Copyright? Copywrong?  Why do fundamental rights matter in copyright policy? Read 

A Copyright Masquerade: how corporate lobbying threatens online freedoms

'Recommend it heartily' Society for Computers & the Law (SCL) 'valuable resource' Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF)

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Telecoms package

The Telecoms Package (Paquet Telecom) was a review of European telecoms law. Ordinarily, it would have dealt with network infrastructure and universal service and other purely telecoms matters. However, buried within it, deep in the detail, were important legal changes that related to enforcement of copyright. These changes represented a threat to civil liberties and risk undermining the entire structure of Internet, jeopardising businesses and cultural diversity.

The bottom line is that changes to telecoms regulations are needed before EU member states can bring in the so-called "3 strikes" measures - also known as "graduated response" - of which France led  the way, but other governments, notably the UK,  followed. A swathe of amendments were tabled at the instigation of entertainment industry lobbying. These amendments were aimed at bringing an end to free downloading. They also brought with them the risk of an unchecked corporate censorship of the Internet, with a host of unanswered questions relating to the legal oversight and administration.

The Telecoms Package was voted in the plenary session of the European Parliament on 24th September. It followed a brief debate on 2nd September, and a committee vote in July. In November last year it was  put to vote in the European Council. Now - winter 2009 - it is headed for a second reading in the European Parliament. The official start will be 18th February, but negotiations are underway now. The plenary vote was planned for 21 April.  It has been re-scheduled to 6 May.  This timetable has not left much time for public debate, and it reminds me of the rushed passage of the data retention directive (see Data Retention on this site). It is, if you like, regulation by stealth.

I had originally planned  that this site would just highlight reports from elsewhere, related to my research topic. But at the time, it felt  wrong to me that such critical changes - which will infringe on people's freedoms and fundamentally alter the social and legal character of the Internet - should happen without at least the opportunity for a full and frank public debate. So I set out the issues as I see them, and reported on relevant public events.

If you like the articles in this section and you are interested in EU telecoms law and the 2009 Telecoms Package, you may like my books A Copyright Masquerade: How Corporate Lobbying Threatens Online Freedoms and The Copyright Enforcement Enigma - Internet Politics and the ‘Telecoms Package’

I have written a series of  briefing papers. You are free to download them. They are released under a Creative Commons licence. You are free to use them, but you should attribute it to me as the author, and reference their publication on iptegrity.com.

The first paper discusses why we should protect  the 'mere conduit' principle: 'The ‘Telecoms Package’ and the copyright amendments – a European legal framework to stop downloading, and monitor the Internet

The second paper discusses network filtering:  Deep packet inspection, copyright and the Telecoms Package

The third paper discusses copyright enforcement policy:  Packaging up copyright enforcement - how the Telecoms Package slots in the framework for a European policy to restrict Internet content 

In 2012, three years after the conclusion of the legislative process, I’ve been noticing references to something called the Telecom Reform Package. Having followed the policy since 2007, I was bit puzzled why I’d never seen it before, and in particular, why I would never call it that. Had I really missed the correct name of the policy I studied?

 The answer is no, I hadn’t, but people who are coming to fresh since 2009, are picking up on a confusing  nomenclature when they try to check the official sources.  Here’s why!

 If you want to give it the full, official name, pershaps you should use this:

Read more: What is the correct name for the ‘Telecoms Package?’

Six members of the European Parliament have tabled AT&T's proposals to limit users access to the Internet.

 

Six MEPs have taken text supplied by the American telecoms multi-national, AT&T, and pasted it directly into amendments tabled to the Universal Services directive in the Telecoms Package. The six are Syed Kamall , Erika Mann, Edit Herczog , Zita Pleštinská , Andreas Schwab , and Jacques Toubon .

AT&T and its partner Verizon,   want the regulators in Europe to keep their hands-off new network technologies which will provide the capability for  broadband providers  to restrict or limit users access to the Internet.  They have got together with a group of other telecoms companies to lobby on this issue. Their demands  pose a threat to the neutrality of the network, and  at another level, to millions of web businesses in Europe.

The Universal Services directive is supposed to set out the rights of users and

Read more: Six MEPs table AT&T's Internet-limiting proposals

Political deals are being done which remove users rights to distribute Internet content,  impose conditions on Internet access and which could permit broadband providers to limit access to a specified list of websites or a premium paid-for Internet. Net neutrality, and millions of Internet businesses, are  under threat if this goes ahead.

 

***The next and final  trialogue is Tuesday 24  March ***

 

Behind closed doors, members of the European Parliament are negotiating away users rights to the Internet, in a bid to come to a quick political agreement on the Telecoms Package. It is happening in the discussions known as trialogues, which bring together the Parliament, the Council and the Commission, to try to agree a resolution on politically sensitive or technically difficult aspects of the Telecoms Package. An agreement  between the three institutions would wrap up the Package in the Second Reading. 

The European Parliament as an elected body,  is supposed  stand up for users rights, but  instead it is agreeing to limit rights  in the way that the Council, led by the UK and France, wants to do. They are trading changes in the revisions to telecoms law, and  users are the ones who are likely to  come off worst.

 Catherine Trautman (rapporteur on the Framework, Access and Authorisation directives) is understood to want  a deal that keeps  ‘lawful content'  in the Package, in return for agreeing to a text from the council on ‘no distortion of competition'. The Council wants a ‘compromise' which removes users right to distribute information. With any of these options, users rights are compromised. Mrs Trautmann's option will impose an onerous obligation on ISPs to monitor content. The ‘lawful content' amendment is referenced by several other articles in more than one directive, so it would really hook in this notion to the heart of what users  can and cannot do.

Malcolm  Harbour (rapporteur on the Universal Services directive)  is believed to be  tackling   the sensitive Internet issues by

Read more: How the EU is bargaining away the Internet

Iptegrity resumes

I am resuming Iptegrity after a long break  - the first I had in  7 years of writing this blog. I extended my time out after I sprained my wrist in August, when  I had a little  brush with carpal tunnel syndrome. It has been worth the patience to let it heal, and I'd recommend to all my readers to look after your wrists, and do listen to ergonomic advice.

I am also working on a new book - updates on progress will appear here over the coming months.

Iptegrity.com is the website of Dr Monica Horten,  policy writer 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 is read by lawyers, academics, policy-makers and citizens, and cited in the media. Please acknowledge Iptegrity when you cite or link.  For more, see IP politics with integrity

Iptegrity.com 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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Reads like a legal thriller!

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The Copyright Enforcement Enigma - Internet Politics and the ‘Telecoms Package’

by Monica Horten

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