European Parliament rushes towards Soviet Internet

Brussels, 04 July 2008 — Amendments to the European Telecommunications directive being rushed through the European Parliament propose a “Soviet internet” where software publishers and internet service providers watch traffic and data for Hollywood. Software and services that run on the internet would have to ask for permission of the regulators.

Some amendments to the European Telecommunications directive allow administrative authorities in each Member State to define which are the authorised software applications for the internet. Parts of the directive should be implemented by the member states through requiring specific “technical features” in electronic communications networks. Live-analysis and filtering compose a pre-requisite for a “Soviet style” censorship environment.

Several committees suggested massive changes to an over complex Commission proposal. The committee process was hijacked by vested interests. All amendments of at times questionable quality lack a legal impact analysis and sufficient examination. Immature propositions risk to create an administrative burden and stifle internet innovation. Overloaded and confused by hundreds of amendments the lobby sets MEPs under pressure to agree on a poor compromise before the summer break. All amendments need more thoughtful review so that a mature text may be presented to the plenary and MEPs fully understand what they cast their vote on in the committee.

Benjamin Henrion, FFII representative in Brussels, rings the alarm bell: “Tomorrow, popular software applications like Skype or even Firefox might be declared illegal in Europe if they are not certified by an administrative authority. This is compromising the whole open development of the internet as we know it today. Once the Soviet Union required the registration of all typewriters and printing devices with the authorities.”

Privacy expert Ricardo Cristof Remmert-Fontes comments: “In Germany Deutsche Telekom is under fierce criticism for alleged spying on citizens and journalists. In Europe the amendments want to make spying a natural obligation for communications providers. The planned infrastructure of live-analysis and filtering can be used for mass-surveillance and censorship.”

FFII President Alberto Barrionuevo adds: “The agenda to establish a Chinese Internet Wall in Europe is set by few ultra-copyright lobbyists. FFII base many of its ideals on copyright laws, but I don’t agree to justify their intentions to spy all us with the excuse of the protection of copyright. It sets a precedent for market control: Regulating large parts of Internet communication, provider contracts, software development and thus internet businesses. The proposed environment is threatening all European businesses which need protection from business espionage, and to be able to use secure virtual private networks (VPNs) all over the Internet. Are industrial secrets of our European companies and privacy of our citizens to be sacrificed just to preserve legacy business models of Hollywood?”

The FFII therefore asks the Members of the European Parliament to take more time and reconsider thoughtfully the Telecommunications proposal as prepared for voting. Over 300 amendments and fundamental concerns on different issues, such as free speech, censorship, net neutrality and trade secrets should be reviewed with greater care. The debate on the European Telecommunications directives requires more reflection, if it should lead to a reliable and solid legal base.

Background Information

An Article 2 Amendment (by British conservative Seyd Kamal MEP) that changes Directive 2002/58/EC Article 14 says on paragraph 2:

“Where provisions of this Directive can be implemented only by requiring specific technical features in electronic communications networks, Member States shall inform the Commission in accordance with the procedure provided for by Directive 98/34/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 22 June 1998 laying down a procedure for the provision of information in the field of technical standards and regulations and of rules on information society services.”


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About FFII

The FFII is a not-for-profit association, dedicated to the development of information goods for the public benefit, based on copyright, free competition, and open standards. More than 1,000 members, 3,500 companies and 100,000 supporters have entrusted the FFII to act as their voice in public policy questions concerning exclusion rights in data processing.

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