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Internet Trials

The policy debate doesn't always happen within the official policy fora such as European Commission consultations, or Parliamentary 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'

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?

As he headed off for the Norfolk mansion where he will live for the next few weeks under house arrest, Julian Assange morphed from an unknown, shadowy web entrepreneur into a cause cébre for the free media.  I use the term ‘media' here, rather than Internet, deliberately.

 The reason that the world's media is so keen to flash cameras in his face at a level more usually reserved for a Royal Engagement, is that Assange's eventual fate will also determine the rights of publishers and journalists online.

 At stake in this case is free speech, the right to access and distribute information. If Assange is eventually indicted on whatever offence the US government can cook up, it will herald more restrictions on the Internet and a curb of free speech as yet unknown in western liberal democracies.

 His conviction would put all online media - especially those involved in political reporting - at risk.  The risk would extend from mainstream broadcasters to individual bloggers. How can any media call governments to account, when they could be personally and financially threatened, by the State and by its corporate henchmen?

 

Julian Assange,  founder of the Wikileaks website, was released from prison on bail today. But  he remains under house arrest in a the Norfolk mansion where he offered to stay whilst awaiting his trial for extradition to Sweden. And a number of matters remain unclear.

 

The court hearing today was an appeal against his bail, and there is still confusion about which government - British or

Read more: Julian Assange - cause clbre for a free media

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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.  

The politics of copyright

A Copyright Masquerade - How corporate lobbying threatens online freedoms

'timely and provocative' Entertainment Law Review