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Internet Trials

The policy debate doesn't always happen within the official policy fora such as  European Commission consultations, or European Parliament committees. Especially when it comes to the Internet and online content. Certain interest groups  take it into other venues. The courts are being called on the interpret the law, and the caselaw is used by courts all around Europe in the context of their judgments.   This section looks at instances of legal action against Internet providers by private interest groups, or actions by Member States who are implementing laws and initiatives. Iptegrity's concern, as ever, is the protection of the open Internet and free speech. In the courts, this will be addressed in the context of the right to freedom of expression or privacy.


If you are interested in copyright caselaw  you may like my book The Closing of the Net which discusses the UK copyright blocking judgments and the Megaupload case in New Zealand.

 

If you are interested in copyright policy, you may like my previous books A Copyright Masquerade: How Corporate Lobbying Threatens Online Freedoms and The Copyright Enforcement Enigma - Internet Politics and the ‘Telecoms Package’

An injunction by  a married footballer to  hide an  alleged affair has tipped  the issue of Internet free speech into mainstream British news. But is it really about Article 10 rights, or about  maintaining a flow of scandal to protect  Rupert Murdoch's income? 

 

Rupert Murdoch's Sun newspaper is an unlikely campaigner for Internet freedom, as is its former editor Kelvin MacKenzie.  Yet today it ran the headline  "Nitwit hits Twitter with writ"  and Mr Mackenzie was on BBC Radio 4 pointing out the information travels freely on the Internet,  and you cannot deny freedom of speech.

 

What is causing all the fuss is an injunction which  has been filed in the British courts against Twitter, asking it to reveal personal details of certain users. The injunction has been taken out on behalf of an anonymous British footballer, who is seeking to hide details of an alleged extra-marital  affair. The details have been allegedly revealed in Tweets by those users.

 

I know nothing about football, but  if  you go to Twitter and search for

Read more: Twitter injunction: users v judges in battle for free speech?

The European Advocate General  says  that network filtering for copyright will breach privacy and free expression rights.  But his Opinion has further relevance for any mandate on ISPs to install filtering systems for copyright purposes.

 

The European Advocate General  has said that filtering and blocking systems which monitor users  in order to prevent downloading or transmission  of copyrighted content is a restriction on the right to privacy and data protection.

 

The Advocate General's statement is written in his Opinion issued today,  relating  to a case which is current in the Belgian courts. The case of Sabam v Scarlet, where Sabam is the Belgian music copyright society, and Scarlet is a Belgian ISP. The judge in the case had referred  a number of questions to  the ECJ  in order to obtain its  views before making a ruling.

 

The questions relate to the  use of network filtering technologies for  copyright enforcement, and to the imposition of a mandate for ISPs to install filtering technology for that purpose. In Sabam v Scarlet, the ISP was being asked to filter all content for songs in Sabam's repertoire and to block transmissions of that content by users. Scarlet was being asked to pay for the filtering and blocking system entirely out of its own funds.

 

The Advocate General's Opinion has three important statements. Firstly, he

Read more: Sabam v Scarlet: copyright filtering breaches privacy rights

Today the European Court of Justice (ECJ) will hear a case which will have wide-ranging implications for the Internet and its future.

 

The case  - Sabam versus Scarlet - concerns whether or not an ISP may be asked by a court to filter and block  content for the purpose of copyright enforcement.  At first, it was just one of a series of local cases being filed by the national collecting society or rights-holder group, in order to get a legal precedent for filtering and copyright enforcement, which they could hold up to policy-makers.

But four years' on, with the filtering and blocking  argument raging ever louder, the questions raised by this case begin to resonate more widely.

 If the court rules that EU

Read more: Sabam v Scarlet - will the ECJ open Europe to filtering orders?

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Copyright Enforcement Enigma launch, March 2012

In 2012, I presented my PhD research in the European Parliament.

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Iptegrity.com is the website of Dr Monica Horten. She is a policy analyst specialising in Internet governance & European policy, including platform accountability. She is a published author & Visiting Fellow at the London School of Economics & Political Science. She served as an independent expert on the Council of Europe Committee on  Internet Freedom. She has worked on CoE, EU and UNDP funded projects in eastern Europe and the Caucasus. In a voluntary capacity, she has led UK citizen delegations to the European Parliament. She was shortlisted for The Guardian Open Internet Poll 2012.

Iptegrity  offers expert insights into Internet policy (and related issues on Brexit). 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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The politics of copyright

A Copyright Masquerade - How corporate lobbying threatens online freedoms

'timely and provocative' Entertainment Law Review