EU Parliament backs the rights of internet users
For the past several months the EU Commission and the EU Parliament were struggling over the so called “Telecom Package“, a legislative initiative promoted by the Commission under heavy advocacy of France. In a nutshell the Telecom Package contains a very problematic passage, which is meant to strengthen the rights of ISPs in being able to cut off the internet access of individual users, if any violations of existing or future copyright law were detected. In other words: ISPs would be able to control who gets access to the internet, violating the universal service doctrine, which is a basic cornerstone of democracy.
In their first reading on September 24, 2008 the European Prarliament voted against the the “Telecom Package” advocating the so called “Bono Amendment” – which refers to the French Socialist MEP Guy Bono – which basically states that that courts need to be involved in any disconnection procedure. In the original passage, quoted in a recent EU Observer article, it says:
No restriction may be imposed on the rights and freedoms of end users … without a prior ruling by the judicial authorities.”
This decision has some relevant implications for any future developments of the internet. While the telcos and the media companies are struggling hard to adapt to the social logic the internet, searching for new business models and lobbying for regulation in their favour, it is obvious that the existing abundance and innovativeness of the internet is hardly compatible with their notion of making money on the web – basically by restricting access and promoting artificial scarcity.
It also is relevant to developments like Linking Open Data, as in an increasingly interconnected and mashupped world it is getting harder and harder to comply with strict and rigid copy- & usage rights policies – even if they are published under any sort of commons license. In this respect it is important to mention that research on judicial problems arising from the automated processing of content released under differing commons licenses is still missing (as far as I know – does anybody have a hint for me?). But with the current decision of the European Parliament we can observe a very promising shift in the notion that the internet is made up of much more than its commercial exploitability. And that any attempt to stiffle this notion by imposing unbalanced regulatory restrictions on the rights of the users is a major threat not just to the internet as it exists but to democracy itself.
In this respect enjoy a great talk of Lawrence Lessig on this topic.