By EDRi

This article is also available in:
Deutsch: [G8- und eG8-Gipfel zur Internetfreiheit | http://bit.ly/lzyYbk]

The results of the 37th edition of the G8 Forum that took place in
Deauville, France on 26-27 May 2011 and of the e-G8 meeting on Internet
issues organised by the French Presidency immediately before, are sending a
mixed message, on the one hand recognizing the “openness, transparency and
freedom of the Internet” and on the other hand announcing the “commitment to
ensuring effective action against violations of intellectual property rights
in the digital arena, including action that addresses present and future
infringements.”

The civil society, represented by a large number of groups and associations,
including EDRi, sent a statement, before the e-G8 and G8 meetings, urging
the G8 Member States to “publicly commit to expanding internet
access for all, combating digital censorship and surveillance, limiting
online intermediary liability, and upholding principles of net neutrality.

Additionally, a petition was launched by digital rights group Access – G8:
Protect the Net! – calling on the leaders of the Group of 8 to commit to
citizen-centred internet policies, which was signed by internet users from
over 100 countries.

The concerns were mostly related to the continuous tendencies of the
governments to limit the freedom of the Internet for political or
economical reasons. “Many G8 countries are actively pursuing policies that
would similarly seek to restrict and control access; (…) the increase of
restrictive policies in both the developed and developing world is a
regressive and deeply worrying trend,” reads the statement which also showed
concern related to the lack of representation of the civil society at the
e-G8 and G8 meetings as the invite list was mostly limited to
representatives of governments and corporate leaders.

During the e-G8 forum, which was meant to prepare the issues related to
the Internet for the G8 summit, the civil society representatives such as
Jérémie Zimmermann, co-founder of La Quadrature du Net, and John Perry
Barlow, co-fonder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation and author of the
Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace, also tried to voice these
concerns.

Access, together with Zimmerman, staged an ad-hoc counter-forum civil
society press conference at the e-G8. Zimmerman led a panel of experts
including Harvard scholars Lawrence Lessig and Jochai Benkler, US journalist
Jeff Jarvis, former board member of ICANN Susan Crawford and
Secretary-general of Reporters without Borders Jean-Francois Julliard, who
collectively expressed their disappointment over the lack of adequate civil
society representation as well as the direction of the discussions. “The
free Internet must be defended before thought is given to regulating
content,” said Julliard, “The priority for G8 governments should be
defending the Internet.”

The Declaration on “Renewed Commitment for Freedom and Democracy” released
at the end of the G8 summit, includes 19 paragraphs on the Internet and
related issues and confirms to some extent the concerns expressed by the
civil society. The Declaration commits to defending intellectual property
rights rather than human rights such as the freedom of expression:
“Regarding the protection of the intellectual property, especially
copyrights, trade marks, commercial secrets and patents, we recognise we
must establish legislation and national frameworks to improve this aspect.
That is why we reaffirm our commitment to take firm measures against the
violations of the intellectual property rights within the digital space,
especially by procedures enabling the prevention of present and future
infringements.”

The human rights organisation, Article 19, believes the Declaration has
failed to recognise the protection of human rights “as a core principle
above all others”, having included it within a framework “to be balanced
with rule of law and protection of intellectual property.”

In the groups’ opinion, the Declaration ignores several international human
rights treaties, while endorsing restrictions on Internet speech “by
increasing enforcement of intellectual property such as through the
controversial Anti Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) and domestic
“three-strikes laws” which fail to fully recognise – and often violate – the
right to freedom of expression.”

Civil Society Statement to the e-G8 and G8
http://letter.accesslabs.org/Civil%20Society%20Statement%20to%20the%20eG8-finalg.pdf

G8 Declaration – Summit of Deauville – May 26-27, 2011
http://www.g20-g8.com/g8-g20/g8/english/live/news/renewed-commitment-for-freedom-and-democracy.1314.html

G8-The Deauville Declaration on Internet Fails to Recognise Importance of
Human Rights Including Freedom of Expression (28.05.2011)
http://www.i-policy.org/2011/05/g8-the-deauville-declaration-on-internet-fails-to-recognise-importance-of-human-rights-including-freedom-of-expression.html

eG8 Forum: Speeches by Jérémie Zimmermann & John Perry Barlow (partially
only in French, 24-25.05.2011)
http://www.waebo.com/eg8-discours-de-jeremie-zimmermann-john-perry-barlow.html

The Counter-forum Civil Society Press Conference, May 25 @ e-G8

Civil Society Petition – G8: Protect the net!
https://www.accessnow.org/page/s/g8-protect-the-net

Access Blog: World Rallies to Save the Internet from G8
https://www.accessnow.org/policy-activism/press-blog/world-rallies-to-save-the-internet-from-g8