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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  1. icon
    PrometheeFeu (profile), 6 Dec 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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