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The EU wants more talks with ISPs and Google about 'new ways to enforce copyright'.

After the failed Stakeholder Dialogue, the European Commission now wants to re-start ISP-rightsholder talks under a new chair-person. Robert Madelin, director general for Information Society and Media, has taken over the baton from Margot Frohlinger, head of copyright and IP at DG Markt. The talks will concern copyright enforcement on the Internet. They appear to include Google as well as

ISPs. However, there is scant information available about the talks and it is not clear whether they merely replicate the failed Stakeholder Dialogue on Illegal Up and Downloading or whether there is a new agenda. If they do not make some changes to incorporate the views and position of citizens, they will almost certainly be doomed to failure once again. ETNO, representing European telecoms operators, pulled out of the previous talks in anger on the basis that citizens' views were not represented.

It seems that Robert Madelin himself announced the talks at a semi-public meeting last week.  According to a report in the Financial Times, the EU will bring together creative artists, publishers and digital businesses ( ISPs implied?) in an 'alliance'. It seems this 'alliance' is to be a forum for working out new ways of enforcing copyright - generally a euphemism for 3-strikes and web blocking. The talks are to commence this September as the first step towards reconciling differences ( the FT's briefer obviously forgot to mention the unmentionable, and secret, Stakeholder Dialogues. )


However, rights-holders media got a different briefing, and they believe that the EU  aims to hold a 'summit' which will 'hammer out an agreement' between ISPs and rights holders.

 A report in the Wall Street Journal quotes Mr Madelin calling on ISPs to take liability for content in the same way as a British pub landlord takes responsibility for throwing out drunks. 

 However, it is unclear to me how the pub metaphor takes account of  EU law on mere conduit and the role of the ISP - which is quite different from that of a public house.


Robert Madelin's announcement was made at an event called the Digital Assembly where rights-holers took the floor to discuss ICT and online content: EMI Music Publishing, Newspaper Licensing Agency, Movie Lab, UGC, RTL, IFRRO, BBC - plus Amazon and Google. ( Source: Composers Alliance )


The Financial Times report quotes Robert Madelin saying he is 'optimistic' of achieving a result.


So what kind of optimistic result can European citizen's expect from Robert Madelin's chairmanship of these ISP - rights holder talks?


In a video made to accompany the EU Digital Assembly, Robert Madelin revealed his personal attitude to the issue.

Asked  whether web blocking for copyright enforcement purposes was 'the thin end of the wedge' , Mr Madelin  replied: 


"To caricature it without being rude about the population of one of America's biggest States . I'm on the record as saying we are living in Europe and not California. I think there is a certain extreme Californian  view as I caricature it  that somehow the internet is a parallel universe and it is a libertarian paradise. In other words anything goes because otherwise it's not net neutral and it's not open and its not  free. Frankly, that is not sustainable. The Internet is not a parallel universe. People when they are surfing expect the same sorts of rights, responsibilities, degree of safety that they experience in the real world.  And therefore I think it's not the thin end of the wedge, it's the Internet growing up.


On  his Linked In profile, Robert Madelin has "10+ years on the issues around the involvement of 'outsiders' in typically under-networked and thus misunderstood processes (first trade policy, then health and science policies). "


Well,  the issue  of copyright enforcement on the Internet certainly is mis-understood, beginning right at the top of the EU's  glass-fronted offices.


I am reproducing here the text from the Financial Times article on which I have relied as the source material. This is in order to clarify my understanding  that the September meeting will be about copyright enforcement based on ISP liability. I note the language "settling apparently irreconcilable differences over piracy."   " thrash out solutions to disputes ... particularly, enforcement action against piracy."  and "develop new ways to combat piracy". 


"Copyright holders, internet service providers and online companies are to come together in Brussels in the first step towards settling apparently irreconcilable differences over piracy.

The European Commission laid out plans last Friday for an “alliance” of creative artists, publishers and digital businesses owners, who continue to be at odds over intellectual property rights.

The body, which has yet to be given a name, will meet for the first time in September to try to thrash out solutions to disputes over payment-collection systems and, particularly, enforcement action against piracy.

The planned alliance was one of few concrete steps to come out of the Commission’s Digital Agenda Assembly in Brussels last week, a wide-ranging effort to co-ordinate information technologies across the European Union.

Robert Madelin, who runs the commission’s directorate on information and the media, challenged the different parties to settle their disputes in meetings of the alliance starting this autumn and develop new ways to combat piracy.

Rights holders, such as music labels, book and newspaper publishers and film or television studios, complain that internet users distribute their content for nothing, and that telecoms operators who own broadband networks, and search engine owners such as Google, do not do enough to curb piracy.

Without change, they argued, there would be insufficient rewards for creative industries, to the detriment of society as a whole as well as individual artists.

The ISPs and online companies counter that it is not their job to enforce copyright rules and say rights holders should allow small amounts of content to used for free, a policy known as “fair use”, which applies in the US, but is resisted in Europe."


"Mr Madelin told the meeting that he was optimistic that one of the most intractable disputes in European commerce could be overcome." 



The text cited is taken from : The Financial Times, EU body aims to settle web piracy disputes,  by Ben Fenton,  June 20 2011 07:54


This article on the old iptegrity site had the following comments posted to it:

"This post seems misleading: the DAA output is on using ICT to manage IPR, so nothing to do with substantive IPR, where our colleagues from DG MARKT colleagues are hard at work:) See for the real deal.

David Ringrose
Head of Communication, European Commission DG for Information Society & Media"

"David, thanks for your comment. I\'ve amended the article by pasting in the text from the Financial Times on which I have relied for the information that the Commission is proposing further talks on enforcement measures. Is the FT is incorrect? It would be good if the Commission would clarify whether such talks are planned, and if so, which DG will be leading them?
Monica "

"Details still under discussion. DR"

Please remember to attribute this article: Monica Horten (2011) EU chief who caricatures users to lead new 3-strikes talks 23 June 2011 .  This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial-Share Alike licence.  It may be used for non-commercial purposes only, and the author's name should be attributed.

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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