A fair Internet for all?

By EDRi · December 14, 2011

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Deutsch: [Ein gerechtes Internet für alle? |]

On 1 December 2011, the European Parliament’s European People’s Party (EPP)
group presented their strategy paper “A fair Internet for all –
Strengthening Our Citizens’ Rights and Securing a Fair Business Environment
in the Internet”. In this webstreamed hearing, the MEPs discussed the main
issues of the paper such as net and “search” neutrality, social networks,
online behavioural advertising, anonymity of users, cloud computing and
intellectual property rights. This was followed by an exchange of views with
Google, Facebook and Microsoft and the German Federal data protection
commission – who are, ostensibly “the” stakeholders in European Internet
regulation. Unfortunately, the EPP did not invite any civil society

The strategy paper acknowledges that the Internet has created a new world of
possibilities and is an essential tool for communication, innovation, and
economic growth. It contains many positive elements such as a very strong
chapter on Net neutrality. The EPP group recognises that a neutral and open
free Internet represents guiding principle which must be preserved as a
policy objective. The group therefore urges the Commission to adopt further
measures to guarantee Net neutrality. Furthermore, the text defends privacy
by design, strong data protection rules in general and the need for better
harmonisation in order to avoid forum shopping. European standards should be
applied by companies where data is collected within the EU and transferred
to third countries.

While being a solid document overall, there is also some lack of coherence
on certain points. In section 3. a of its strategy paper, the EPP suggests
to further explore a “modification of the liability regime for
intermediaries”. However, the EPP (and the European Parliament as a whole)
has already given its consent to the Free Trade Agreement with South Korea
in 2010, which basically copies the articles on intermediary liability of
the E-Commerce Directive into the Agreement and binds the European Union
with regard to the intermediary liability regime. Furthermore, this proposal
contradicts the EPP’s principled position on net neutrality, which strongly
speaks in favour of the defence of the neutral role of Internet

The EPP also adopts a very good position on profiling, stating that such
practices should be prohibited, but unfortunately has also given its consent
to agreements that allow profiling and data mining, such as the passenger
name record (PNR) agreements with third countries, for instance the EU-Australia agreement.

Hidden in its very last section on quality journalism online, the EPP’s
paper introduces ancillary copyright provisions. It should be noted that in
September 2011, the German government announced to be in the process of
preparing a draft legislative proposal for ancillary copyright provisions.
This push for ancillary copyright provisions on a European level has already
been demanded by German chancellor Angela Merkel. However, ancillary
copyright provisions have already been harshly criticised by civil rights
groups, such as the initiative IGEL, stating that such provision would limit
the freedom of communication. The introduction of new copyright provisions
seems indeed unnecessary since publishers are already protected by copyright
provisions and get usually extensive rights by journalists through contracts
or general terms and conditions.

Overall, the EPP’s strategy paper contains many good points and its adoption
should help facilitate discussions on the contradictions between principles
and practice that it has brought to light.

EPP Strategy Paper “Fair, Open and Secure Internet” (1.12.2011)

Video – EPP presents its strategy paper (1.12.2011)

Initiative IGEL against ancillary copyright provisions (only in German)

(Contribution by Kirsten Fiedler – EDRi)