Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Efforts to quietly drop Amendment 138?

Just as I'd been wondering if the Department for Business Skills and Enterprise consultation on tackling illicit filesharing was deliberately trying to to bypass amendment 138 of the European Parliament's telecoms package, Commissioner Reding has released the Commission's official views on the parliaments amendments to the package. Monica Horton at IPTegrity says:
"DG Information Society has quietly released its position on the Telecoms Package Second Reading, just as everyone is heading off for the summer holidays. No doubt Commissioner Viviane Reding was hoping no-one would see it. Why? It calls for a "compromise" text which the Council of Ministers was trying to push onto the European Parliament, which could have the effect of giving permission to governments to block access to Internet services and applications.

The so-called "compromise" is the replacement of Amendment 138 ( which seeks to protect users rights on the Internet) with an alternative which was drafted by the Council (sometimes known as the ‘fake 138'). The replacement, when considered in context with other Amendments in the Package, will seal in to the Telecoms Framework a right for

governments to implement ‘measures regarding end-users' access to or use of services and applications through electronic communications networks'.

The so-called "compromise" is positioned in Article 1 of the Framework directive, addressed to Member States. It should be read in conjunction with Amendment 1.2a of the Universal Services and Users Rights directive, which will permit broadband providers to block impose "conditions limiting access to and/or use of services and applications". In light of T-Mobile blocking Skype, BT throttling peer-to-peer services, and Karoo, a small UK ISP cutting off users, it should now be abundantly clear what this text means. .

It is far from the ‘balanced' approach which the Commission claims."
Not having read the Commission's paper thoroughly I can't comment in any great detail but the paragraph which appears to be causing concern is penultimate one in the document.
"Concerning Amendment 138 the Commission accepted it in its amended proposal after the European Parliament's first reading but supported the European Parliament-Council compromise text afterwards as a balanced solution. The Commission could, therefore, accept the amendment, but will do its utmost to facilitate the emergence of a compromise between the co-legislators on this issue."
Given that amendment 138 blocks the termination (the"restriction.. on the fundamental rights and freesoms of end-users") of someone's internet access without prior judicial oversight and the compromise, as I recall, enabled terminations but facilitated a right of appeal to an independent tribunal, I can only suggest it is a potentially significant development.

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