EU Politicians Send Letter To US Congress Warning Of 'Extraterritorial Effects' Of SOPA And PIPA
from the trouble-ahead dept
Since SOPA and PIPA are US bills, the focus has naturally been on the US response to them – notably in the list of major sites that participated in the blackout, or who have otherwise protested against the proposed legislation. But it's important to remember that the whole rationale of these new laws is tackling copyright infringement outside the US.
A letter to the US Congress, written by a group of European Parliamentarians worried about the "extraterritorial effects" of SOPA and PIPA, offers a different perspective on the bills. For example, it leads with a reference to the EU-US Summit, held in Washington on 28 November 2011 - probably something ignored by most people at the time and since. Here's what the letter says:
The European Parliament, in its joint motion for a resolution on the EU-US Summit of 28 November 2011, objects the proposed legislation by stating:
The joint statement (pdf) of that Summit had the following section about the Internet:
"Stresses the need to protect the integrity of the global internet and freedom of communication by refraining from unilateral measures to revoke IP addresses or domain names;"
We share a commitment to a single, global Internet, and will resist unilateral efforts to weaken the security, reliability, or independence of its operations — recognizing that respect for fundamental freedoms online, and joint efforts to strengthen security, are
SOPA and PIPA threaten to cut right across that commitment.
Most of the letter goes over the by-now fairly well-known deficits of the bills, but also points out a particular issue for Europe:
Companies wishing to offer online services will be forced to monitor all communication on their platforms and filter anything which could possibly be an infringement of IPR. The methods of monitoring would almost certainly challenge people's fundamental rights. Considering the world wide character of the internet, European companies will be forced to adhere to US standards to prevent DNS blocking. Article 15 of the European E-Commerce Directive prohibits obligations for the general monitoring of their services. The European Court of Justice has recently ruled in the Scarlet/SABAM case that monitoring and filtering of communication online is a breach of fundamental rights such as privacy, freedom of communication and freedom of information and should not be applied to halt infringements of IPR.
It's not clear how that clash between jurisdictions would be resolved: if online services in Europe monitor all communications, they will be breaching European law; if they don't, they may run foul of SOPA/PIPA. Inevitable legal incompatibilities between the two jurisdictions are also hinted at at the close of the letter:
Concluding, SOPA and PROTECT IP will create tensions across the Atlantic in a time where we need to work more closely together. We ask you to vote against SOPA and PROTECT IP and to work with us on effective laws, which enable a fair remuneration of artists and creators online, without violating fundamental rights or fragmenting the free and open internet as we know it. We also believe in close cooperation in promoting internet freedom world wide, in line with our foreign policy objectives.
It's true that the number of politicians signing the letter is small, so its impact is likely to be correspondingly weak, but it seems that Europe's top politicians are also starting to wake up to SOPA and PIPA, as this report on EurActiv indicates:
Ryan Heath, spokesperson for the EU's digital agenda commissioner Neelie Kroes, told EurActiv that the EU executive was closely monitoring the developments in the US.
Good luck with that.
"Today's protest clearly shows that digital issues are now mainstream political issues," Heath said.
"While we acknowledge the importance of combating illegal content online, the means to achieve this objective must be effective, proportionate and preserve the advantages of an open Internet. We expect the extra-territorial impacts of any US legislation would be minimised."