Neelie Kroes is Vice-President of the European Commission responsible for the Digital Agenda, and recently gave a speech to the World Wide Web Conference 2012 in Lyon, France. It was a hell of a good thing, making the case for network neutrality and open standards, and stating unequivocally that it is not legitimate to punish people for what they do on the Internet by disconnecting them.
In the Arab Spring, many brave activists successfully used the open Internet to coordinate peaceful protests. In response, despotic governments sought to control or close down Internet access; and also used ICT tools as a tool of surveillance and repression.
We cannot allow democratic voices to be silenced in that way. And I am committed to ensuring "No Disconnect" in countries that struggle for democracy. We must help such activists get around arbitrary disruptions to their basic freedoms.
The benefits of openness are clear. And when it’s as simple as an oppressive government trying to turn off the Internet, it's clear that we need to do what we can to prevent that.
What does it mean to be open online?
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Cary Sherman, CEO of the Recording Industry Association of America, has reminded the nation that at his instigation, the largest ISPs in the USA are set to disconnect their customers, and their customers' families, if the companies that Sherman represents makes a series of unsubstantiated accusations of copyright infringement against them. The ISPs came to the agreement after pressure from the Obama administration. This "five strikes" rule is the same system that has been decried around the world -- including in the EC and the UN -- as being a gross violation of human rights.
Sherman's role as Witchfinder General for the nation's Internet access kicks off on July 12. After that, if you get on his bad side, he can cost your children their ability to complete their education, he can cost you your job (if you are part of the growing proportion of people whose livelihood depends on the Internet), cut you off from civic and political engagement, lock you away from online access to your bank account and information about consumer rights, and, if you live remotely from your family, he can cost you your ability to stay in touch with them.
Oh, and if you have VOIP for your home phone service, Sherman will take away your 911 access too. Because burning to death is only too good a fate for people accused, without proof, of copyright infringement.
But of course, Sherman represents a sober-sided and cautious industry, the sort of people who claim that the Internet has cost them more jobs than they ever created and that an iPod's worth of songs is worth $8 billion, so they'll never abuse this power. Read the rest
Harriet Harman, deputy leader the UK Labour Party, has explained her party's programme for the British Internet: "implement the Digital Economy Act under a clear timetable including getting on with the notification letters." "Notification letters?" Why yes, those would be the letters notifying you that you have been accused, without proof, of downloading copyrighted material without permission, and that everyone in your household is now at risk of being disconnected from the Internet, without a trial. If that costs you your job, if that costs your children their education, if that makes it harder to engage with politics, civics, and your community, well, tough shit. Thanks for sticking up for the little guy, Labour. And thanks for passing the Digital Economy Act without Parliamentary debate, over the howls of protests of your own veteran MPs, even after music industry lobbyists were caught rewriting portions of it to suit their corporate masters. (PS: she also wants all the worst stuff in SOPA to be taken on voluntarily by Google). Read the rest
IFPI, the international trade group for the record industry, has trumpeted a study that allegedly shows that France saw a surge in iTunes sales following the institution of a mass-scale regime of "disconnection warnings" -- threats to remove you and your family from the Internet if you don't stop downloading. These warnings are the first step of the controversial HADOPI system, which is the first of a series of global "three strikes" laws pushed for by IFPI.
TorrentFreak had a look at the study, which was written by researches at Wellesley College and Carnegie Mellon, and they found that none of the benefits claimed by the record industry were in its conclusions: "What the researchers found is that in France, compared to five other European countries, more music was sold through iTunes. Looking at the graph below (from the report), it’s clear that the “uplift” in France before Hadopi was introduced (March 2009) is actually much sharper than the two years after."
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“We also estimated the model for the 6 months before and after September 2010, as this was the first month that HADOPI began sending out first notices. In this case, the resulting coefficient was close to zero and statistically insignificant.”
Indeed, when the three-strikes warnings were actually sent out, there was no effect on iTunes sales compared to the control countries. This is unusual, because you would expect that the hundreds of thousands of warnings that went out would have had more of an impact than the ‘news’ that this could happen in the future.
Further revelations from the YouHaveDownloaded BitTorrent logger: six infringing BitTorrent swarms included computers logged into the network of the official residence of French President Nicholas Sarkozy. Sarkozy, of course, pushed for the HADOPI law that allows whole households to be disconnected from the net if their network is implicated in three copyright complaints. Note that there's no proof that anyone who was downloading these files got enough of them via the Sarkozy network to turn into a recognizable video or audio file; nor does it mean they were a member of the Sarkozy household. But the HADOPI law doesn't make this distinction, and who am I to argue with Sarkozy's favorite Internet law? Read the rest
A global coalition of activist groups including the Electronic Frontier Foundation have created "Global Chokepoints," a worldwide initiative to monitor censorship arising from copyright enforcement.
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Global Chokepoints will document the escalating global efforts to turn Internet intermediaries into chokepoints for online free expression. Internet intermediaries all over the world—from Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to community-driven sites like Twitter and YouTube to online payment processors—are increasingly facing demands by IP rightsholders and governments to remove, filter, or block allegedly infringing or illegal content, as well as to collect and disclose their users' personal data.
At the same time, it's unclear whether and under what circumstances Internet intermediaries have liability for content posted by their users. Hotly contested court cases in Europe, Australia, and elsewhere are considering how copyright law fits with obligations to protect Internet users' rights of privacy, due process, and freedom of expression.
Global Chokepoints analyzes global trends in four types of copyright censorship: 1) three-strikes policies and laws that require Internet intermediaries to terminate their users' Internet access on repeat allegations of copyright infringement; 2) requirements for Internet intermediaries to filter all Internet communications for potentially copyright-infringing material; 3) ISP obligations to block access to websites that allegedly infringe or facilitate copyright infringement; and 4) efforts to force intermediaries to disclose the identities of their customers to IP rightsholders upon allegations of copyright infringement. The site includes links to digital rights organizations, consumer groups, law school clinics, and technology industry groups that are opposing the spread of overbroad copyright policing efforts, as well as national advocacy campaigns to protect the free and open Internet and citizens' fundamental rights.
Italian MPs from Berlusconi's party have proposed legislation that will require ISPs to disconnect any customer on receipt of a single unsubstantiated copyright complaint, from anyone -- even someone who's not connected with the alleged rightsholder in any way.
1) citizens, outside of any judicial proceeding and without the right to appeal to the judicial authority, may be banned to access the Internet if ANYONE (a rightholder or an ordinary citizen) notifies a provider about alleged infringement of copyright or trademark or patent ("one strike" disconnections);
2) Internet service providers must comply to the blacklisting of citizens who are *suspected* of copyright or trademark or patent infringements ("proscription lists" to ban citizens from any access to the Net);
3) an Internet service provider must use preventive filters against services that infringe copyright, trademark or patents;
4) an Internet service provider must not promote or advertise, and must use preventive filters against, services that do not directly violate copyright, trademark or patents, but that *may* lead citizens to *think* that infringing services exist;
5) a provider or a hosting provider which does not use effective filters will be charged with civil liability.
A short analysis of Internet killer Centemero draft law by Paolo Brini for AirVPN.
Creative Commons 3.0 BY-SA (attribution, share-alike)
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Juha sez, "The New Zealand Green Party says the country's Parliament could face fines and even have its Internet access disconnected, after it passed the draconian copyright law that comes into effect on August 11. Speaker of the House refused to comment on the law, and the Minister in charge of enacting it, Simon Power, claims to not have heard of Netflix or legal file sharing."
"Like Parliament, schools, libraries and universities run the risk of fines or disconnection. Unitec in Auckland has even said they might cease providing internet services for students due to possible copyright liability," said Mr Hughes.
"The Government has a responsibility to ensure that public institutions can navigate around the new law and not run the risk of fines or disconnection.
"By not providing information or advice and relying on InternetNZ, Internet Service Providers, and the media, Mr Power has left schools and universities in a legal grey area."
The Copyright (Infringing File Sharing) Amendment Act was passed through Parliament under urgency earlier this year. Only the Green Party opposed the passage of the law.
This is the copyright law that NZ's cynical media lobbyists rushed through as part of the Christchurch earthquake emergency legislation, using victims of awful tragedy as human shields in their quest to have the ultimate say over who may and may not use the Internet.
Parliament at risk of fines
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New Zealand's new copyright law provides for Internet disconnection for anyone whose Internet connection has been used by someone (or several someoneones) who are accused of three acts of copyright infringement. While the UN has condemned this law as disproportionate and disrespectful of human rights, its proponents often talk of its "simplicity" as a virtue (as in, "well, anyone who thinks about infringing copyright will be able to understand this: you download, you lose your network connection").
But as this three-page flowchart from the Telecommunications Carriers' Forum demonstrates, the process of disconnection is so ramified and baroque that it requires deep study just to get your head around, and easily answering questions like, "How do I appeal this?" is anything but simple.
Copyright (Infringing File Sharing) Amendment Act - process diagrams
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Last year, the UK government held consultation into its proposed Digital Economy Act, an extremist copyright proposal created by the unelected Business Secretary Peter Mandelson. The process that followed was as dirty as any I'd ever seen (for example, the then-head of the BPI wrote an amendment proposing a national censorship regime that a LibDem Lord then introduced on his behalf. But it turns out that there was much more sleaze below the surface.
Documents released in response Freedom of Information requests show that Mandelson had already made up his mind from the start about the Act's most controversial section: the rules that said that users would have their Internet connections terminated if enough unsubstantiated infringement claims were made against their households. The "compromise" that the Act made was to suspend this measure initially, and bring it into force if the other measures in the Act failed to substantially reduce infringement. Critics called it the sham it was, saying that a 70 percent reduction in file-sharing was a delusional target, and the FOI documents show that the Act's supporters agreed -- they only intended the compromise as a means of smuggling in France-style disconnections.
Which is to say that the whole business was a sham: the Business Secretary and his pals in the record industry had stitched the whole thing up from the start, and the thousands upon thousands of Britons who wrote in never had a hope of changing things. That's why the Act was crammed through Parliament without debate in the "wash-up," hours before Labour dissolved the government. Read the rest
Last month, the major American ISPs and entertainment industry lobbyists struck a deal to limit Internet access for alleged copyright infringers. This deal, negotiated in secret with the help of New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo did not include any public interest groups or comment from the public. As a result, it's as one-sided and stilted as you'd imagine. Corynne McSherry from the Electronic Frontier Foundation analyzes the material that these cozy corporate negotiators left out, the stuff that public interest groups would have demanded. Here's an abbreviated list:
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The burden should be on the content owners to establish infringement, not on the subscribers to disprove infringement. The Internet access providers will treat the content owners’ notices of infringement as presumptively accurate--obligating subscribers to defend against the accusations, and in several places requiring subscribers to produce evidence “credibly demonstrating” their innocence. This burden-shift violates our traditional procedural due process norms and is based on the presumed reliability of infringement-detection systems that subscribers haven't vetted and to which they cannot object. (The content owners’ systems will be reviewed by “impartial technical experts,” but the experts’ work will be confidential). Without subscribers being able to satisfy themselves that the notification systems are so reliable that they warrant a burden-shift, content owners should have to prove the merits of their complaints before internet access providers take any punitive action against subscribers.
Subscribers should be able to assert the full range of defenses to copyright infringement. A subscriber who protests an infringement notice may assert only six pre-defined defenses, even though there are many other possible defenses available in a copyright litigation.