Today, across the United States, Internet users are gathering for an emergency vigil calling on the FCC to protect the open Internet. According to news reports, the FCC is leaning towards a proposal that would protect the relationship between ISPs and big web companies, but not the relationship between ISPs and users. This “hybrid” approachwould leave the door open for all kinds of discriminatory practices against end-users and is less likely to hold up in court than the clean proposal we’ve been supporting. Even rules that sound good aren’t going to help anyone if they wind up being struck down. And it doesn’t even make sense to differentiate between users who are “subscribers” and users who run websites; all users send and receive information online and any “subscriber” could start a website tomorrow. At best, such a distinction is factually incoherent, and at worst it could become a self-fulfilling prophecy, legally assigning “subscriber” and “provider” roles to people and companies on the Internet.
Following the European Court of Justice ruling on the UPC Telekabel v Constantin in April 2014, Austrian internet access providers have started “blocking” several websites. In the case in question, the Court established that an injunction may be imposed on an internet access provider (ISP) “prohibiting an internet service provider from allowing” its customers access to a website “when that injunction does not specify the measures which that access provider must take”.
When state officials seek to censor online speech, they're going to use the quickest and easiest method available. For many, copyright takedown notices do the trick. After years of lobbying and increasing pressure from content industries on policymakers and tech companies, sending copyright notices to take media offline is easier than ever.
The copyright law that state actors most often invoke is the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). The DMCA was the first major digital copyright law passed in the United States, creating strict procedural rules for how and when a copyright holder can claim that uploaded content infringes on their copyright. US-based tech companies that receive these infringement notices must comply with these rules to receive their safe harbor—the protection they have from being liable for hosting unlawful user content.
The DMCA has become a global tool for censorship, precisely because it was designed to facilitate the removal of online media. The law carries provisions on intermediary liability, among many other strict copyright enforcement rules, which induce websites, Internet service providers, and other such "intermediaries" to remove content that is alleged to be a copyright infringement.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement (TPP) will force other TPP signatories to accept the United States' excessive copyright terms of a minimum of life of the author plus 70 years, while locking the US to the same lengths so it will be harder to shorten them in the future. It contains DRM anti-circumvention provisions that will make it a crime to tinker with, hack, re-sell, preserve, and otherwise control any number of digital files and devices that you own. The TPP will encourage ISPs to monitor and police their users, likely leading to more censorship measures such as the blockage and filtering of content online in the name of copyright enforcement. And in the most recent leak of the TPP's Intellectual Property chapter, we found an even more alarming provision on trade secrets that could be used to crackdown on journalists and whistleblowers who report on corporate wrongdoing.
The Australian's government proposed data retention scheme won’t be used to go after internet pirates, says Tim Morris the federal police assistant commissioner.
Morris told a technology conference on Sunday that the $400m scheme, under which Australians’ metadata would be retained by internet service providers for up to two years, was essential to fight cybercrime and terrorism.
Phone numbers, the time and duration of calls, email addresses and, potentially, URLs would all be stored, but Morris reiterated that the AFP was “not interested in someone sitting down in their lounge room torrenting Game of Thrones”.
Today the FCC voted three to two to reclassify broadband Internet access as a common carrier service under Title II of the Communications Act, and forbear from the parts of the Act that aren’t necessary for net neutrality rules. This reclassification gives the FCC the authority to enact (and enforce) narrow, clear rules which will help keep the Internet the open platform it is today.
As expected, the FCC’s new rules forbid ISPs from charging Internet users for special treatment on their networks. It will also reach interconnection between ISPs and transit providers or edge services, allowing the FCC to ensure that ISPs don’t abuse their gatekeeper authority to favor some services over others.