OECD Supports Making ISPs Copyright Cops

from the oecd-fail dept

On the whole, the OECD has been pretty good about recognizing both the importance of freedom and openness of communications online and how certain industries have sought to use questionable claims and stats to push for protectionism. So, earlier this week, when the OECD put together a statement on “principles for internet policy-making,” people hoped that it would follow along with the UN in focusing on protecting civil rights of individuals… not protecting outdated business models of certain companies.

And yet… it quickly came out that the OECD was considering dangerous language in the principles, seeking to cut back on important safe harbors to protect against misguided third party liability. When the draft language came out, nearly all of the “civil society” (i.e., consumer rights) groups that were a part of the discussion stated publicly that they could not endorse the language.

Tragically, the final document (pdf) did, in fact, keep the dangerous language.

To be sure, there are plenty of good things in the principles — and even many of the “titles” for the principles sound reasonable. For example, among the principles are things like:

  • Promote and protect the global free flow of information
  • Promote the open, distributed and interconnected nature of the Internet
  • Promote investment and competition in high speed networks and services
  • Promote and Enable the Cross-Border Delivery of Services
  • Develop capacities to bring publicly available, reliable data into the policy-making process
  • Ensure transparency, fair process, and accountability
  • Strengthen consistency and effectiveness in privacy protection at a global level
  • Maximise individual empowerment
  • Promote Creativity and Innovation

It’s tough to argue with most of those. But the devil is in the details. As KEI points out:

The Internet has actually demonstrated how much creativity is fostered without intellectual property, in fact despite IPR. Intellectual property is not a “driving” tool of the Internet. The Internet was NOT created by patents or copyright or trademark. Why would intellectual property be such a central theme for such a document? We concede that the Internet must not be a lawless “place” but this document where words such as “fair use, limitation and exception for users (it is “fixed” for the ISPs?), open source, free software, public domain, etc never appear, is wrong in tone and in its focus.

For example, just take a look at the very first item on the list: “Promote and protect the global free flow of information.” Sounds good. But nearly half of the paragraph to back that up isn’t about the global free flow of information, but about making sure there are ways to block the free flow of information:

While promoting the free flow of information, it is also essential for governments to work towards better protection of personal data, children online, consumers, intellectual property rights, and to address cybersecurity. In promoting the free flow of information governments should also respect fundamental rights.

Of course, countries that are blatantly censoring the internet, from China to Australia all claim that they’re working towards “better protection of children online” etc. Such a statement basically undermines the entire point of the principle. The document goes on in this nature, inserting “intellectual property” in all sorts of places it doesn’t belong. Perhaps most troubling is that there’s a section officially on limiting third party liability, which has a whopper in the middle. Basically it talks up the importance of limiting liability to service providers to encourage innovation… and then puts a huge “but not in the case of IP” in there:

Within this context governments may choose to… identify the appropriate circumstances under which Internet intermediaries could take steps to educate users, assist rights holders in enforcing their rights or reduce illegal content….

In other words, this document is a joke, which is why civil society deserted it. It seems clear that it presents some nice principles upfront, but then undermines them in the fine print.

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Comments on “OECD Supports Making ISPs Copyright Cops”

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David Muir (profile) says:

I am not sure I like this new reference to “civil society” as if it is a distinct and identifiable thing. I am seeing it pop up more and more at TechDirt and elsewhere. Equating it to “consumer rights” groups like is done in this article helps just a tiny bit, but I prefer to think of civil society within the old vague context it used to have.

Having said that, third party liability for ISPs is like making the power company responsible for the evils that people do with electricity. I think, given the pretty good track record of the OECD, there must have been enormous pressure put on them to keep some references in the document about governments “clamping down” on the Internet in various ways.

Here’s a Pollyanna view courtesy of yours truly: the Internet rose up and became a positive force without governments and the corporate biggies getting their sticky fingers all over it. The Wild West gave rise to a great nation. Something else will come along to unseat all these power-grabbers and authority-abusers (even if it’s a popular groundswell from the little people like us).

Anonymous Coward says:

Regulatory Capture

It appears that the OECD has been subjected to regulatory capture. Regulatory capture is when the regulatory bureaucrats do the bidding of the regulated industry. The usual technique is the revolving door. Are there instances of higher-ranking bureaucrats swapping jobs between the OECD bureaucracy and IP maximalist organizations?

Drizzt says:

CSISAC (Civil Society Information Society Advisory Council) came out against the OECD Communique (before this ISPs-as-cops part came out, they were in support of the OECD line).

And just as an interesting side note: the OECD had pretty liberal ideas about net development/governance. The “Recommendation of the OECD Council concerning Guidelines for Cryptography Policy” comes to mind here. Seems like other groups within the OECD have risen to power since then.

herbert says:

did anyone actually think that this document would be something other than in favour of the copyright industries? they are leaving no stone unturned to achieve exactly what they want; a completely regulated internet where no one is allowed to do anything, say anything other than what certain industries say. once the net has gone, it will never come back!

out_of_the_blue says:

"UN in focusing on protecting civil rights of individuals..."

If you believe that false premise, you can’t keep from going awry. The UN has lately “authorized” bombing the hell out of sovereign countries on the pretext of instilling “democracy” there. But bombs don’t deliver democracy, only death.

Khadafi may be evil, but those in the UN or elsewhere who are — suddenly — in favor of bombing Libya are far worse monsters; they’ve murdered around a million in Iraq on the same false pretext of bringing them democracy. A war in Yemen is now started, and a war in Pakistan is nearly on.

Anyway, False Premise; Didn’t Read.


Add to the list...

Add one more bullet point to the list:
.Identify every snotty little anti-social hacker punk that thinks they are smarter than their betters and screw them over until they regret the day they ever turned their computers on!

And I can see their point. If you and your “team” were paid ohsomany megabucks to devise a security system and some 14 year old boy from Kansas with Aspergers cracked it in his spare time, you would have a lot of explaining to do. If a foriegn spy did it, thats understandable. A file-swapping punk kid? Never. Look for a new job.

Once the internet became just another big money business the era of innovation ended. It happened to radio, tv, cable, and telephones. Get used to it. Computers just aren’t fun anymore.

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