UN: Disconnecting File-Sharers Breaches Human Rights

According to a report set to be adopted today by the UN’s Human Rights Council, anti-filesharing provisions such as those outlined in the UK's Digital Economy Act are disproportionate and should be repealed. The provisions, which include disconnecting Internet users for violating the rights of the music and movie industries, breach human rights, the report concludes.

According to a UN report published in May and set to be adopted today, tough provisions in the UK’s Digital Economy Act and France’s ‘Hadopi’ legislation breach human rights.

The Report of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression details concern for measures being put in place by various governments to punish online copyright infringement. In many cases those measures include the draconian step of denying citizens’ Internet access.

“While blocking and filtering measures deny users access to specific content on the Internet, States have also taken measures to cut off access to the Internet entirely,” says the report.

“The Special Rapporteur considers cutting off users from Internet access, regardless of
the justification provided, including on the grounds of violating intellectual property rights law, to be disproportionate and thus a violation of article 19, paragraph 3, of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.”

The report highlights the legislation adopted by France and the UK, noting that the author of the report, Frank La Rue, is “alarmed” by proposals to severely punish Internet users if they violate intellectual property rights.

“This also includes legislation based on the concept of ‘graduated response’, which imposes a series of penalties on copyright infringers that could lead to suspension of Internet service, such as the so-called “three-strikes-law” in France and the Digital Economy Act 2010 of the United Kingdom,” notes the report.

In addition to calling on governments to maintain Internet access “during times of political unrest,” the report goes on to urge States to change copyright laws, not in favor of the music and movie industries as has been the recent trend, but in keeping with citizens’ rights.

“In particular, the Special Rapporteur urges States to repeal or amend existing intellectual copyright laws which permit users to be disconnected from Internet access, and to refrain from adopting such laws,” the report adds.

Whether or not the report will carry any influence with these so-far stubborn governments remains to be seen, but the Open Rights Group are keeping up the pressure on UK Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt. ORG have written to Hunt asking for his reaction to the Special Rapporteur’s report and his recommendation that the Digital Economy Act’s disconnection provisions should be repealed.

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