For the backstory to the upload filter check my book The Closing of the Net - PAPERBACK OR KINDLE - £15.99!

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 


Finally,  you may like my book The Closing of the Net which contains a breif summary of the Telecoms Package story with regard to copyright, and moves the policy agenda on to consider other issues of secondary liability including,  the Megaupload case.

Why does IMCO want to limit  users ? AT&T lobbied for users to be explicitly told by the telcos about  restrictions  or limitations on their Internet service.  The revised Harbour  report has done as they asked for. It risks setting Europe on the slippery slope away from a neutral network towards one which discriminates and ultimately stagnates.

 

The revised Universal Services directive (Harbour report) in the Telecoms Package Second Reading, released on Friday, wants users to be told about "any limitations imposed by the undertaking, in accordance with national law, on a subscriber's ability to access, use or distribute information or run applications or services". It also specifies that the user should be told "the type of content, application or service concerne,  individual applications or services, or both".

The European Parliament's IMCO  committee which prepared the report has replaced the Council's text which stated that users should be told about the network operator's traffic management policies. The reason for the switch is simply that the users won't understand the language of traffic management polices. In terms of the  meaning of the law, however, it is exactly the same thing.

The changes were lobbied for by AT&T, which put forward 5 amendments dealing with "traffic management policies" and which raised the concern of citizens groups as being a threat to net neutrality. Although  2 out of 5 would normally represent

Read more: AT&T gets 2 out of 5 in Harbour report

An amendment planted by the French film industry remains firmly at the centre of the Telecoms Package.

 

I occasionally get asked if copyright is still in the Telecoms Package, and  now that we have the Council's Common Position, and the Second Reading has officially begun, it is worth reviewing the case. Recent legal developments in Member States, such as the Irish music industry  v Eircom case in Ireland, also help to shed light on the issues.

The answer is that copyright is  still there. Some of the provisions have been weakened, and the Package -  as in the Council's Common Position of 9 February -   no longer contains the  onerous "lawful content" provision  that risked making  ISPs liable  for Internet  content. The issue now is how much weaker the provisions are, and what they would or would not permit.  

To be clear, the Telecoms Package copyright amendments do not directly mandate graduated response/3-strikes. The copyright amendments have the effect of putting in place  the  legal foundation stones for 3-strikes. They were intended to get around certain provisions in EU law, which prevent ISPs from accepting liability for content and copyright infringement, and which also prevented them from divulging information about their subscribers to third parties. They are inter-linked, and  it is necessary to interpret them as a linked series rather than individually - as explained in a report by the European Data Protection Supervisor .

The central amendment calling for ISPs to "cooperate" with rights-holders, that was drafted by the French film industry

Read more: Is copyright still in the Telecoms Package?

A Telecoms Package  amendment on the processing of traffic data could lead to large-scale deployment of filtering technology, according to a body which advises the European Union on privacy matters, known as the Article 29 Working Party.

The Article 29 Working Party  issued an opinion on the proposals to amend the e-Privacy directive. In the document, it warns  that  the  amendment on the processing of traffic data for security purposes (ePrivacy directive, Article 6.7 in the Council's Common position and Amendment 181 in the European Parliament text) could "lend  legitimacy to large-scale deployment of  deep packet inspection." Deep packet inspection is the technology that facilities filtering, as well as "traffic management" by network operators.

And it reiterates the opinion of the European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS) that the amendment is unnecessary. The legal basis for network operators to process traffic data is found in a


Read more: Privacy watchdog condemns traffic data amendment

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States v the 'Net? 

Read The Closing of the Net, by me, Monica Horten.

"original and valuable"  Times higher Education

" essential read for anyone interested in understanding the forces at play behind the web." ITSecurity.co.uk

Find out more about the book here  The Closing of the Net

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Copyright Enforcement Enigma launch, March 2012

In 2012, I presented my PhD research in the European Parliament.

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Iptegrity.com is the website of Dr Monica Horten. She is  a trainer & consultant on Internet governance policy, published author& Visiting Fellow at the London School of Economics & Political Science. She served as an independent expert on the Council of Europe Committee on  Internet freedom. She has worked on CoE, EU and UNDP funded projects in eastern Europe and beyond.  She was shortlisted for The Guardian Open Internet Poll 2012. Iptegrity  offers expert insights into Internet policy (and now Brexit). 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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