The Closing of the Net  "original and valuable"  Times Higher Education

In 2010,  we got  ACTA and the Digital Economy Act. On the other,  Internet freedom of speech  gained a new celebrity status, and in Britain anyway, the establishment has woken  up to the issues.


What can we expect for 2011? Will the new found free speech celebrities  take the issue mainstream?  Will the schizoid patterns of 2010 continue?


***And a happy New Year to all iptegrity readers! ***


First, a quick round-up of 2010.

The year  began with the fight between the European Parliament and the Commission over ACTA.  The Parliament passed a Resolution calling for transparency of the ACTA text, and opposing the inclusion of measures such as 3-strikes.  Contradictorily, this was followed by the Gallo report which supports 3-strikes and other draconian measures such as the blocking of websites.

 In the UK, the Digital Economy Act was bulldozed through the Parliament by the old Labour government under the eyes of the British music industry. In France, the 3-strikes measures began to take effect. The new Hadopi authority was established, warning  letters to Internet subscribers were drafted, and  software companies were asked to design ‘security' software which would ensure that a subscriber could not infringe copyright, by looking at all web traffic and applications on the computer. Internationally, ACTA  was concluded as a  multi-national  pact to enforce copyright against peer-to-peer file-sharing and any other activities on the Internet.

 In the autumn, the gloves came off

over net neutrality, as ISPs (in the UK at least) began to boast of their traffic shaping plans, under the smiling eyes of the regulator.  The EU held a Net Neutrality Summit which promised good things to come, but which most pundits believe will not deliver.


It did not augur well for Internet  freedoms.  But right at the end of the year, Spain rejected the Sinde law, which proposed to enforce copyright by website blocking measures.


And, thanks to the embarrassment caused to government around the world by the Wikileaks  diplomatic cables, an embarrassment which found support among traditional, offline free speech advocates in the UK began to speak up for the Internet. Among them  were some high profile, celebrity voices such as Jemima Khan (daughter of millionaire banker Sir James Goldsmith)  and Bianca Jagger (ex-wife of Mick Jagger)- who  attracted heavyweight media attention to the issue.


The Wikileaks issue will almost certainly  take months to be resolved,  but the positive feeling I take from it is that the British establishment has finally woken up to the Internet freedoms issues, and there will be a more balanced consideration given to these issues than there has been to date. 


So what for 2011?


The schizoid pattern is likely to remain.


In Europe, there are number of policies coming up which entail Internet blocking. First on the agenda is the Angellili report, which deals with pornography and from what I gather, as I haven't examined it yet, is quite hard line on website blocking.


We still unclear as to whether or not the EU has ‘initialled' the ACTA, and the Parliament's final vote on it will be keenly awaited.  If ACTA is approved, then the fight over 3-strikes will be reprised in every EU member state.


We know that the rights-holders are pushing for various EU-wide measures, including restrictions on search engines, and greater rights to retained data. The review of the E-commerce directive will be another bun-fight between rights-holders and ISPs.


Traffic management by ISPs, placing restrictions on our use of the Internet, will get worse this year.

Can net neutrality be protected or is it already too late?  This year should provide a clearer answer to that question.


Those are some big negatives, the black side of policy schizsm. On the other side,  it is to be hoped that the Wikileaks saga will enable some positive messages about protecting freedoms on the Internet to reach policy-makers. The presence of high profile supporters like Jemima Khan and Bianca Jagger will be helpful. They can  reach the politicians which others cannot and it is to be hoped that they do have a  long-term commitment.  


In the UK, our very own would-be web blocker, Minister Ed Vaizey is threatening to push   forward on a similar basis. He has some support in Parliament, but he is encountering opposition elsewhere, as he found to his cost when he raised the possibility of a two-tier Internet.


The outcome of the Judicial Review of the Digital Economy Act will be pivotal in determining which direction the UK goes.  It does offer the possibility that the entire Act will be thrown out.

We also have a new copyright review, driven by Google, which promises to be interesting.


And it is impossible to preview 2011 in the UK without mentioning ‘that wedding' - yes, the Royal Wedding on April 29th which even has its very own copyright conference.  


There will be a veritable hornets nest of copyright issues attached to it, but from the Internet perspective, lets's just consider the 2000 wedding guests in Westminster Abbey. The music starts to play, the event begins and they  all turn on their mobile phone cameras and video recorders. Not to mention the crowds outside, and the TV broadcasters with their  satellite trucks parked up in the streets in the back streets. What's the bet that quite a bit of it ends up online? Who owns the copyright? For which elements?


Now consider that the Wedding takes place just one month after Ofcom is scheduled to publish its draft Code for ISPs to send out warning letters on copyright infringement (if the JR does not throw out the Act).   Should the Queen  ask the ISPs to warn off  her subjects or should she  let them do it?


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This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial-Share Alike 2.5 UK:England and Wales License. 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) 2011 - a schizoid year for Internet policy?  1 January  2011








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