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

Greens, Socialists and Liberals stand up for the principle that opposes copyright enforcement on the Internet.  Mrs Trautmann just wants to do what the Council wants. And Viviane Reding's head of cabinet explains  a new declaration on net neutrality.


More information is now emerging about events in the European Parliament's conciliation process on the Telecoms Package.


Green, Socialist and Liberal MEPs have called for the principles in

Amendment 138 to be preserved in any Telecoms Package agreement. They did this in the face of a stern attempt by the European Parliament establishment, led by the rapporteur Catherine Trautmann, to extinguish any opposition and push through whatever the Council and Commission want.


They also  expressed their doubts about the recent proposal from the Commission and called for the time pressure to be reduced,  to allow for a proper consideration of the policy principles at stake.


It certainly seems that there is a division forming in the European Parliament between those MEPs who understand the principle of users rights to access and use Internet services, and those who stand  with the industry lobbies and the Council.

Marita Ulvskog (S&P, Sweden)  criticised the Commission's proposed text to replace Amendment 138. She  said that the Commission's proposal was unsatisfactory, and does not  provide for user's rights to free expression.  Other socialists said that the language of the Commission text was too vague, and that the approach of Amendment 138 had been forgotten. Lena Ek (ALDE, Sweden) concurred  that the Commission's text is not sufficient.


Mathias Groote, (Socialist, Germany)   said that what the Parliament had decided in the Second Reading plenary, must be in the final agreement. Even Herbert Reul, (German, EPP) said that it was not acceptable that the Council produced an old text.


Phillippe Lamberts (Green, Belgium) pushed for a statement from the Council of its objections to Amendment 138, and he asked two explicit questions. He wanted a legal opinion if  Amendment 138 does infringe on the rights of  member states to organise their judicial systems in the way they want? And on the use of the word 'prior' - he wanted a clear legal opinion on what difference that makes, because, he said, if a user is excercising their right to due process after being sanctioned, in many cases  it has the effect of voiding  the right.


Mrs Trautmann said that the Council do indeed have a problem with the word ‘prior' and then she  turned it into a different two questions: Why the European Parliament is wrong to insist on using this term? And therefore when the Council is right to object to it?


Mrs Trautmann pressed to keep the discussion to narrow and legalistic interpretations of Amendment 138.  She said that issues concerning private companies  cutting users off the Internet could be addressed in the Services dircective.


On this point, she is wrong. The Services directive specifically excludes telecommunications.


The chair,  Alejo-Vidal-Quadras (EPP, Spain) resisted called from Mr Lamberts to get an extension on the timing in order to have time to obtain Apparently, the timetable for the Package is not  for changing.


Mrs Trautmann wants a separate initiative on net neutrality. She  asked the Commission  to draw up a declaration on net neutrality.  Rudolf Stohmeier, Mrs Redings' head of cabinet who represented the  Commission,  provided a summary.  It is, in my opinion,   most strange.


He said there is a new policy objective in the Telecoms Package which has to be prioritised by national regulators. This is a new principle which the Commission will have to monitor carefully. Existing competition law powers would be applied in cases where needed.


This is a totally new interpretation of net neutrality that contradicts what most people think it is. If he is referring to the Commission's proposed text for Amendment 1.3a (its proposed replacement for Amendment 138), then his statement could be re-worded as follows:

there is a policy objective which lets EU governments introduce restrictions on Internet services and  Hadopi-style administrative justice. The Commission will monitor this carefully. And it will wherever possible seek to shirk responsibility by applying  a law which is not applicable to this area - because  competition law in the context of the telecoms package, only applies to connectivity services, not content, and not to sanctioning users.


And of course Mrs Trautmann's idea of a separate net neutrality declaration or initiative totally misses the point that all public telecommunications networks in the EU are government by the Telecoms Framework and therefore any net neutrality principle must be enshrined in the Telecoms Package. Conversely, this is the reason why the Internet restricting Articles in the Harbour report are an issue. 


This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial-Share Alike 2.5 UK:England and Wales License. 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) European Parliament rifts over users rights , 12 Ocober 2009.







The Copyright Enforcement Enigma tells the story of the 2009 Telecoms Package and how the copyright industries tried to hijack it.

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

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