EU “three strikes” rule: urgent action required

EU readers please note: the European parliament is discussing a proposal tomorrow that would potentially require ISPs to implement a “three-strikes” policy cutting people’s internet access off for downloading unlicensed copyright material on three or more occasions.

For an analysis of the proposals and why this is such a bad idea, see this post by Prof Lilian Edwards of the University of Southampton. For details of how to write to your MEP to ask them to vote against this measure, see this Facebook event page.

My email to my own MEPs is set out after the fold. I’m not saying it’s particularly good – it was written in haste by someone not especially well briefed on the legislation – but it makes some points that which I think need making quite forcefully, in particular as regards the disproportionality of cutting off what Cory Doctorow has described as the “wire that delivers freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, and freedom of the press in a single connection … vital to the livelihood, social lives, health, civic engagement, education and leisure of hundreds of millions of people” for the sake of a couple of downloaded songs. Feel free to copy/adapt/fillet it if you want a template for your own email:

Dear Jean Lambert, Mary Honeyball, John Bowis OBE, Gerard Batten, Charles Tannock, Syed Kamall, Robert Evans, Baroness Sarah Ludford and Claude Moraes,

I am very concerned by legislation due to be debated tomorrow (Monday 7 July) in the European Parliament.

I understand that the proposed amendments to the “Quadrature” of telecoms directives will impose a requirement for member states to impose “three-strikes” laws by which internet service providers will be forced to cut off all internet access to those alleged to have downloaded unlicensed copyright material on three or more occasions.

While this may seem superficially attractive to some – why should people get away with downloading material without permission and without payment to content providers? – there are a number of reasons why this measure, heavily lobbied for by the content industry, is deeply problematic.

1. Risk of false positives. Proving that unlicensed content has been downloaded by the subscriber, as opposed to (for example) someone accessing an incorrectly-configured wireless router, or a malware program installed on the subscriber’s system. Equally, it is likely that legitimate uses of peer-to-peer software (e.g. for downloading open source software) would be targeted as a supposedly infringing use of one’s internet connection.

2. Disproportionality: cutting off someone’s internet access today is akin to cutting off their telephone or electricity supply. It cuts them off from government services, from access to healthcare information, from information concerning jobs, from opportunities to purchase goods and services, from opportunities to exercise their freedom of speech and association. To cut all this off over copyright infringement, purely at the behest of copyright owners and without any court intervention, is entirely disproportionate.

3. Privacy concerns: ISPs may be forced to hand over personal data about their customers without a court order. The recent YouTube case (in which Google has been ordered to hand over vast amounts of data about its customers to Viacom) shows the dangers of this – and at least Viacom had to go to court to get this information.

4. Unpopularity: a recent survey showed that 63% of internet users admitted to having downloaded music using P2P. That may be unfortunate, but the fact is that the proposed legislation will almost certainly fail to reverse this trend, and if 63% of internet users were to have their access cut off then the political repercussions of this would be immense. What the same survey showed is that most people want access to *legal* download services rather than further crackdowns on unlawful downloading.

It is that which legislators, ISPs and the content industries should be concentrating on, not measures that are both draconian and ineffective and which will have a disproportionately negative effect on people’s privacy and their participation in the information society. I would therefore ask that you vote against any measures intended to have this effect.

For more details, including full details of the relevant measures being put before the European parliament tomorrow, I refer you to the helpful analysis by Prof Lilian Edwards of the University of Southampton, at http://blogscript.blogspot.com/2008/07/three-strikes-and-youre-er-confused.html, and the further analysis (including references to specific proposed measures) at http://www.laquadrature.net/wiki/images/0/0e/Telecom_package.paper.monica.horten..28.june.2008.v5.pdf.

Many thanks,

Yours sincerely,

John H_____

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One Response to EU “three strikes” rule: urgent action required

  1. D.S.Ketelby says:

    Consider my MEPs emailed. Thanks, ‘Write To Them’.

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