Three strikes and you’re… not out

A week or two ago I posted an item concerning a vote in the European parliament on measures which raised concerns over “three strikes” policies for internet connections.

While the measures passed, subsequent posts from the likes of Technollama and panGloss have gone some way to reassuring me that the proposals will not have the effect of requiring ISPs to implement and enforce “three strikes” policies for unlicensed use of copyright material.

And I have now received a detailed reply from one of my own MEPs, Mary Honeyball (Labour). Key quote:

I can tell you that I am strongly against the disconnection of internet connections without any judicial oversight. Internet connections are often shared and so the disconnection of one internet connection can often affect other innocent users. The internet is becoming particularly important for media freedom and media pluralism; as such disconnection can have a large and disproportionate effect. I believe there are far more effective ways of tackling intellectual property violations online.

Amen. Ms Honeyball’s full reply is set out after the fold.

Thank you for your e-mail concerning the vote on the ‘telecoms package’ and the screening of internet connections.

Several of Parliament’s Committees have been examining the telecoms package. The report you are referring to – the universal service and user rights directive – is being examined by the Internal Market Committee. The Committee voted on Monday 7th July.

I have been following this legislation closely, although as a Member of the European Parliament’s Industry, Research and Energy Committee, I wasn’t able to vote on the amendments you raised.

I can tell you that I am strongly against the disconnection of internet connections without any judicial oversight. Internet connections are often shared and so the disconnection of one internet connection can often affect other innocent users. The internet is becoming particularly important for media freedom and media pluralism; as such disconnection can have a large and disproportionate effect. I believe there are far more effective ways of tackling intellectual property violations online.

You might be interested to know that the European Parliament voted on a resolution in April, by my French colleague Guy Bono, which made reference to the disconnection of internet connections. I voted against the screening and disconnection of internet connections in this report.

I have spoken to my colleagues on the Internal Market Committee and thought you might be interested in a bit of background on the vote.

The Committee strongly backed proposals to enhance users´ rights and data protection in electronic communications networks. There are a lot of positive measures in this report.

The key rights and improvements include:

  • a one day limit, down from up to one month, to transfer your telephone number when you switch networks;
  • guaranteed information from operators, before contracts are concluded, about any restrictions on access to services (VoIP etc);
  • information on the cost of terminating agreements early (with such costs limited to cases involving a subsidised handset);
  • guaranteed equivalent access to communications for disabled users, with special terminal equipment for their needs;
  • information for subscribers in the event of any breach of their personal data through electronic networks;
  • guaranteed access to the European 112 emergency call number across the EU; and
  • availability of mobile caller location across Europe when emergency calls are made.

The Committee also agreed on the need to keep the Internet open by empowering regulators to intervene if a carrier discriminates against a service provider by blocking or slowing traffic.

To help keep citizens informed online, regulators in each Member State are empowered to develop standardised public service messages for users, which could include security protection advice, and advice on harmful or unlawful uses of the Internet, and their potential consequences. The information would be sent to all users, not to targeted individuals and not based on the monitoring of individual’s use of the internet.

I am informed by my colleagues on the Committee that this directive contains no provisions on the enforcement of intellectual property rights online. The report encourages regulatory authorities to promote appropriate cooperation to ensure lawful online activity. This does not seek to promote or prescribe any enforcement regime, which would be beyond the appropriate scope of the Directive.

However, one amendment by Conservative MEP Syed Kamall does introduce potentially dangerous ambiguity in the field of privacy protection online. This amendment was opposed by the Labour Group of MEPs but adopted by a narrow majority in the Civil Liberties Committee.

Under the Parliament’s rules this text dealing with data protection was adopted without a vote in the Internal Market Committee since it was already adopted in the Civil Liberties Committee. Labour MEPs have called for its withdrawal before the final report is adopted by the full sitting of Parliament in September.

Thank you for raising these issues with me. I will continue to follow them closely.

Yours sincerely,

Mary Honeyball MEP

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