Dec 292011

This article from Paid Content describes upcoming EU policy initiatives for digital content:

The project’s primary pillar is creating a “single digital market” to boost entertainment download and streaming services across borders, including by simplifying content licensing and harmonising online payments access.

Towards that end, upcoming initiatives include:

  • Legislation to simplify cross-border content licensing;
  • “Restart[ing] a dialogue among industry stakeholders on copyright levies”;
  • Revision of the Directive on enforcement of intellectual property rights (IPRED) to address online piracy; and
  • Developing “an action plan to boost e-commerce, including by making online payments affordable and secure across borders.”

The article indicates many of these items have already been detailed by Professor Ian Hargreaves’ Review Of Intellectual Property And Growth, and the UK government has already promised implement his recommendations “in order to simplify IP law for the digital and to make economic stimulus.”

Recommended measures include creating a Digital Copyright Exchange, enabling automatic licensing of orphan works, decriminalising format-shifting and backing the EC’s cross-border licensing drive.

Dec 172011

Other items of interest this past week:

Dec 122011

This article is a little sparse on details, but one bit of it is interesting enough to note. EU foreign relations chief Ashton has come out with a paper calling for improvements that can be made in the enforcement of human rights in the EU generally, but of interest here is the recognition for “digital diplomacy.”

With Arab Spring revolutions marked by their use of Twitter, YouTube and Facebook, she says: “The EU could mobilise key delegations to use social media for digital diplomacy.” She suggests holding “live webcasts” so that human rights activists can talk directly to policy-makers.

She also wants to ban EU countries from selling technology that helps dictators to snoop on people: “[The EU] will develop appropriate measures to ensure that people are not subject to indiscriminate censorship or mass surveillance when using the Internet.”

Dec 112011

The EFF has a report of a case involving Belgium ISPs.

Last September, in a case initiated by the Belgian Anti-Piracy Federation (BAF), an Antwerp Court of Appeals ordered two major fixed broadband providers (Telenet and Belgacom) to block access to the Pirate Bay at the DNS level. In November, the BAF sent a letter to other Belgian ISPs, threatening legal action unless they also blocked access to the Pirate Bay.

Earlier this week, a Belgian Internet watchdog group (NURPA) reported that one of the three major mobile Internet providers in Belgium, Base, complied with the letter and voluntarily started blocking access to the Pirate Bay.1 Base denies these reports, but users who try to access the Pirate Bay are served a “stop page” with the following text, in Dutch, French, German, and English: “You have been redirected to this stop page because the website you are trying to visit offers content that is considered illegal according to Belgian legislation.” The only way offered for the owner or administrator of the website to object is via fax.

The EFF points out that the ruling in this Belgium case would appear to conflict with the European Court of Justice ruling in Scarlet v. Sabam, a case that also originated in Belgium.  In that case the ECJ ruled that “requiring ISPs to filter traffic over their network violates users’ privacy and their freedom to receive and impart information.”   Although the final judgment in this case came after the Belgian ruling, there had already been an opinion by the Advocate General reflecting it.

The Belgian judge, though, deemed the case before the ECJ irrelevant, making a distinction between filtering and blocking. These two types of censorship often appear identical to the end user, but the court argued that they are different technically and legally. Filtering implies the monitoring of traffic in order to remove specific content. Blocking, on the other hand, would only require indiscriminately restricting access to a given domain. The Belgian (Pirate Bay) case concerned (DNS) blocking, whereas the European case concerned filtering. According to the Belgian judge, DNS blocking would not constrain fundamental liberties. But while blocking does not raise as many privacy concerns as filtering does, all other concerns remain very relevant. Without even going in to the dangers of interfering in such an essential component of the Internet, (DNS) blocking access to a website as a whole violates individual freedom to impart and receive information. It also ignores the fact that copyright is not an absolute right and is subject to important exceptions.

In other words, it appears the Belgium court only considered filtering and blocking as potential violations to fundamental freedoms vis a vis the potential privacy problems involved with monitoring traffic for the purposes of censoring, and not with the censorship itself.

(The EFF article also notes that Dutch parent company, KPN, has already admitted that it monitored its customer’s traffic through deep packet inspection (DPI).)

Dec 052011

Per the Financial Times, the European Union is working on measures allowing for fines of up to 5% of a company’s global turnover should it leak customer data.

The proposals would bolster significantly the EU’s powers on combating data protection breaches, such as when companies sell customer data to third parties without authorisation or fail to adequately protect information held by social networks and “cloud computing” services.

Companies would have 24 hours to notify data protection authorities and the effected parties in cases where private data are compromised, as happened this year when the details of 77m Sony PlayStation accounts were hacked.

By ensuring the rules also apply to foreign groups’ European subsidiaries, the new rules will force global companies to strengthen their data policies.

The article mentions, but not does not discuss in further detail, that measures covering the “right to be forgotten” are included in these proposals, which are expected to take two years to be finalized and then be approved by member states, whom, the article notes, may not be eager to cede jurisdiction on privacy matters to the EU.