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

After almost a year's delay, the European Commission has finally dished up a report on the secret copyright enforcement talks it was hosting between ISPs and rights-holders. The Commission has done its best to put a nice gloss on  it, but reading between the lines, the fists came out on more than one occasion.


The report concerns the so-called ‘Stakeholder dialogue on Illegal Up and Downloading', a series of talks which took place in the European Commission's offices  from 2009-2010 and  for which the  objective was to draw up a Europe-wide agreement or  Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) mandating  ISPs to enforce copyright on the Internet.  The talks were terminated very suddenly a couple of months' ago. The termination   was apparently prompted by  a letter to the Commission from the telecoms industry lobby group,  ETNO, stating that it  would no longer  participate.


The report  has been carefully written by the European Commission, and vetted by the participants including major rights-holders such as the IFPI and the Motion Picture Association, as well as the large telcos  in  ETNO and ECTA. It is trying to clean up the egg from the Commission's face over the failure of the talks to reach any agreement.  Notably, the report does not

mention the plans for an MoU, but it does admit to a series of agenda items which relate to 3-strikes or graduated response measures. 


In spite of the Commission's best efforts, it is clear from the report that there was no agreement between the two industries. Indeed, reading the report  reveals the jagged fault line of disagreement on IP enforcement  between the rights holders and the telecoms industry.


The report is peppered with this sort of comment: ‘rights-holders feel that there is room for voluntary action by ISPs... ISPS stressed that sanctions should remain the prerogative of the courts'. Or ‘rights-holders explained that their ability to take legal action is limited by the capacity of the courts...ISPs perceive the current legal framework as sufficient to protect the different rights and interests'.


The rights-holders threatened more law suits, the ISPS refuse to budge. No wonder it got no-where. The Commission's final words are that ‘fundamental differences of opinion remain..."


The so-called Stakeholder Dialogue  was a series of non-public  talks which appear to have been started on the initiative of  the European Commission (see my previous articles on eg ISPs & rights-holders in dust-up over Europe-wide MoU ). Only selected organisations were invited, and in the report the Commission tries to excuse itself by saying that so many people wanted to attend, it had to limit the numbers. This is a slight exaggeration, since no-one else knew about the talks, and even the European Parliament was not given a full answer to a question in Spring 2010.


There is a long list of rights-holder participants, including IPFI, Motion Picture Association , BSA, Federation of European Publishers,  GESAC and AEPO-ARTIS, as well as the two broadcasters associations EBU, and ACT. These were the regular attendees, and in addition representatives of the BPI, PRS, Promusicae, Warner Music, Vivendi and Disney, among others, attended.


A smaller list of telecoms industry representatives included ETNO, ECTA, and EuroISPA, plus Liberty Global, Telecom Italia, Orange, and BT.


Two regulators, including our very own industry-cuddly Ofcom, attended, apparently as observers.


The talks covered the following topics:


Educational measures and awareness raising  - 11 September 2009

Legal offers  - 9 October 2009

Information sharing  - 3 February 2010

Current legal framework  - 3 March 2010

Sanctions and other legal actions  - 14 April 2010

Technical measures  - 2 June 2010

Economic implications  - 1 July 2010



The correct attribution for this article is: Monica Horten (2011) Commission comes clean on "anti-piracy" talks 8 May 2011.


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







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