Market Commission Michel Barnier, and it denies the previously leaked information, saying that the talks are open and promote an exchange of views to find solutions to the online copyright enforcement problem within the existing legal framework.

MEPS Lambrinidis and Castex asked the Commission about talks on copyright enforcement and a Europe-wide agreement - Memorandum of Understanding(MoU) - which the DG Markt was hosting: MEPs ask Commission: come clean on 'EU hadopi' talks . The prospective signatories to the MoU were understood to be the rights-holder and the telecoms industry organisations and it was intended to be some form of Hadopi-style agreement for sending of warning notices to Internet users and sanctions, including termination of Internet access. The talks took place in secret and participants were banned from speaking publicly about them. The participants included IFPI, the Motion Picture Association, EuroISPA, ETNO, and indeed our very own rights-holder-cuddly regulator Ofcom. (Secrets and lies and EU file-sharing talks).

The positive take-away from Barnier's answer is that he does for the first time admit the existence of these talks. And he has been forced to open up dialogue on the subject of online copyright enforcement to citizen representatives.

But primarily he goes into defensive mode. Responding to a specific point in the written question on the exclusion from the talks of the European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS) , Mr Barnier adds that an invitation to the EDPS is in the process of being prepared. He also says that the talks encompas legal offers as wellas enforcement, and that there is no deal on the table.

And Commissioner Barnier states that the Parliament has recently given support to the talks:

"cette mthode de travail qui a rcemment reu un large soutien de la part du Parlement europen" .

He means the Gallo report, which does indeed refer to these talks. However, it would seem that the MEPs were not aware of the meaning of the relevant text in the Gallo report and did not understand what they were voting for. If they had understood, surely they would have raised the matter at the time.

The French technology website PC Inpact reminds us that Gallo and Barnier are from the same political party, Sarkozy's UMP.

Commissioner Barnier's answer is equally interesting in terms of what he leaves out. He does not mention the MoU, however, this was clearly in the briefing papers which emerged from the talks in recent months.

The day after Mr Barnier wrote his letter, a second letter was drafted from the head of copyright policy, Margot Froehlinger, to the participants of the talks. Mrs Froehlinger says she is closing down the talks, and cites the unwillingness of 'certain stakeholders' to participate as her reason. For certain stakeholders, I would read 'telecoms and Internet industry groups'.

She says the talks concerned the directive of IPR enforcement directive in the online environment. Her letter suggests that the intention was to use the talks as a venue for extra-curricula work on the IPR Enforcement directive.

Margot Froehlinger will not publish a report on the talks until she has 'overcome the few remaining problems in bilateral disussions'. That does not sound like the open exchange of views that Commissioner Barnier described.

PC Inpact has published Margot Froehlinger's letter to the rights-holders and ISPs and Commissioner Barnier's response to MEPs Lambrinidis and Castex.

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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) Commission slams the lid on EU Hadopi talks http://www.iptegrity.com 13 March 2011

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About Iptegrity

Iptegrity.com is the website of Dr Monica Horten. I am an  independent policy advisor, with expertise in online safety, technology and human rights. 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.

Iptegrity.com is made available free of charge for non-commercial use. Please link back and attribute Dr Monica Horten.  Contact me to use any of my content for commercial purposes.  

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