We first wrote about Brazil's 'Marco Civil' back in October 2011, when we described it as a kind of "anti-ACTA". That's because it was designed to protect online rights, not diminish them, and was the product of a democratic and transparent process, not of secret corporate lobbying. As Global Voices explains:
the bill was developed through a uniquely open public process. Over the course of several months in 2009 and 2010, citizens were invited to contribute suggestions and criticism to an early draft of the bill using an open online platform. Nearly 2,000 people participated in the process -- the bill was substantially revised and re-shaped to reflect public concern. As one popular meme (below) put it, the Marco Civil "does not belong to a [political] party. It belongs to Brazilians."
Precisely because it was not yet another corporate wishlist, but sought to enshrine fundamental user rights, it was fiercely attacked by an array of industries. In November 2012, it looked like Marco Civil had been killed off by the lobbyists, but in 2013 it showed signs of life again. Now comes the good news that it has finally passed a key vote in Brazil’s Chamber of Deputies; significantly, digital activism once more played a crucial role:
#EuQueroMarcoCivil – "I want Marco Civil." It was with this hashtag that Brazilians and supporters around the world pushed mightily yesterday for the passage of the Marco Civil da Internet, the unprecedented "Constitution" or "Bill of Rights for the Internet" that has been brought to Brazil's Chamber of Deputies nine times since 2012. Late in evening, the Chamber approved the one-of-kind bill that ensures fundamental rights of free expression and privacy online.
As an article on infojustice.org notes, although not perfect, it's a great result:
Throughout the day, Twitter users touted the bill's many safeguards for fundamental user rights to free expression, privacy, and access to information using the #MarcoCivil and #EuQueroMarcoCivil hashtags. In Brasilia, the nation's capital, supporters voiced their support using signs, t-shirts, and other creative methods.
Considering how terrible some of the proposed amendments to Marco Civil were, the approved text is largely positive. It is definitely not the ideal version of law. But it is a much better one than expected, and probably the best possible outcome given the existing political limitations.
Here's infojustice.org's summary of the Marco Civil's main features:
Although it must still go to Brazil's Federal Senate for consideration, before returning to the Chamber of Deputies and then being sent to the Brazilian President for her signature, the bill is essentially passed. As the above summary makes clear, the Marco Civil is an extremely wide-ranging law, and arguably the best of its kind anywhere in the world -- an extraordinary achievement given its unusual origins and the lobbying firepower ranged against it. Global Voices comments:
Brazil was dangerously close to establishing a period of 5 years of mandatory data retention before discussions on Marco Civil began. Unfortunately, the bill still has provisions to that effect, but the period is much shorter for ISPs providing connectivity services (1 year).
Brazil has taken a major step forward in preserving net neutrality, following the example set by countries such as Chile and the Netherlands. Marco Civil establishes the general principle that net neutrality should be guaranteed, and further regulated by a presidential decree, with inputs from both the Brazilian Internet Steering Committee (CGI.br) and ANATEL, the national telecommunications agency.
One of the main provisions of Marco Civil deals with the difficult subject of intermediary liability due to content uploaded by third parties. The system in Marco Civil establishes that intermediaries can only be held liable if they do not comply with a court order explicitly demanding content to be removed. This regime, however, is not applicable to copyright infringement, which will be dealt with by the forthcoming copyright reform bill.
After the Snowden leaks, a small number of privacy provisions were included in Marco Civil (the main privacy and data protection bill under development has yet to be sent to Congress). The main proposal was extremely controversial: forcing Internet companies to host data pertaining to Brazilian nations within Brazilian territory. Broadly rejected by civil society, engineers, companies, and several legislators, the proposal was dropped by the government so that voting could take place.
Rights and principles
Marco Civil establishes a strong, forward-looking assertion of rights and principles for Internet regulation in Brazil: freedom of expression, interoperability, the use of open standards and technology, protection of personal data, accessibility, multistakeholder governance, open government data.
In a moment when censorship, surveillance, corporate greed and government corruption seem to dominate the world of digital rights, a victory like this one can bring hope to those working to improve user protections worldwide.
The people who made this happen are to be congratulated on the victory, gained thanks to their unstinting hard work over the last few years. If only more of us could look forward to the protections the Marco Civil will provide.
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