Self-Regulation: Should Online Companies Police The Internet?

from the who-needs-evidence? dept

For anyone in Belgium on Wednesday, here's an afternoon event open to all that might be of interest: "'Self'-regulation: Should online companies police the internet?" If you can't make it to the European Parliament in Brussels, there's also a live video stream available.

It turns out that the seminar has an interesting connection with Techdirt. Back in September, we wrote about a proposed law in Italy that might lead to people losing their Internet connection after just one accusation of unauthorized sharing. Somebody who noticed this article was Marietje Schaake, the Member of the European Parliament who has organized the seminar to discuss self-regulation. She even mentioned the fact in a written question to European Commission:
Via the press, it has come to my attention that the Italian Parliament is currently considering a draft law under which Internet users may be disconnected and blacklisted if they have been accused of an intellectual property infringement. The accusation does not necessarily need to originate from the rights holder of the work in question.

The draft law, as proposed, violates several EC laws and principles, including:

Article 1(3a) of the telecoms package, amending Framework Directive 2002/21/EC,
Article 6 ECHR concerning a fair trial,
Article 10 ECHR concerning the freedom to seek, receive and impart information,
the principles of necessity and proportionality, and
depending on implementation, the intermediary liability exemptions in the e-Commerce Directive 2000/31/EC.

1. Does the Commission agree that the Italian proposal is in violation of EC laws and principles? If not, why not?

2. What concrete action will the Commission undertake to put a halt to measures being implemented by Member States whereby citizens may be disconnected from the Internet?
The Commission has now replied [pdf], although its answer is not particularly helpful:
The Commission has not yet received the notification of the draft law to which the Honourable Member refers.
However, it does add the following interesting comment:
limitations of end-users' access and use of electronic communications networks must be subject to adequate procedural safeguards, which ensures that these cannot be enacted on the basis of mere accusations alone.
That provides a clue as to why the copyright industries are so keen for online companies to "police" themselves in Europe: it avoids the need for accusations - or proof - altogether.

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Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 6th, 2011 @ 12:26am

    I think that true ISPs should work under the same rules are the phone companies - provide a service without ever looking, and only disconnecting when legal action is taken.

    That being said, I also think that ISPs should be bound to use a "country operated" DNS system, which would allow authorities to feel that they are taking action in certain cases. It would not preclude using alternate DNS systems (or DNS from another country) if you are willing to set it up, but the ISPs should be bound to offer this country DNS as the default on their system. What an end user chooses to do should be up to that user.

    I also think that pure ISPs (those that provide end user connectivity to the internet) should be legally classed differently from other "service providers", in that they are a very specific type of "service", basic plumbing on par with a phone line.

    They need to be separated from "file hosts" and "free blog hosts" and that sort of thing for legal purposes. Many of these other "services" should be liable for what appears on their websites, and as such, they should be required to police their content.

     

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  2.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 6th, 2011 @ 12:45am

    I want to see them self regulate an encrypted internet.

     

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  3.  
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    The eejit (profile), Dec 6th, 2011 @ 12:58am

    Re:

    I appreciate the semtiment: however, in the US and the UK, there are literally two companies for any area that provide "dumb piping": in the US, IIRC, it's AT&T and Verizon, and in the UK, it's BT and Virgin Media's NYNEX arm.

     

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  4.  
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    Marcel de Jong (profile), Dec 6th, 2011 @ 12:58am

    Marietje Schaake and Neelie Kroes make me proud to be Dutch.

     

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  5.  
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    A Guy (profile), Dec 6th, 2011 @ 1:06am

    Re:

    Don't take this the wrong way, but you really don't understand the underlying infrastructure of the internet. DNS only affects web traffic, a subset of the internet, all other traffic is governed by their respective protocols.

    There is no difference between a file host and a blog host. They all just host files.

    Good luck on the policing all content thing. You get started and tell the rest of us when you're done. China has a billion people, cheap labor, draconian laws that allow the government to get away with way more than any western country would ever allow, and they cannot come close to policing all content. It's just not technically or economically feasible.

     

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  6.  
    identicon
    Lawrence D'Oliveiro, Dec 6th, 2011 @ 2:18am

    Re: Marietje Schaake and Neelie Kroes make me proud to be Dutch.

    Just two out of many, many things. :)

     

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  7.  
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    Tor (profile), Dec 6th, 2011 @ 3:34am

    Re:

    "Many of these other "services" should be liable for what appears on their websites, and as such, they should be required to police their content."

    What do you mean "police their content"?
    A) Pre-screening any material before it is posted and censoring it if it puts the ISP at any risk
    B) Actively censoring already published material on the ISP's own initiative
    C) Responding to formal notices governed by a legal framework that dictates that false or bad faith notices can lead (not just theoretically but also practically) to serious legal consequences

    If you mean A) or B) what would you like to happen if the ISP censors material that can in fact be legally published? Should it be illegal for the ISP to do so?

    If yes, how should "damned if do, damned if you don't" cases be handled - cases where the ISP would be sued by the rights holder for erring on one side and by their customers for erring on the other side?

    Wouldn't it be best to determine such matters in a court? If yes, why outsource this policing to the ISP to begin with?

     

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  8.  
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    Tor (profile), Dec 6th, 2011 @ 3:44am

    Re: Re:

    "There is no difference between a file host and a blog host."

    He/she never claimed there is though...
    There is of course a certain difference between simply forwarding messages and hosting material.

    I think that a bigger mistake by AC lies in him/her not recognizing the drawbacks of a fragmented DNS system. DNS censoring has no significant effect on piracy but leads to problems for the majority of internet users, eg. worse security.

     

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  9.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 6th, 2011 @ 3:56am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Actually, I understand the issue of "fragmented DNS", which would actually be "subset DNS", with each country's government having it's option to block certain sites from it's own DNS. That doesn't mean that the sites disappear off the net, only that users in THAT country, using THAT default DNS wouldn't be able to resolve them. As for security, well, I don't see it being any worse than it is today, the inability to resolve certain domains does not take away from other sites being secure (and no, it does not create any greater a potential for a man in the middle attack than currently exists).

    "There is of course a certain difference between simply forwarding messages and hosting material. "

    I think it is key here. There needs to be a method to legally extract ISPs (from last mile providers to infrastructure operators) from the larger muddied group of "service providers" (you know, the ones hiding behind DMCA safe harbors at the moment), so that they can be regulated in a manner which is different from online services, like youtube or twitter.

    As for A guy:

    "There is no difference between a file host and a blog host. They all just host files."

    Incorrect. The key is in how those files are presented back to users. A file host would not process and html file as html, but rather would make it a downloadable file, probably as a zip or rar file. They would not provide "hosting" in a sense that allows you to control the content or otherwise operate a website. It is only holding a file.

    A web host operates in a different realm, actually "serving" the files in format via an appropriate protocol, and not just as a raw download.

     

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  10.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 6th, 2011 @ 4:16am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    You don't see the problem because you don't understand it, DNSSEC took decades to emerge as something viable and you want everybody to just throw it out and start from scratch, the problem is, nobody knows what will emerge from it so there is nothing to target to start development of a secure DNS meaning everybody will continue to be target of decade old vulnerabilities that are starting to get widespread.

     

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  11.  
    identicon
    abc gum, Dec 6th, 2011 @ 4:29am

    Re:

    "It would not preclude using alternate DNS systems (or DNS from another country) if you are willing to set it up,"

    You do not have to set up your own, one can easily change which DNS server they point to.

     

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  12.  
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    Hephaestus (profile), Dec 6th, 2011 @ 6:40am

    "That provides a clue as to why the copyright industries are so keen for online companies to "police" themselves in Europe: it avoids the need for accusations - or proof - altogether. "

    The problem is that they cannot police themselves because of the data retention, and privacy rules. There was a ruling about this in the last couple weeks.

     

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  13.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 6th, 2011 @ 6:55am

    Re:

    I really don't want the government (Or big media) telling me where and what I can view. You may want a Nanny state to make you feel safe, warm and protected but I do not.

    I do not want a "Police" state (Which is creeping in on the US as we speak.) for any reason. The road to a Police State is paved with laws that were well intentioned (For the children!) and intended to right some wrong.

    I'll be using an international DNS, instead of a US centric DNS (Just as I do not use a Chinese DNS.) so that I can at least "see" the rest of the world. Not just the parts of it the special interest groups (Big Media) are willing to let me see.

    Just because I "can" see in infringing (Supposedly) website, does not mean that I will choose to infringe.

     

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  14.  
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    PrometheeFeu (profile), Dec 6th, 2011 @ 10:03am

    I find it is always hypocritical when the government asks an industry to self-regulate. It's a bit like a mugger coming to your house and asking for a donation. Sure, the mugger didn't actually steal your money. But there is an implied threat that he will if you don't donate. Also, as you point out, "self-regulation" bypasses constitutional and legal safeguards since it's not officially state action. Any statements by state officials should be held to be executing the powers of their office and subject to the same scrutiny as when they openly use their coercive powers.

     

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  15.  
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    PrometheeFeu (profile), Dec 6th, 2011 @ 10:11am

    Re: Re:

    Don't take this the wrong way, but you really don't understand the underlying infrastructure of the internet. DNS affects all services where users commonly use name resolution including the web, IRC, FTP, SSH, email, and really just about any other service. Using DNS to resolve the IP address, is definitely the norm, knowing the IP address beforehand is the exception.

     

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  16.  
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    Chris-Mouse (profile), Dec 6th, 2011 @ 10:18am

    Re: Re:

    Don't take this the wrong way, but you really don't understand the underlying infrastructure of the internet. DNS only affects web traffic, a subset of the internet, all other traffic is governed by their respective protocols.

    This is simply incorrect. DNS affects any and all protocols that involve translating a hostname to an IP number. This includes web traffic, but also includes email, FTP, SSH, and any other communications protocol that does not involve someone typing in an IP address directly.
    I certainly can't remember the last time I sent an email to an address like nobody@63.251.171.80

     

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  17.  
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    A Guy (profile), Dec 6th, 2011 @ 11:10am

    Re: Re: Re:

    I am aware other protocols use DNS. I was a little tired when I wrote that comment. Sorry for any misunderstanding.

    Not all prtocols use DNS and existing protocols can bypass DNS, with varying degrees of ease. Peer-to-peer applications in particular, the type that media companies want to clamp down on, do not use DNS and would therefore be immune to DNS filtering.

    If global DNS censoring were to become more the norm, I expect more and more protocols would find ways to not use the existing DNS system.

     

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  18.  
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    Chosen Reject (profile), Dec 6th, 2011 @ 11:11am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    the larger muddied group of "service providers" (you know, the ones hiding behind DMCA safe harbors at the moment)
    This is stupid. The only parties "hiding behind safe harbors" are the innocent. Guilty parties (whether a service user or the provider itself) are not protected by safe harbors. To claim that the innocent are hiding is to claim that the innocent should be liable for what the guilty do. If that's going to apply online, it ought to apply in meatspace: you use a road to commit a crime, the city/county/state/nation is held liable; you use an object to commit a crime, the manufacturer/seller of that object should be held liable; you make a prank phone call, the phone company ought to held liable. That's insane.

    Also, there really isn't much different between a file host and a web host. If you really want a difference, it's going to be the protocol that it uses. File hosts can use all sorts of protocols (like FTP) whereas a web host uses HTTP. Nothing stops a file host from using HTTP however.

    As far as presentation to the user goes, you could have an FTP client that processes an html file as html, or an mp3 file as an mp3. Presentation to the user has everything to do with the client, and very little if anything at all to do with server it comes from. You could make a web browser (web host client) present html files as html, plain text, or event attempts to process it as a video file of some kind. Presentation is the client's job, not the server's. The server might make recommendations, but it cannot control the final presentation.

     

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  19.  
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    A Guy (profile), Dec 6th, 2011 @ 11:15am

    Re: Re: Re:

    See my comment above

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
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    A Guy (profile), Dec 6th, 2011 @ 2:14pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    "There is of course a certain difference between simply forwarding messages and hosting material. "

    On the internet, I don't think there is. A message is forwarded by storing on a server for later retrieval by a user or users.

    Similarly, a host stores a message, in the form of a file, on a server for later retrieval by its users.

    I see no real difference.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
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    A Guy (profile), Dec 6th, 2011 @ 2:20pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    As Chosen Reject pointed out, presentation is done by the client, not the server. I could play this webpage in an mp3 player if I wanted to. It might not be processed correctly and if it was it would certainly sound bad, but it is possible to host any kind of file as plain text.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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