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A Copyright Masquerade: how corporate lobbying threatens online freedoms

 'Tells a tale that needs to be heard'' Entertainment Law Review 'shows a great deal about how modern lobbying works' ZDNet

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Telecoms Package 2nd Reading

This section of iptegrity.com is devoted to analysing the Telecoms Package Second Reading in the European Parliament. In it, I have published articles, papers and analysis notes  which took a critical look at the proposed texts and what they might have meant for European citizens and users, with a particular focus on the Internet and content issues. 

The Telecoms Package was  the review of European telecommunications framework legislation, (for full details  please see the other section on iptegrity.com labelled Telecoms Package). Over 800 amendments were originally  tabled to the two main directives involved - the so-called Better Regulation directive which incorporates the Framework, Access and Authoritisation directives - and the so-called Citizens Rights directive - which incorporates the Universal Services directive and the e-Privacy directive.

With so many amendments, covering such a broad scope of legislation, it is almost impossible for anyone, even specialists, to have a grasp of their meaning in real life. Let alone members of the European Parliament, for whom this is just one of many subjects, and where they are reliant on their assistants, who in turn rely on lobbyists. This is especially true since the real meaning of many amendments depends on how they are inter-linked with others. Following the chain of links, to figure out, is a complex task. However, when one does so, some serious consequences are being revealed.

The over-arching  problem is that this is policy being made by changes in the law. The scope of the telecoms framework is being altered via often subtle wording changes in the amendments. The changing scope is de facto establishing policy, and by-passing the correct policy processes which have been established in the European Union. 

 

To give an idea of the scale of the problem, one telecoms lawyer complained to me that he had  250 pages of documents to read through,  in order to analyse the Package and  do the job properly. What did he have?  The Council compromise documents for the two main bundles in the Package - Better Regulation and Citizens rights - plus the Common position for reference.  For those of us who have been with the Telecoms Package  since the beginning, trawling through this amount of documentation  is strangely normal. It also puts into perspective the enormity of the job for the European Parliament, and begs the question whether MEPs can really do it justice in the time allowed. 

If you like the articles in this section and you are interested in Eu telecoms policy and the 2009 Telecoms Package, especially with regard to copyright enforcement policy, 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’

The ghost of measures yet to come... Like a cyber version of Mr Scrooge, a Swedish MEP has been telling people they are seeing ghosts in the Telecoms Package. Are there ghosts in the Package? Or who has been misled?

'Ghosts in the Package' is  a quaint way of telling people they have been misled.   So, like any haunted house, the question is, do the  ghosts exist and what do they really tell us?

 

Ghost number one:  does the Package address the Internet?

The current ( 2002) Framework did not, but the 2009 Telecoms Package does, although it is an extension of the scope of the law, and arguably is unclear. However, the Framework Directive Article 8.2 does explicitly say:

Read more: Busting ghosts in the Telecoms Package

The European Commission has sneaked out its position on the Telecoms Package second reading. Decoded, it calls for the Package  to seal in the right of governments and broadband providers to restrict the Internet.

 

DG Information Society has quietly released  its position on the Telecoms Package Second Reading, just as everyone is heading off for the summer holidays. No doubt Commissioner Viviane  Reding was hoping no-one would see it. Why? It calls for a "compromise" text which the Council of Ministers was trying to push onto the  European Parliament, which could have the effect of giving permission to governments to block access to Internet services and applications.

The so-called "compromise" is the replacement of Amendment 138 ( which seeks to protect users rights on the Internet) with an alternative which was drafted by the Council (sometimes known as the ‘fake 138').  The replacement, when considered in context with other Amendments in the Package,  will seal in to the Telecoms Framework a right for

Read more: Mrs Reding reveals her card on Amendment 138

Do the amendments which would impose ‘conditions limiting'  access to Internet services and applications say the same thing in all languages? And what do they mean? The European Parliment's German translation of the Telecoms Package could clarify the matter.

 

When I recently presented in Germany, and showed the text of the key  Telecoms Package amendments  in German, there was a comment that the German translation might have got a slightly different interpretation from the English.

So here is the text in eight of the other EU  languages, where I was able to distinguish ( I hope correctly) two of the relevant articles.  The key text in the Telecoms Package is that which refers to ‘conditions limiting access to'  Internet services and applications. This is the text which will permit broadband providers to restrict or block access to services such as

Read more: EU Internet restrictions in 9 languages

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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