Parliament silences controversy over copyrights
By Nathalie Vandystadt in Strasbourg | Wednesday 03 September 2008
Internet service providers (ISPs) were handed the obligation to inform consumers of the consequences of illegal downloads as well as the illicit nature of certain activities such as piracy. During their vote in the Internal Market Committee of the European Parliament, on 7 July in Strasbourg, MEPs should distance themselves from the ‘graduated response’ model debated in France: anyone repeatedly found to be downloading films, music, etc, will have their internet connection cut from several weeks to a whole year after written warnings, then a registered letter sent asking them to stop.
After a long controversy sparked by the French bill, the rapporteurs of the telecoms package have reached a compromise: ISPs “will pass on information” to consumers. They will also have to increase customer awareness of network security as well as the protection of personal data and privacy.
Other amendments, however, go further still, though. MEPs believed that the telecoms package was not the place. “I have been accused of Sovietising the internet. It’s outrageous. The goal of the text is not to enforce intellectual property law, but to inform the consumer, in the interest of his safety and protection,” explained Malcolm Harbour (EPP-ED, UK), the rapporteur on the protection and consumer aspects of this legislation
Its objective was to improve information for consumers before they sign a contract. Internet service providers will therefore have to tell consumers if they restrict access to certain services for commercial reasons. On mobile telephones with internet access, some operators have tried, for example, to restrict access to Skype (free online phone service) because, of course, that does not respond to their economic model, explained the rapporteur. They will also have to inform them of their tariffs. On the contracts themselves, operators will have to supply more information. The revision also sets out a right to quicker number portability (the consumer will be able to change operators in one day), access to the single European emergency number 112 with the ability to locate the injured caller everywhere in Europe, the improvement of access to services for disabled people and warning against the risks of ill-intentioned use of personal data and other illegal practices.
Vergnaud also welcomed the fact that consumers will be able to break their contract after 12 months without penalties. The Commission is scheduled to publish proposals this autumn for broadening the scope of universal service, notably as regards broadband.
Finally, the principle of ‘network neutrality’ was the subject of a compromise. Therefore, national regulators could intervene in the event of deteriorating service or traffic slowdown, but also to protect the rights and freedoms of other network users or operators’ rights to diversify their supply on the competitive market.(1) The report focuses on the revision of Directives 2002/22/EC on universal service and users’ rights and 2002/58/EC on the processing of personal data and the protection of privacy.