EU kills "3-strikes" Internet rule, affirms Internet is a fundamental right

After a last-minute scramble, the EU has been persuaded to kill the idea of forcing "3-strikes" copyright/internet legislation on European states. The "3-strikes" rule says that you can have your Internet connection taken away after a copyright holder accuses you of infringement three times — but the rightsholder doesn't need to show any evidence that you've done anything wrong.

The entertainment industry has been lobbying around the world for the right to decide who gets to use the internet. In New Zealand, they managed to get Bill 92A, a 3-strikes rule, adopted by Parliament, but sustained, noisy activism from local geeks and artists forced the government to reverse its decision and go back to the drawing board on copyright. In France, Sarkozy pushed hard for a 3-strikes rule (his wife is a pop-star who is demanding more sweeping powers for entertainers over the internet), but was defeated. 3-strikes is a feature of the secret Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, which the US, Canada, Japan, the EU and other rich countries are conducting behind closed doors.

The entertainment industry slipped 3-strikes into the EU through an amendment to the notorious "Telecoms Package," a huge, complex piece of legislation. To counter this, progressive MEPs wrote a set of "Citizens Rights" amendments that established that internet access was a fundamental right in Europe that cannot be taken away without judicial review and an actual finding of wrongdoing.

Activists went down to the wire this week, phoning and emailing their MEPs to ask them to vote to defend due process and citizens' rights, and it paid off. Yesterday, the citizens' rights amendments passed 407/57 — and the EU banned Sarkozy from reintroducing his failed copyright proposal.

A formidable campaign from the citizens put the issues of freedoms on the Internet at the center of the debates of the Telecoms Package. This is a victory by itself. It started with the declaration of commissioner Viviane Reding considering access to Internet as a fundamental right1. The massive re-adoption of amendment 138/462 rather than the softer compromise negotiated by rapporteur Trautmann with the Council is an even stronger statement. These two elements alone confirm that the French 'three strikes' scheme, HADOPI, is dead already.

Amendment 138/46 adopted again. Internet is a fundamental right in Europe.