Hearing of the new Commission: Citizens take notice!

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Last week, Commissioners-designate Viviane Reding, Michel Barnier and Neelie Kroes confronted the European Parliament for their confirmation hearings. Issues relating to freedom in the networked society have been raised by several Members of the European Parliament.

Videos of these hearings are available on EuroparlTV.

Viviane Reding, Commissioner-designate for Fundamental Rights and Citizenship and former Commissioner for the Information Society, took a strong line in favor of citizens’ fundamental rights. She reiterated her opposition to “three-strikes” schemes, saying that EU legislation should not be repressive and stressing the need for a balance between the rights of users to access creative content and that of artists to be remunerated. Commissioner Reding also mentioned ACTA, underlining that counterfeiting and filesharing were two different phenomena that required different regulatory approaches. Finally, she unveiled parts of her plans regarding the upcoming overhaul of EU data protection directives, emphasizing the need to empower Internet users and consumers when it comes to online privacy.

Michel Barnier, Commissioner-designate for the Internal Market, did not say much about the actions he would take regarding “intellectual property rights”, which are part of his portfolio. He stressed that he “will not compromise” on protection of IPR, seemingly referring to the Commission’s communication on IPR enforcement (which La Quadrature du Net strongly criticizes in the following document: Dogmatic IPR enforcement fails to address the challenges of the Internet-based creative economy).

Neelie Kroes, Commissioner-designate for the Digital Agenda, made a very encouraging statement about Net neutrality1See La Qaudrature’s reaction: http://www.laquadrature.net/en/commissioner-kroes-commits-herself-to-net-neutrality when she was asked by Marita Ulvskog (S&D, Sweden) what she understands by Net neutrality: Mrs. Kroes said that Net neutrality means that Internet access providers should not be able to exert control or limit users’ access to online content; that it would be a “no-go” when such restrictions were commercially-motivated and acceptable when aimed at tackling security threats (she gave the example of spams).
Copyright was not extensively discussed, and Commissioner Kroes’ answers were rather vague on this issue. However, asked about her opinion with respect to flate-rate levy on Internet subscription to remunerate rights holders for file-sharing, she interestingly said that she was “hesitating”, that “it could be a solution” and should be considered. But it remains unclear whether she was talking about proposals akin to the creative contribution (where the public’s right to share content online is fully recognized) or suggestions of a new tax to compensate rights holders for the failure of their outdated business-models and their decade-long conservatism.
On ACTA, Mrs. Kroes said that EU negotiators would not go further than the current EU acquis, explicitly referring to the e-Commerce directive and the Telecoms Package (this is not very reassuring, given the Telecoms Package’s important loopholes). Also on IPR enforcement, she rejected the idea that further harmonization was necessary, which could be interpreted as an indication that IPRED 2 will not be reintroduced before European lawmakers. Finally, she hinted at orientations for future initiatives regarding spectrum management and supported a coordinated approach between Member States on this matter.

Once the full college of the Commission is confirmed2The confirmation vote is scheduled for Tuesday, January 26th, 2010, EU citizens will have to keep the Commission at close watch in order to make sure that the public interest is high on the agenda.


1 See La Qaudrature’s reaction: http://www.laquadrature.net/en/commissioner-kroes-commits-herself-to-net-neutrality
2 The confirmation vote is scheduled for Tuesday, January 26th, 2010