EU and China adopt harmonised approach to censorship
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Deutsch: EU und China harmonisieren ihre Zensurmaßnahmen
The European Union and China appear to have agreed to share their preferred approaches to censorship, producing a model that is a perfect mix between current EU and Chinese policies.
On 20 April 2011, at an event in the European Parliament entitled "Creative Industries: Innovation for Growth", the French European Commissioner for the Internal Market, Michel Barnier, announced plans to make focus on Internet providers to enforce intellectual property. He explained that he did not want to "criminalise" consumers and therefore would put the pressure on online intermediaries (who will then police and punish the consumers instead).
Eight days later, on 28 April, the Beijing Copyright Bureau decided to follow exactly the same model. In its "Guiding Framework for the Protection of Copyright for Network Dissemination," it proposes a range of obligations on Internet intermediaries such as:
-180-day data retention for the name and IP address of users, if the intermediary provides file-sharing or hosting services. This is fractionally more liberal than the most liberal approach permitted by the European Commission, which requires data retention for a minimum of six months;
- deterring and restraining (sic) those who upload unlicensed material, including terminating the offending users' service (as appears in the preparatory works of the ACTA agreement, supported by the EU) and also reporting these infringing acts to copyright law enforcement authorities;
- employing "effective technical measures to prevent users uploading or linking to copyrighted works" (as supported by the EU in its input to the European Court of Justice in the Scarlet/Sabam case (C-70/10).
While the developments in relation to copyright show China's willingness to learn from the EU's planned repressive measures, the traffic is not entirely one-way, as shown by the recent revelations on the Hungarian Presidency's "virtual Schengen" proposal.
In 2008, the French EU Presidency developed plans for a "Cybercrime Platform" to be run by Europol, as a means of collecting reports of illicit/unwanted content from across Europe, acting as an "information hub" with the reasonably obvious intention of a harmonised approach to blocking web content.
This approach was further developed in the Internal Security Strategy from 2010, which said ominously that "while the very structure of the internet knows no boundaries, jurisdiction for prosecuting cybercrime still stops at national borders. Member States need to pool their efforts at EU level. The High Tech Crime Centre at Europol already plays an important coordinating role for law enforcement, but further action is needed."
The European Commission immediately took the initiative and offered funding for projects that supported "the blocking of access to child pornography or blocking the access to illegal Internet content through public-private cooperation" - expanding blocking both to content of any kind and to extra-judicial blocking, in contravention of the European Convention on Human Rights and the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. As a result, European police forces were given a grant of 324 059 Euro to lobby for blocking in the EU.
All of these developments have now led to the proposal for a "Great Firewall of Europe", as demonstrated by an EU Council presentation published this week by EDRi. This would harmonise the EU's approach to content that it wished to stop at the EU's borders, following the same logic as the "Great Firewall of China" which censors unwanted content from outside China's jurisdiction. Ironically, both the European Commission and Council of Ministers are now claiming that such a blocking plan was never the intention and are distancing themselves from the proposal - even to the point of rewriting the minutes of the meeting where the proposal was discussed.
In summary, therefore, the EU/China internal policy on censorship will be based on the European model of censorship by proxy, whereby Internet intermediaries undertake the work. For unwanted traffic from outside the EU, the Chinese model of a "virtual border" is being pushed forward, despite recent protestations of innocence from the EU institutions.
Hungarian presidency rewriting of history of meeting
Virtual Schengen documents released by EU Council (12.05.2011)
Commission input to ECJ on Scarlet/Sabam (only in French, 13.01.2011)
ACTA Draft: No Internet for Copyright Scofflaws (24.03.2010)
EU Internal Security Strategy
French Presidency work programme
EU Communication: Internal Security Strategy (22.11.2010) http://www.statewatch.org/news/2010/nov/eu-com-internal-security-strat...
Chinese copyright office: Guiding Framework on the Protection of Copyright
for Network Dissemination (28.04.2011)
EU information management instruments (20.07.2010)
Council and Commission distance themselves from blocking plans (only in
Commission funding - ISEC 2010 action grants
(Contribution by Joe McNamee - EDRi)