Back-door European three-strikes rule

As reported elsewhere (Open Rights Group, Boing Boing), there is a set of back-door amendements to a European Telecoms law that will potentially introduce invasive monitoring of internet usage and the removal of internet access following three unsubstantiated accusations of illegal filesharing. These amendments have not been properly discussed or debated given their wide-ranging impact on civil liberties and net neutrality.

I wrote to my MEP via the excellent WriteToThem.com. The vote is tomorrow, so there’s not much time. That’s the problem with back-door deals like this, they tend to avoid democratic scrutiny.

Dear Neil Parish, Glyn Ford, Graham Booth, Graham Watson, Roger Knapman
and Caroline Jackson,

I understand that this coming week (7th July) the European Parliament
will be debating changes to the law governing telecommunications in the
EU, the “Telecoms Package”. It has come to my attention that elements
of these reforms include provisions relating to the “protection” of
intellectual property rights which include opening the door to
collaboration between ISPs and third party media content producers in
monitoring internet usage to detect illegal filesharing. This
monitoring would of course include all legal and normal usage of the
internet.

The provisions would also appear to open the door to the kind of
“3-strikes” policy that I understand MEPs have already indicated they
do not favour in that the removal of internet access is felt to be
disproportional (I believe this was indicated in an amendment passed on
the so-called Bono Report on the Cultural Industries, not legally
binding but certainly an indication of feeling and intent.)

These proposals will have an impact on internet access that far exceeds
their supposed aim, and have clear implications for civil liberties and
net neutrality if all usage is to be monitored. For example, the
proposals would also seem to include the legal right for ISPs to
prevent users of their networks from using software and systems that
are perfectly legal, which clearly impacts on free access to online
resources for essentially arbitrary reasons.

There is also the question of how these systems would be policed
themselves and how much democratic oversight there would be of them.
From my (admittedly not too detailed) reading, this is far from
satisfactorily answered. Would users have any recourse against threats
and intimidation from ISPs and/or media producers if they were being
unfairly treated or had internet access curtailed or limited?

Now I understand that some member states are debating similar measures,
but these are being examined in a way that allows more scrutiny and
democratic control. I do not sanction the illegal downloading of
copyright material but I think that if we are to have laws like this
they need to be framed properly following proper debate at the national
level and not brought in by the back door like this, given their wide
ranging potential impact on internet usage.

Please can I ask you to do all you can to prevent Compromise Amendments
2,3,4,5 and 7 from being voted through on the IMCO committee. I do not
believe that the rejection of these amendments will impact the adoption
of the bulk of the “Telecoms Package”.

Thanks for taking the time to read this. I understand that there is
very little time to act but I feel strongly in favour of net neutrality
and civil liberties generally and so had to voice my concern. Perhaps
if these measures were not being introduced in this way there would
have been more time to properly debate this.

Yours sincerely,

Sam Pearson