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Internet freedom groups voice concerns over OECD internet proposals

Fear over policing of the internet
Wed Jun 29 2011, 15:52

A GROUP OF OVER 80 civil society organisations including the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) have refused to endorse proposals by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) that they claim could result in authoritarian policing of the internet.

The OECD released the final version of the proposals at a Paris conference today, but there is a growing fear that there might be a negative impact on freedom of speech.

The Civil Society Information Society Advisory Council (CSISAC), a group of over eighty members within the OECD, said they could not endorse the draft Communiqué on Internet Policy-making delivered to date, which they believe might encourage governments to force internet service providers (ISPs) to police the internet.

The main contention concerns the liability of ISPs and other internet intermediaries when it comes to identifying and serving internet users who might be accused of infringing copyrights.

The CSISAC claims that the OECD is bringing its proposals in a direction that is inconsistent with proposals from the United Nations and the Council of Europe. It called on member states of the OECD to "combat digital censorship and uphold international human rights standards". It said that "due process and judicial review" was needed in cases of alleged copyright infringement.

The final version of the Communiqué appears to address the copyright issue to some extent by making a point about "appropriate limitations of liability for internet intermediaries".

It calls on governments to involve multiple parties in coming up with appropriate circumstances for when intermediaries should educate users about copyrights and assist the copyright holders, but it qualifies that the burdens and legal uncertainties affecting intermediaries should be minimised in order to promote the free flow of information.

The Communiqué puts particular emphasis on the freedom of information and an open internet, which are the first two points in its proposals. It also encourages investment in high speed networks, involvement of several parties in drafting policies, an emphasis on transparency and accountability, promotion of internet security, and prioritisation of enforcement of copyright law.

The language of the document generally appears conciliatory towards those who fear for the freedom of the internet, but they might not be happy with any suggestion that ISPs should get involved with warning and penalising their users for alleged copyright infringement, as is the case with the three strikes rules in the UK and France. It remains to be seen whether or not the CSISAC will agree to endorse the final proposals. µ


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