Users rights Amendment 138 re-written in favour of copyright, and the French and UK governments.But Telefonica's block on Skype shows how the policy-makers are mis-reading the latest developments.
The European Parliament looks set to give in to pressure from the UK and France, and capitulate in its stand-off with the Council over the users rights Amendment 138. This strategic change to the Telecoms Package, if it goes through, would seal the end to users rights of unlimited access on the Internet under EU law. The warning comes just as Skype is blocked for the second time in a week, this time by Spain's Telefonica.
A revised text for Amendment 138 is understood to have been agreed by the European Parliament's Telecoms
Package rapporteur, Catherine Trautmann. Amendment 138 sought to protect users against unjust sanctions from copyright owners. The re-write removes all obstacles to the French government's Hadopi - this is the agency which will acts a go-between for ISPs and rights-holders in the enforcement of copyright on the Internet. It is a sell-out to the commercial interests of the content industries who have been pushing for graduated response to be incorporated into the Telecoms Package.
The re-write of Amendment 138 is understood to have been prepared by COREPER - these are the civil servants who run the Council. They are unaccountable in terms of the political process. If the proposed text is put to the vote, this means that the European Parliament has not even had a direct say in drafting it.
Mrs Trautmann's agreement with the Council is likely to have been forced on her. It is understood that she was under pressure from both the French and the UK governments. However, as a French Socialist MEP, she would have had support from her Party, which strongly opposes the French legislation of President Sarkozy's government.
This has been a sticking point in the Telecoms Package negotiations, and until now, the European Parliament has held out against the Council in support of citizen's rights. It does not look good for the Parliament, with elections just around the corner, to be selling out users rights to the copyright industries.
However, the June elections are the very reason for some of the pressure, as there was a rush to get the Telecoms Package done and dusted before MEPs leave to fight their local campaigns. 9]>
Mrs Trautmann's agreement contradicts the view expressed by the Parliament on three occasions now, that graduated response measures, and network filtering are not acceptable. The Parliament voted in April last year on the Bono report, in September on Amendment 138, and again just a month ago on the Lambrinidis report, which was a vote in support of protecting users fundamental rights and freedoms on the Internet. Her agreement also goes against the Commission's policy of net neutrality, and against the Council's own conclusions of 27 November 2008 on Future Networks and the Internet, where it states that "open and non discriminatory access to the Internet should be promoted in order to ensure effective competition and an innovation-friendly environment"
In a separate development, Telefonica's Movistar mobile phone service has begun blocking skype on 3G mobile phones. This follows the earlier revelation this week that T-Mobile is blocking Skype.
A coalition of IT companies, which includes Micsosoft, Google, Intel and Skype, has protested to the EU over the Telecoms Package, which has been amendment so that it permits this type of blocking, with no regulatory powers to stop it.
Ironically, Catherine Trautmann is running a seminar tomorrow on "What kind of Internet Governance Forum for Europe?" (details below for anyone in Brussels who can get to it).
Meanwhile, a UK group called Broadband Britain has carried out its own analysis of the Telecoms Package and there is even worse news in the offing for users. The group believes that the Package legislates for the old technology, and old systems and preserves the business for the incumbent telecom operators, leaving less scope for new innovators. They also suggest - and I agree - that the Telecoms Package is written to drive access to Internet by market competition. The result will be that the Next-Generation Networks simply replicates the old past of separate networks, controlled by former monopolies - and one or two very large new entrants such as Sky.
Catherine Trautmann's seminar: "What kind of Internet Governance Forum for Europe?"European Parliament Wednesday, 15 April 200916.00 - 18.30 ROOM: ASP 3G3
As voted by the European Parliament on September 24 2008, with an overwhelming majority.
Framework directive, Article 8.4
ga) applying the principle that no
restriction may be imposed on the
fundamental rights and freedoms of end-users,
without a prior ruling by the judicial
authorities, notably in accordance
with Article 11 of the Charter
of Fundamental Rights of the European
Union on freedom of expression and
information, save when public security is
threatened in which case the ruling may
Amendment 138 - almost unrecognisable, and reversed into a pro-copyright Recital, as re-written by the civil servants of COREPER.
Recognises that the Internet is essential for the practical exercise of freedom of expression,
and access to education and information.
No restriction may be made on these fundamental rights without a prior decision taken by an indedependent and impartial tribunal, established by law, and acting by due process and established under Article 6 of the European Charter of Fundamental Rights, save when public security is
threatened in which case the ruling may be subsequent.
This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial-Share Alike 2.5 UK:England and Wales License. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/uk/ 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 (2009), Internet rights being written out as Spain blocks Skype , iptegrity.com, 7 April 2009.