UN report says 3 Strikes copyright termination is illegal

Michael Geist "The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression has released an important new report that examines freedom of expression on the Internet. The report is very critical of rules such as graduated response/three strikes, arguing that such laws may violate the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Moreover, the report expresses concerns with notice-and-takedown systems, noting that it is subject to abuse by both governments and private actors.

In light of these concerns, the report argues that the Internet disconnection is a disproportionate response, violates international law and such measures should be repealed in countries that have adopted them:"

The Special Rapporteur considers cutting off users from Internet access, regardless of the justification provided, including on the grounds of violating intellectual property rights law, to be disproportionate and thus a violation of article 19, paragraph 3, of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The Special Rapporteur calls upon all States to ensure that Internet access is maintained at all times, including during times of political unrest. In particular, the Special Rapporteur urges States to repeal or amend existing intellectual copyright laws which permit users to be disconnected from Internet access, and to refrain from adopting such laws.

UN Report Says Internet Three Strikes Laws Violate International Law (Thanks, Michael!)


  1. It’s a shame that the U.N. doesn’t have any way to enforce this, and that countries consider human rights unimportant.

    The Internet provides an unfiltered exchange of information, giving people insight into other socities. It bypasses government run media and politics. It allows the free flow of culture around the world. It’s not an optional extra, anymore.

  2. Some of these are interesting, particularly the PRC.


    The treaty’s wording, however, is rather nonspecific, opening it to subjective interpretation. Mind you I agree that States digitally silencing their populations is abhorrent, but I doubt ICCPR will put an end to it.

    Just another good reason to move away from basing the internet on core routing. Choke points are called that for a reason.

  3. As much as I think copyright laws (and the associated 3 strike laws) are illegitimate, as they are incompatible with property rights, it is equally illegitimate for the UN to say there is a right to opinion or expression on the internet.

    The internet is a network composed of private infrastructure. I can control speech in my home. Similarly, ISPs have a right to control speech on their wire, and service providers (like Facebook, Gmail) have a right to to control speech inside their service.

    What ISPs and service providers don’t have is a right to prevent me from switching to someone who will serve me better.

    Property rights are a simple solution to deal with many problems and achieve greater consumer protection than any alternative system.

    1. The internet is a network composed of private infrastructure. I can control speech in my home. Similarly, ISPs have a right to control speech on their wire, and service providers (like Facebook, Gmail) have a right to to control speech inside their service.

      Unfortunately, as with public utilities, ISP’s rely on right of way through limited real estate. Worse, many cable providers (fiber-optic and coaxial) built their infrastructures with state subsidies. The whole apparatus is a deeply imperfect solution to the need for physical data routes.

    2. The internet is a network composed of private infrastructure.

      So is the press. There are still rights concerning it.

    3. They’re not talking about what companies are allowed to do; they’re talking about what governments are allowed to do.

      There’s a big difference between demanding payment for a service, and decreeing that no-one may provide that service to a given individual. Whilst the latter may be appropriate in some circumstances, it should be for a proportionately major offense.

      The copyfight is a perfect example of the problem with corporate influence in politics – offenses against corporate profits are treated more harshly by the courts than offenses against the person, and those with the ear of government have them convinced that it would be unethical to correct this.

  4. Well when the local authorities come to pull yer plug, it’ll be good to know that the mighty United Nations are on your side, at least.

    Nice to have some moral muscle, at least.

    Now I’m gonna sit down and write a letter about MY problem to the United Nations, about having to work all summer long: )

    1. And exactly who elected the UN to hold forth on this subject? Or any subject?

      The electorates of the countries whose legislatures signed and ratified the treaty in question. It’s called a contract.

    2. Do you vote? Then you did. You elect your government and they nominate who represents your country on the UN.
      And this is just a report someone on the UN did, it’s not their official stand (yet?).

  5. I don’t think you guys grasp how significant this is. In many European countries, the UN position is a trump card in the political debate (not on all topics, admittedly, but on most of them), especially for social-democratic majorities. Occasionally it might even be legally binding.

    This is a huge win.

  6. Not a lawyer or a particularly network-y guy, but what about the below alternative?
    Customer: “I’d like to sign up with your ISP, please.”
    Customer rep: “Okay, give me your [unique piece of info].”
    Customer does so.
    Customer rep looks up history for Customer.
    Customer rep: “Oh, I’m sorry. I see a flag on your account for copyright infringement. We can only offer you dial-up service [or email-only service, or…].”
    Though it’s not a pleasant prospect, anybody here know what would keep a company from doing that? And playing devil’s advocate, it seems like that would be telling the customer, “Hey, look, you can find out any piece of information you need to know but if you need to move large files around or want to use the Internet for entertainment purposes, you’ve hosed yourself.”

    1. Though it’s not a pleasant prospect, anybody here know what would keep a company from doing that?

      Certainly it’s possible to limit bandwidth, and I’ve heard that idea floated before. I don’t know if any government has ever tried it, but ISPs are notorious for shaping the traffic they carry by tweaking upload/download speeds.

      Limiting to specific services is unworkable, though, because you can always circumvent it with a tunneling protocol – though doing so will further slow down your connection if the encapsulating delivery protocol has a lower bandwidth allocation than the encapsulated payload protocol. ISPs can counter with traffic analysis (divining encrypted data’s purpose by analyzing where it goes and how), but there are ways around this by chopping up and embedding your packets in other innocuous data and circuitous routing schemes such as onion routing.

      In the end the ISP on a core routed network has essentially three levers. It can curtail bandwidth, it can refuse to transport encrypted data and it can shut down your connection.

      Incidentally, they can’t do jack crap to a wireless ad hoc network, and with cheapo microsat constellations and rural repeaters to bridge gaps between urban open wi-fi concentrations these have the potential to eventually supplant traditional internet backbones, at least for exchanging what would otherwise be censored data. They would also be virtually unpoliceable – save for the old fashioned HumInt approach of injecting moles into trusted networks to ferret out dissidents (the PRC can be found at the forefront of this in their ongoing struggle to weed out P2P networks) – so watch for governments and legalized monopolies and other corporate trusts to bring the hammer down on early efforts to buck the grid.

  7. UN has no power, no government takes any notice of them unless it is convenient for them. Look what American did in ignoring the UN when the UN said not to go to war in Afganistan and Iraq, and even though America has committed war crimes the UN will never do anything because the UN is controlled by America.

    1. @ Anon #17

      Not quite. The toothless tiger is controlled by the five permanent member nations, any one of whom can veto substantive resolutions.

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