UN Report On Human Rights Condemns Three Strikes As Civil Rights Violation

from the nice-to-see dept

Via Michael Geist, we learn of a new UN report on Human Rights, that (among many other things) talks up the importance of free speech online (pdf), worries about the expansion of third party liability laws as a tool to suppress speech online, and is generally concerned about government attempts to censor the internet. Where it gets even more interesting is where it pretty clearly states that three strikes or other efforts to kick people off the internet for file sharing is a trend it does not approve of at all:
While blocking and filtering measures deny access to certain content on the Internet, States have also taken measures to cut off access to the Internet entirely. The Special Rapporteur is deeply concerned by discussions regarding a centralized “on/off” control over Internet traffic. In addition, he is alarmed by proposals to disconnect users from Internet access if they violate intellectual property rights. This also includes legislation based on the concept of “graduated response”, which imposes a series of penalties on copyright infringers that could lead to suspension of Internet service, such as the so-called “three strikes- law” in France and the Digital Economy Act 2010 of the United Kingdom.
Of course, supporters of such laws will downplay the significance of this, but they might not realize just how much influence these types of reports can have over time. Either way, it's nice to see UN officials recognizing that yes, copyright can and often is used for censorship.

The report goes on to worry about ACTA as well:
Beyond the national level, the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) has been proposed as a multilateral agreement to establish international standards on intellectual property rights enforcement. While the provisions to disconnect individuals from Internet access for violating the treaty have been removed from the final text of December 2010, the Special Rapporteur remains watchful about the treaty’s eventual implications for intermediary liability and the right to freedom of expression.
We keep hearing from supporters that there are no "free speech" concerns here, and yet the UN clearly sees the issues. Seems like ACTA supporters have a serious case of willful blindness.

On top of that, the UN report points to all sorts of other serious concerns that we've raised, including how "notice-and-takedown" provisions such as those found in the DMCA are open to widespread abuse.

In the recommendations section, the UN report is pretty clear and damning. Kicking people off the internet is a violation of existing civil rights:
The Special Rapporteur considers cutting off users from Internet access, regardless of the justification provided, including on the grounds of violating intellectual property rights law, to be disproportionate and thus a violation of article 19, paragraph 3, of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
Now watch as our usual "law & order" commenters rush to talk about how the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights can be ignored as it's no big deal.

Finally, the report actually (amazingly) goes so far as to suggest countries "repeal or amend" any law that would kick people off the internet for infringing:
The Special Rapporteur calls upon all States to ensure that Internet access is maintained at all times, including during times of political unrest. In particular, the Special Rapporteur urges States to repeal or amend existing intellectual copyright laws which permit users to be disconnected from Internet access, and to refrain from adopting such laws.
While I doubt the report will have too much impact, it certainly is nice to see it getting some significant attention. It's too bad, but you can bet that politicians around the globe will simply ignore it... and when asked about it, will instead just point to debunked industry claims of "losses" to back up their ongoing push towards censorship and civil rights violations in the name of protecting the obsolete business models of a few industries.

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  1. identicon
    Rekrul, 4 Jun 2011 @ 6:10pm

    Re: Re: Re: These people are just clueless about reality

    Your example isn't so much evidence to the contrary, as it is the time before you knew you had a choice.

    Yes, but that makes it even more relevant. I didn't know of any other way to get content other than buying it, and yet I wasn't. It was the entertainment industry's ideal world, where people didn't have the means to widely pirate their content. By their thinking, I should have been buying tons of stuff. The fact that I didn't shows the fallacy in this thinking.

    Even more so now that people have seen that there are alternatives to buying content.

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