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

The Copyright Enforcement Enigma was launched in the European Parliament  on 20 March 2012. I was delighted to have the two Telecoms Package rapporteurs, Catherine Trautmann and Malcolm Harbour both speak at the event. I was also very pleased that the University of Westminster, where I carried out my PhD research on which the book is based, supported the event, and I would  like to thank Christian Engström for hosting it.

 It was an opportunity to reflect on political events regarding Internet policy. A common theme of all the speakers was the emergence of the citizens’ agenda in respect of Internet and communications policy, and the importance of engaging people in the political process.  Catherine Trautmann provided us with some interesting observations on the Telecoms Package and Internet freedoms, which is one of the themes addressed in the book:

  “ the mobilisation around Amendment 138 was more than a mere epiphenomenon … to the contrary, it proved to be the tip of an iceberg, namely, the defence of citizens'  fundamental rights on the Internet, ” she said.

Mrs Trautmann  commented on the legacy of  the Telecoms Package process:  

  “Internet freedoms gained a lot of visibility, with Amendment 138 as their main "vehicle". It got a lot of media, and scholarly attention too, as demonstrated by your presence today. This legacy is now very much endorsed by our Institution, which is extremely vigilant on these issues, as shown by the current debates on ACTA.”

  “And so, as the European Parliament endorsed this objective on an even higher footing than the economic issues more traditionally associated with that type of directive, we ended up in Conciliation.

In the end, I'm glad that, thanks to a united Parliament, our views prevailed over the Council's position which sometimes, in the negotiation, was even more conservative than it appeared in broad daylight,  “ she said.

 The Telecoms Package was determined in trialogues during the Second Reading, and of course in a closed Conciliation process in the Third Reading.  Mrs Trautmann commented on the issue of transparency, and she   explained how there are checks and balances in the Parliament’s processes  (as opposed to processes such as the one used in ACTA, where there is no accountability) :

  “the rapporteur is not free to negotiate as he pleases, without checks and balances. A rapporteur is bound by a mandate given by a vote, and the shadow rapporteurs are meant to remind him of this mandate. Overall, while again, improvements are always to be envisaged -and I'd be glad to participate to reflexions about them-, this has nothing to do with ACTA-style negotiations!” she said.

 Finally, she expressed a wish that there was as much public interest on other subjects  addressed by European Parliament.

 That viewpoint was shared by Malcolm Harbour, who  spoke of the importance of citizens understanding how the European Parliament carries out its work. He  said he was  delighted to welcome this book, and  praised  the way the book documented the legislative process.

 Mr Harbour recalled that he had worked on the original Telecoms Framework of 2002. He reflected that he was among a select group of people who worked on the 2002 Framework that are still involved in telecoms policy. Many of the officials from that time have moved to new responsibilities. In those circumstances, the institutional memory may be lost. There is a need to ensure that the Parliament’s work is recorded so that citizens now and in the future can understand the policy decisions that have been taken, and he called for more academic researchers to follow the model of the book in documenting the Parliament’s work. "

 Dr Peter Goodwin spoke on behalf  of the University of Westminster where I carried out my PhD research. He  followed on from Malcolm Harbour,  commenting that if we want people to engage in politics, it is important for people to understand communications policy-making and its implications, and for academics to  analyse   the political process.

 Christian Engström  observed that  people often regard politics, and especially European politics,  as boring until they suddenly become affected by a particular issue and begin to follow it. He cited the Telecoms Package as one example, and ACTA as another, where many people suddenly became engaged with the political process and understood how political decision-making could affect their daily lives. He said that at political fair in Sweden, a 13-year old  had come up to him and asked "How is it going with Amendment 138?"illustrating just how much  the issues of the Telecoms Package did touch  ordinary people.

 I reflected  on the political sensitivity of the Telecoms Package with the copyright issue injected into it, and on rise of the citizen advocates. When I started the research in 2007, there was no citizen representation on  communications policy.  I wanted to look at the public interest issues, but  faced the difficulty that  the public interest simply was not recognised. That has changed dramatically. The ACTA protest marches are  an indicator of that change.

 The event ended with networking and champagne.

The Copyright Enforcement Enigma book launch March 2012

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Iptegrity.com is the website of Dr Monica Horten, European expert on Internet policy and Visiting Fellow at the London School of Economics & Political Science. She is an independent expert on the Council of Europe Committee on Cross-border flow of Internet traffic and Internet freedom (MSI-INT). She was shortlisted for The Guardian Open Internet Poll 2012. Iptegrity  offers expert insights into Internet policy. Iptegrity has a core readership in the Brussels policy community, and has been cited in the media. Please acknowledge Iptegrity when you cite or link.  For more, see IP politics with integrity

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The politics of copyright

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