The First Web War took place in Estonia in 2007 when different government institutions were overrun with cyber attacks that supposedly came from Russian computers and servers. Luckily no serious damage was inflicted and all ended well. About a year later, the NATO Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence was founded in Tallinn. This was a remarkable sign of trust and faith in such a little country to deal with an ever-growing 21st century challenge. Today the whole world has come to realise the seriousness and scale of the threats regarding the Internet – abuse and misuse can cause serious consequences for governments, private companies and ordinary citizens alike.
In addition to NATO, there are other institutions that have to deal with this problem, such as the European Parliament. A serious challenge consists of certain foreign countries who wish to block and censor (European based) websites. A more imminent problem might on the other hand lie in the domestic sphere as several EU countries wish to obtain more control over data online (e-mails, calls, chats, pictures, videos, etc). This raises questions about when and on what grounds would tapping Skype calls, for instance, be legal and justified. Downloading and sharing films and music is a known issue and has made the relevant industries take action; raising awareness on this issue even gave the Swedish Pirate Party 2 seats in the European Parliament elections.
In Autumn 2009 the EP scored a great success regarding the so-called “Telecom package” (EU’s plan for the reform of the regulatory framework for electronic communications) where a point that would have restricted the use and freedom of Internet users was removed. Instead, an amendment emphasising the need to respect and withhold the rights of Internet users as ordinary citizens was pushed through.
But how to regulate the handling and use of intellectual property, found on basically every step on the Internet? Member States have already started to update their legislation on this issue, supporting to the EU’s Intellectual Property Rights Enforcement Directive or IPRED created in 2004. The IPRED law in Sweden, Hadopi law in France and the Digital Economy Bill in Great Britain are a few examples.
In France there is the 3-strike system, meaning that the authorities will send a letter to a person who has been caught illegally downloading data; should he or she not comply, the measures taken will get more severe and a person can be deprived of his or her Internet connection and/or receive a fine. Belgium is expected to adopt a similar law in 2010.
There’s a heated debate going on in the European Parliament on IPRs. This year the so-called Gallo report was adopted. This IPR report, tabled by French MEP Michelle Gallo (EPP group) offers a variety of methods that could be used for enforcement of IPRs. This report proved to be a very controversial one, that led the Social-democrats along with the Greens/EFA to table their own alternative resolutions, as their view was that the report restricts citizens’ rights and puts downloading and sharing files on the same level with large scale piracy. Their concern was shared by Reporters Without Borders.
At the same time, however, different artist associations across Europe turned to the EP asking MEPs to adopt the report in its current form. The European Writers’ Council, European Visual Artists, European Federation of Journalists, Society of Audiovisual Authors, Federation of European Film Directors and the European Council of Artists wrote in their letters that the Gallo report emphasises the appropriate and necessary protection of IPRs from the point of view of the authors. Other associations’ letters followed. Furthermore, the alternative resolution tabled by Social-democrats and the Greens/EFA group as a sign of protest was widely condemned by the artists unions.
The views of artists as people directly involved with IPRs have to be taken into account. Nonetheless one should ask a critical question: do these associations reflect more the views of the artists or the industry?
Anyway the report has been adopted. The document calls upon the European Commission to harmonize the EU’s IPR laws and remove the obstacles from creating a single digital market; also, the report suggests the creation of IPR enforcement so-called helpdesks abroad, where EU companies would be able to receive help when exporting or doing business in India or Russia, for example.
At first, however, as the report puts it – a thorough research has to be carried out on the modern problems and possible solutions related to IPRs.
As file sharing, buying books and music affects us all, it would be useful to know your view, dear reader. Is there anything you would like to change in Europe or in your country with regard to IPRs, file sharing, downloading and uploading films, music, audiobooks, etc? There will surely be new reforms on IPR in the EU in the near future. Whatever the restrictions in this field (or merely changes) may be, they will be felt by both Internet users and artists providing the content for it.
For more information, please read:
The Economist special report on Internet security
The Web is dead?
Hillary Clinton’s speech on Freedom of the Internet
Studies on filesharing in the Internet
About the IPRED law impact in Sweden
French Hadopi law
Belgian IPRED law
About the Digital Economy Bill
Ireland’s IPRED law
Reporters Without Borders on the Gallo report
La quadrature: About the Gallo report
European Parliament: About the Gallo report