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Policy matters

Policy does matter. We may think that the Internet is a free digital environment, where no laws apply but there are many cases which contradict this notion.

In this section of Iptegrity.com, I  report on EU policy related to the Internet and online content, in particular, where policy intiatives affect   access to film, music and television, and I highlight issues for the  policy debate in relation to the Internet.  For 2008-2009, copyright enforcement has been the hot topic, with net neutrality emerging as well, in 2009.   My focus is on the European Union and  its member states - for example,  I am currently covering Internet  policy - specifically copyright enforcement intiatives - in France and the UK.

I am most interested in the citizen's perspective. However, the issues I cover will affect the Internet and telecoms industries, as well as the media and entertainment industries.  

Iptegrity.com offers  original reporting from the EU, as well as comment and opinion on issues raised in other media, including non-English language media in Europe. Iptegrity.com is the main English-language news source for the Telecoms Package review of EU telecoms law.

A new law, known as the Loi HADOPI after the authority which will oversee the implementation ( the High Authority for the diffusion of content and protection of rights on the Internet) sets out how users may be sanctioned by ISPs on behalf of copyright owners. Information will be passed between them via the HADOPI authority to get around data protection rules. Data retention laws will also be amended to enable the data to be stored for a year and accessed for the purposes of copyright protection.

Users will receive an electronic and a written warning, before being threatened with suspension of their account and ultimately termination (hence 3 strikes and you’re out!’. The electronic warnings will be sent to thousands of users, using an automated system. ISPs will be forced to check a blacklist of terminated users before signing up new customers, and fined if they fail to do so.

And a new Charter for ISPs, which will mandate the filtering of content. Filtering means the ISPs will check for anyone using P2P software and may slow it down or block it. They may also – depending on how it is implemented – be asked to open every packet of data to inspect it for copyrighted content. This would be the equivalent of asking the post office to open every envelope in case it contained copyrighted material.

The law is in draft form and is in the early stages of the French legislative process. 

The rationale for the law is that the French music industry has seen a 50% drop in volume and value over the past five years. France is concerned about the future of its cultural industries, which are importantly economically and culturally. The French cultural industry has collaborated with the Hollywood studios and the IFPI to lobby for copyright enforcement measures.

The "Telecoms Package" comprises reviews to 5 sets of directives, but for the copyright issue there are two which are important: Amendments to the Electronic communications: common regulatory framework for networks and services, access, interconnection and authorisation ( Directives 2002/19/EC to 2002/21/EC]) and the Electronic communications: universal

Read more: Telecoms Package Hidden Amendments

Promusicae, the Spanish version of IFPI, has filed a claim in a Madrid court against the file-sharing website Blubster. The claim alleges that the site showed "parasitic behaviour" and that it had "commercial intent" with customers paying "from $10,000 per month" in advertising fees.

According to a report in the LA Times , Blubster added a "layer of anonymity" to its file-sharing service, so that it is harder for content companies to track what its users  are doing - and that may well be the real reason why they are prosecuting.  The LA Times article also points out that the case raises similar issues to the Grokster case in the US and the Kazaa case, which was pursued in the US and in Australia. 

 And as anyone in the media industry knows, $10,000 isn't much in terms of  advertising rates - on or off-line.

The IFPI press release concerning the case is available here.  

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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.