[A2k] Notice & Action: EU Commission Must Put Freedom of Expression First

La Quadrature du Net jz at laquadrature.net
Wed Jan 11 04:38:58 PST 2012


La Quadrature du Net - For immediate release

Permanent link: https://www.laquadrature.net/en/notice-action-eu-commission-must-put-freedom-of-expression-first

Notice & Action: EU Commission Must Put Freedom of Expression First

*** Paris, January 11th, 2012 – Following a consultation held late 2010, the European Commission just announced an action plan on the role of Internet actors in the policing of online content [1]. One key issue is that of “notice and takedown” measures, which are today implemented in total opacity at the expense of users' freedom of communication. As the global war on sharing rages, this announcement underlines the pressing need for citizen involvement in this crucial debate to better protect our freedoms online. ***

The 2000 directive on online services (also called e-Commerce directive) sets a legal framework for most online activities [2]. Thanks to the liability exemptions provided to Internet actors such as access providers and service providers such as hosting platforms, the directive created a special legal framework distinct from the one regulating media and interpersonal means of communications, thereby protecting freedom of communications and promoting innovation and growth in the online sector.

However, in the last ten years, vested interests, and the entertainment industries in particular, have lobbied lawmakers and brought legal action to force Internet actors to police their networks. Policy-makers, among which the EU Commission, have been quite responsive to such demands and have pushed for greater “cooperation” between online actors, law enforcement and other stake-holders to implement extra-judicial censorship of online content [3]. As a result, many online services now resort to censorship mechanisms and to abusive takedown of content [4] that blatantly violate users' freedom to express themselves online.

“The EU Commission's announcement shows the urgency to shed some light on the harmful practices of many Internet actors who have been forced into policing online content. Citizens' rights are often victim of privatised censorship online at the expense of the right to a fair trial. As the EU Parliament has stressed on a number of occasions, any restriction imposed on fundamental rights online must be subject to a prior decision by a judge [5]. But in the face of many policy proposals seeking to increase the role of Internet actors in policing online content, such as ACTA, one can fear that many lobbies will wage an all-out offensive against freedom of communication online. Citizens must closely follow the discussions on this directive and get ready to defend their rights.”, said Jérémie Zimmermann, co-founder and spokesperson of advocacy group La Quadrature du Net.

** La Quadrature's proposals on “notice and action” **

In late 2010, in our response [6] to the EU Commission's questionnaire on the online services directive, we stressed that:

* In the absence of court order, providers should be obliged to give their customers a reasonable time to respond (so-called “notice-and-notice” regime).
* While waiting for the answer, content should not be be removed.
* In case of counter-notice on the part of the customer, the provider should notify the third-party who sent the initial take-down request that the customer is challenging their claim, and propose that the case be referred to a court.
* EU law should also provide sanctions for abusive notice and take-down demands as well as for wrongful take-downs on the part of the provider.
* Lastly, providers should provide their users with clear information on their notice and take-down procedures.

* References *

1. See action 12 in the Commission's communication on the digital single market : http://ec.europa.eu/internal_market/e-commerce/communication_2012_en.htm
2. See our webdossier on the online services directive: https://www.laquadrature.net/en/online_services_directive
3. See EDRi's study on self-regulation and censorship: http://www.edri.org/edrigram/number9.2/self-regulation-study-edri
4. This summer, the illegal censorship in Germany of Nina Paley's multi-awarded movie “Sita Sings the Blues” by YouTube showed once again how corporate enforcement of an obsolete copyright regime harms culture and freedom of expression. See https://www.laquadrature.net/en/like-nina-fight-privatized-censorship-of-culture
5. https://www.laquadrature.net/en/an-evolution-of-amendment-138
6. https://www.laquadrature.net/en/la-quadrature-answers-eu-consultation-on-online-services-directive

** About la Quadrature du Net **

La Quadrature du Net is an advocacy group that promotes the rights and freedoms of citizens on the Internet. More specifically, it advocates for the adaptation of French and European legislations to respect the founding principles of the Internet, most notably the free circulation of knowledge. 

In addition to its advocacy work, the group also aims to foster a better understanding of legislative processes among citizens. Through specific and pertinent information and tools, La Quadrature du Net hopes to encourage citizens' participation in the public debate on rights and freedoms in the digital age.

La Quadrature du Net is supported by French, European and international NGOs including the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Open Society Institute and Privacy International.

List of supporting organisations: https://www.laquadrature.net/en/they-support-la-quadrature-du-net

** Press contact and press room **

Jérémie Zimmermann, jz at laquadrature.net, +33 (0)615 940 675


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