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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  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 méthode de travail qui a récemment reçu un large soutien de la part du Parlement européen" .


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. 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 13 March 2011 

Iptegrity in brief is the website of Dr Monica Horten. I’ve been analysing analysing digital policy since 2008. Way back then, I identified how issues around rights can influence Internet policy, and that has been a thread throughout all of my research. I hold a PhD in EU Communications Policy from the University of Westminster (2010), and a Post-graduate diploma in marketing.   I’ve served as an independent expert on the Council of Europe  Committee on Internet Freedoms, and was involved in a capacity building project in Moldova, Georgia, and Ukraine. I am currently (from June 2022)  Policy Manager - Freedom of Expression, with the Open Rights Group. For more, see About Iptegrity is made available free of charge for  non-commercial use, Please link-back & attribute Monica Horten. Thank you for respecting this.

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Copyright Enforcement Enigma launch, March 2012

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