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Draft OECD Statement Calls for Broadband ISPs to Police Internet Copyright

Posted: 29th Jun, 2011 By: MarkJ
pirate flagoecd logoThe Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), which represents 34 democratic countries with market economy's, has been heavily criticised by world civil society groups after it issued a new draft statement on their Principles for Internet Policy-Making that called for internet providers (ISP) to "take steps to [...] assist rights holders in enforcing their rights or reduce illegal content" online (i.e. asking them to help police the internet instead of being "mere conduits" of information).

The statement itself is in keeping with the general thrust of modern day political thinking (e.g. ACTA, Digital Economy Act etc.) with regards to tackling internet copyright infringement (piracy). However, the Civil Society Information Society Advisory Council (CSISAC), which presents 80 global civil society groups, and a multitude of similar organisations were outraged by some of the last minute changes.

CSISAC Statement

"CSISAC agrees with a substantial portion of the Communiqué, and strongly commends its support for an open, interoperable Internet and particularly multistakeholder policy development processes. However, upon viewing the completed draft text, CSISAC members felt strongly that elements of the draft Communiqué might be understood in a way which would reduce respect and protection for fundamental rights.

CSISAC members were additionally concerned the document would push Internet Intermediaries [broadband ISPs] to police and enforce laws on their networks and services. This is something that civil society is unable to accept and is inconsistent with our understanding of the notion of multistakeholder policy development."

CSISAC members were particularly concerned by the various qualifications within the text limiting access guarantees to 'lawful' content. This raised several concerns. For example, it is not clear how and by whom 'lawfulness' will be determined, specifically with respect to content that is not inherently illegal, in that its "legality is contingent on the applicability of exceptions" (i.e. Rights Holders might ask for a perfectly legal website, such as Google, to be blocked just because of links to copyright works and without a fair trial).

The group also believes that ISPs should "not be called upon to make determinations about the legality of content passing through their networks and platforms because they are neither competent nor appropriate parties to do so." CSISAC also referenced the statements "over-emphasis" on protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights, often "at the expense of fundamental freedoms".

Jérémie Zimmermann, Co-Founder of Citizen Organization La Quadrature du Net, said:

"If left unchanged, the OECD [Statement] is poised to promote a decade-long war on sharing, which has already had disastrous consequences on freedom of expression and privacy worldwide. Under the pressure of the entertainment industries, the OECD is undermining the good principles laid in its framework for Internet policy-making.

Fundamental freedoms and the rule of law should prevail over any private interest, and that means guaranteeing a fair trial to all Internet users rather than pushing for private policing and censorship."

Meanwhile UK Rights Holders and ISPs are busy working to establish a new Voluntary Code of Practice, which could block any website that is deemed to "facilitate" internet copyright infringement (here and here). BT has also gone to court this week in order to defend against a similar demand for website blocking being made by the Motion Picture Association (MPA) / film industry (here).
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