In a great blow for consumers everywhere, the prospect of 3-strikes for copyright infringers has returned with a vengeance, as both the EU Council and French Constitutional court pushed forward with their respective legislation. HADOPI is alive, and the EU has shredded requirements for judicial oversight.
The threat of 3-strikes based legislation had been reduced in recent weeks, with strong protests in the UK and proposed legislation elsewhere meeting stiff opposition.
However, none of this stopped the lobby groups, or the politicians looking to push for the ruling.
In the EU, the amendment, which would protect against 3-strikes laws by requiring due judicial process to occur before any sanction (such as cutting off Internet access), has been substantially watered down. Meanwhile, in France the Constitutional Court has ruled in favor of a slightly modified version of HADOPI – their legislation which includes a 3-strikes sanction.
On Tuesday, the Parliament gave up on Amendment 138, which had been voted on twice by the assembly, gaining a majority both times. The amendment was supposed to protect the rights of citizens from being treated as guilty upon the accusations of an industry group, and punished based on the same. It read;
Applying the principle that no restriction may be imposed on the fundamental rights and freedoms of end-users, without a prior ruling by the judicial authorities, notably in accordance with Article 11 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union on freedom of expression and information, save when public security is threatened in which case the ruling may be subsequent.
Instead, they are now considering a version which does not guarantee the right to an effective and timely judicial review.
Christian Engstrom, the Pirate Party’s MEP, commented on the amendment in his blog. He included the differences in text that have been made since Tuesday (bold denotes added text, strike-through indicates removed) in a meeting between three negotiators for the European Parliament and representatives for the Council of Ministers.
The changes included the removal of the judicial guarantee, that any measures should come only after a fair an impartial procedure (and should now just ‘respect’ such things), and the ACTA-like inclusion of ‘National Security’ clauses.
He summarized things simply, saying: “It shows utter contempt for Parliament by totally ignoring everything it says. The Council plans to bypass Parliament and once and for all prove that it is they who make the decisions, end of story.”
Meanwhile, France’s highest Constitutional Court has approved a slightly modified version of HADOPI. While initially blocked last September, a change to require a judge to sign off on the disconnection action (rather than the Agency itself) has meant it passed the Court. However, such court measures will be ‘fast tracked’ rather than given full judicial process, a situation the New York Times describes as ‘similar to traffic violations’.
This has angered many, including (of course) the Pirate Party. Laurent Le Besnerais of the Parti Pirate and Pirate Party International called it “a huge blow for Internet Freedom.”
“In June 2009, this same Council declared that Internet access is a fundamental right which cannot be restricted without judicial process,” he told TorrentFreak. “Today, the council gives a judge the right and responsibility to pronounce a closure of Internet access to anyone suspected of having shared illegally. Furthermore, the suspect will have to prove his innocence, which creates a presumption of guilt.”
With the flip-flopping over these measures, it can only be seen as a greater boost for the European Pirate Parties in future elections. However, since much of the party works and draws its support online, there is the risk that members could start having their net connections cut off. With evidential standards so low, would it really be beyond the realms of possibility that political critics of these plans could end up being cut off at the say-so of those they oppose?
If all goes as planned the agency will be staffed next month, with letters starting in the new year, and terminations starting as soon as next summer. How long the law will stay once the innocent start being punished is harder to predict. As with IPRED, the people the law aims to deal with will just use seedboxes, VPNs, and open WiFi hotspots instead of their home connections.