Thursday, July 17, 2008

Some weeks ago, BoingBoing encouraged Europeans to write to their MEPs to vote against a new measure which suggested that people should be disconnected from the internet if accused three times of copyright infringement.

As I good Boingette, I wrote to the MEPs who represent me, and I have now had two replies which will probably only be of interest to those who encouraged the writing in the first place! I reproduce the two emails I received in reply below, with my original email below them. I have removed my address and email address.

Dear Fiona,

Thank you for your email. I apologise for the delay in replying.

I believe that you may be referring to two sets of amendments by me and
by my Conservative colleague Malcolm Harbour. My amendments were simply
intended to allow traffic data to be processed to ensure the security of
electronic communications networks, services and equipment. It was not
my intention with my amendments, for "the security of an electronic
communication equipment" to be interpreted as "the security of DRM
preventing, detecting, or intercepting IP infringements" as suggested by
some. However, I asked for legal clarification on whether a possible
unintended consequence of my amendment would be to allow DRM and
interception of IP infringements. Since I did not receive a satisfactory
answer I asked to withdraw the amendment in order to re-introduce it at
plenary with a clarification on the definition of "security". I was
unable to withdraw it, so recommended a vote against. In the event, IMCO
committee did not vote on my amendment.

Malcolm Harbour is very clear that his amendments are not designed to
start a "three strikes and you are out" law. I certainly would not
support ISPs being forced to do the work of law enforcement agencies.
Also, I do not believe in collective punishment where because one family
member has been judged to download illegal material the whole household
loses its connection to essential services such as shopping, banking,
communications etc. Malcolm tells me that "as opposed to the text
proposed by the Commission, his amendments shift the burden of
explaining the law from the ISPs to the appropriate national
authorities. It also broadens the concept so that any type of unlawful
activities are covered, not only copyright infringement. Such other
activities could be for example child pornography. This public interest
information would be prepared by the relevant national authority and
then simply distributed by the ISP to all their customers. It involves
no monitoring of individual customer usage of the internet."

Malcolm Harbour totally rejects the claims that these amendments are
intended to reduce consumer choice and undermine individual freedom. In
particular, the Directive contains no provisions on Copyright Law
enforcement, not does it refer, in any way, to the French Government's
proposed enforcement agreement.

Thank you again for taking the time to write to me.



Conservative MEP for London

>Dear Ms Berry,

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
number when you switch networks;
* guaranteed information from operators, before contracts are
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

> This message was also sent to: Syed Kamall MEP, John Bowis OBE MEP,
> Jean Lambert MEP, Charles Tannock MEP, Robert Evans MEP, Claude Moraes
> MEP, Gerard Batten MEP, Baroness Sarah Ludford MEP
> Fiona Berry
> Address and email removed
> Sunday 6 July 2008
> Dear Gerard Batten, Robert Evans, Syed Kamall, Charles Tannock, Jean
> Lambert, Claude Moraes, Baroness Sarah Ludford, John Bowis OBE and Mary
> Honeyball,
> I am writing to you collectively as my representatives in the European
> Parliament, in order to protest about the "three strikes" rule being
> introduced into the telecoms bill, which would result in anyone being
> accused three times of copyright infringement being banned by ISPs.
> As a virtual architect in the world of Second Life, I am only too aware
> of the difficulty in establishing copyright in material online, and the
> ease with which anyone can invoke a DMCA takedown wihout any
> pre-existing ownership or right of copyright. I think this proposal to
> ban someone on the basis of three accusations is ill-founded and
> unworkable, and will lead to a tremendous amount of additional cost for
> the consumer.
> I think that universal access to the internet has the potential for
> great and positive steps forward for mankind; I do not wish to see
> restrictions imposed which will limit this. I think the principle of
> universal access to the internet should be maintained. I urge you to
> vote against the inclusion of this measure.
> Yours sincerely,
> Fiona Berry

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