Europe only goes half-way in protecting Internet rights.
Brussels, November 5th, 2009 - An agreement has been reached on the Telecoms Package. The new text1 aimed at protecting Internet access includes positive elements such as a reference to the right to a "prior fair and impartial procedure" as well as the presumption of innocence. It also contains ambiguous language and potential loopholes. This rather unambitious provision will now be up for interpretation, and it remains to be seen whether it will invalidate Net access restrictions such as "three strikes" policies.
The European Parliament and the Council of the EU came to an agreement on the "Telecoms Package" negotiations. They laid down legal and procedural guarantees against restrictions of Internet access. The new provision gives2 "effective judicial protection and due process", guarantees "the principle of presumption of innocence and the right to privacy" and the respect of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.
However, the text only speaks of "a prior fair and impartial procedure" instead of a prior ruling by the judicial authorities, guaranteed by the original "amendment 138", and contains loopholes and ambiguities. The invalidation of freedom-killer measures such as "three strikes policies" will now depend on interpretation by the European Court of Justice and national courts. Moreover, the text only relates to measures taken by Member States and thereby fails to bar telecom operators and entertainment industries from knocking down the founding principle of Net neutrality.
"Despite its lack of clarity and ambition, this text does provide legal ammunition to continue the fight against restrictions of Internet access. The agreed text does not meet the challenge of clearly preserving a fundamental right of access to the Net. Threats to Internet Freedom still loom, with the intense lobbying of the entertainment industries to push the ACTA treaty, which endangers Net neutrality and seeks to impose the liability of the technical intermediaries." concludes Jérémie Zimmemrmann, co-founder of the citizen advocacy group La Quadrature du Net.