Batting Against Three Strikes through the Back Door

One of the reasons that I didn’t post much last week was that I was contacting some of my MEPs as part of the Telecom Packet Action in order to help defend cooperative software distribution and use. This is a bit longer than my usual posts and no software is announced below, but I’m posting it here in the hope that more people will take part in this campaign that affects every EU internet user.

In short, some MEPs that I remember from the Software Patent campaign proposed amendments that would enable the unpopular three-strikes regime, where internet users could be disconnected and fined if they had three allegations of copyright infringement made (not necessarily proved AIUI) against them, and ISPs could be required to block legal peer-to-peer cooperative distribution systems like BitTorrent. ISPs would also have to distribute official advice about proper internet use and I remember how good that often is. Note that three-strikes wasn’t explicit in the amendments, but there did appear to be loopholes which could be used to allow it, such as only prohibiting technical feature requirements. For longer descriptions, see articles by La Quadrature du Net (Squaring the Net) and The Open Rights Group.

The UK Independence Party MEPs replied quickly that they would vote against, mainly because of the source of the legislation. I don’t completely agree with that, but at least UKIP does what it says on the tin.

Neil Parish MEP of the Conservatives sent me back a reply which referred to unknown numbering (H1, K1 and so on) and generally seemed like a mish-mash of replies that other people had received. I replied with questions about several aspects, including asking where his numbering came from, and I’ve not seen an answer yet. I’ll email him again in a few days because it’s been over a week.

I was really annoyed by the reported complaints by Malcolm Harbour (Conservatives lead MEP on this issue) about how voters have reacted to these amendments, where he called it “scaremongering” amongst other things. No mongering was required – those amendments are damn scary. See comments from a media solicitor at the end of a BBC report:-

“The amendment will cause several problems, firstly, many broadband users routinely transfer large files which are encrypted.

“Many of these are acting quite legitimately and in order to determine whether or not such large files are or are not the produce of illicit file sharing the ISP will have to carry out an unprecedented degree of analysis of its customers’ traffic. “Furthermore, computers are frequently shared – within offices, within homes, within educational institutions and inadvertently, where wrong-doers “piggy back” on an inadequately secured Wi-Fi connection.

“All this raises the spectre of people losing internet access – for reasons which are no fault of their own.”

The main thing that these actions over the last few years have taught me is the broken state of European Union decision-making. I know I’m sometimes dissatisfied with problems in local and civil democracy, but the EU is a good idea whose democracy and accountability seems broken on a massive scale. There are just too many disconnects, as far as the ordinary voter can see. We put things in to elections and consultations and get bizarre law-making like this. If we act to correct the bizarre law-making, some MEPs start criticising us quite severely.

And what kind of stupid representative system allows the representatives to repeatedly blame the voters but still be safely elected because of their high position on their party’s list? I’d love a simple, reformist constitution that’s simple enough for people to actually understand, approve in referendums and participate in the EU effectively. I doubt it will happen in my lifetime, though.

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