‘Telecoms package’: Is this the end of the free internet as we know it?

via netzpolitik I came across of some interesting details about the reform of the “European law on electronic communications” ( the so called “Telecoms Package”) which will be debated in the European Parliament next week (7 July).

La Quadrature du Net / Squaring the Net, a European NGO initiative, released a press release that criticises a series of amendments which aim “at closing the open architecture of the Internet for more control and surveillance of users.” The proposed amendments could jeopardise the net neutrality principle and might change the nature of the internet:

European Internet users could be blocked from lawful activities by mandatory spyware, in the interests of their security. The right to use free software for internet access would therefore not be assured anymore. The neutrality of the Internet is also directly attacked, as is the principle that technical intermediaries have no obligation to prior surveillance of contents. Other amendments will de facto enable administrative authorities to obligate ISPs to work with content producers and rights-holders’ private police, including the sending of intimidating messages, with no judicial or regulatory oversight. (more…)

There is also a wiki in English, French and German with the main arguments against the amendments and some guidelines how to get active and how to contact relevant MEPs.

A good overview about the whole issue can also be found in this Briefing paper on the Telecoms Package (pdf) by Monica Horten, a PhD student at Westminster University:

Abstract:

This paper considers how imminent changes to European  telecommunications law will permit the monitoring and blocking of websites and peer-to-peer exchanges by ISPs, in  a way that is currently not legally possible. These legal  changes  will also permit ISPs to sanction users by suspending or terminating Internet access. And they are essential in order  for the French ‘riposte graduee’ or ‘3 strikes’ copyright enforcement measures to be implemented.

The changes are a series of hidden amendments related to copyright, and contained in the so-called ‘Telecoms package’. This paper argues that  these amendments  will  effectively erode  the ISP’s legal status of ‘mere conduit’, which currently  protects individual rights and liberties on the Internet. It argues that the ‘mere conduit’ status should be preserved, and  the copyright amendments rejected. The proposed copyright amendments will result in the loss of individual freedom and privacy on the Internet – in breach of fundamental principles of human rights law in Europe.  Ultimately, they  could open the door to wider political or commercial censorship, and this is the real danger of permitting them to get into law. The risk is that this will happen without proper legislative scrutiny or public debate. The European Parliament committees responsible for the Telecoms package vote on July 7th and the Parliament as a whole will vote on September 2nd. (more…)

Update 10.7.2008: EU Parliament split over electronic data protection

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6 responses to “‘Telecoms package’: Is this the end of the free internet as we know it?

  1. Over at the European Tribune I had a discussion with some people about the information provided by Squaring the Net, and it seams that several things they claim are wrong.

  2. Ok, I just read a bit more of paper you cite. That is very interesting and concerning.

  3. Jenoff Van Hulle

    Can somebody tell me if and where I can find the exact wording of the compromise arguments. I looked at the websites of the relevant Committees of the European Parliament but found nothing. Is it right that these compromise arguments are brought in at a very late moment and therefore are not published?

  4. Indeed, the European Parliament does not seem to have published these compromise amendments on the relevant pages of the committees: IMCO and ITRE. However, the NGO La Quadrature du Net / Squaring the Net uploaded the amendments here.

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