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BBC World Service launched its season of "SuperPower" worldwide coverage of the Internet on March 8 (link) timed with the release of a poll conducted by GlobeScan surveying close to 28,000 adults in 26 countries, with Internet users comprising about half of the respondents. Summarizing the results, GlobeScan Chairman Doug Miller said, "Despite worries about privacy and fraud, people around the world see access to the Internet as their fundamental right. They think the Web is a force for good, and most don't want governments to regulate it." (link) Among other questions, respondents were asked whether they agreed with the statements "Access to the Internet should be a fundamental right of all people" and "The Internet should never be regulated by any level of government anywhere." Almost four in five surveyed agreed with the "fundamental right" statement — even among those who don't use the Internet, support for it was 71 percent. Over half of Internet users opposed any government regulation. These attitudes are bad news for the antipiracy enforcement strategy that would deprive copyright infringers of their Internet access — the appeal of that approach was its technological practicality, but its political practicality might be doomed.
On March 10 European Parliament decisively opposed the secrecy of international Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement negotiations, the "three strikes" approach to antipiracy enforcement, and any disconnection of Internet access that is not reviewed by a court. (link) The vote tally on applicable resolutions was 633 in favor, 13 opposed, and 16 abstaining — more than 95 percent support. Consumer advocates have taken these positions for years, but this pan-European governmental endorsement of their perspective is noteworthy. (link) For example, one of the enumerated ACTA resolutions "deplores the calculated choice of the parties not to negotiate through well-established international bodies, such as WIPO and WTO, which have established frameworks for public information and consultation." Another resolution emphasizes that Europe already recognizes privacy and data protection as fundamental rights. This opposition could stalemate efforts to include Europe in tougher international antipiracy strategies. In addition, consumer advocates and Internet service providers will undoubtedly build on this "win" to advance their points of view.
In Britain, amendments to the Digital Economy Bill are sparking lively debates as various efforts to include antipiracy language are attacked. For example, legislators withdrew a "three strikes" approach and substituted a proposal that ISPs should block some offending Web sites. This provoked cries of censorship and warnings that Web locker services would be victimized. Writing in The Guardian on March 4, author and consumer advocate Cory Doctorow said, "The reason Web lockers are used for piracy is that they support privacy. A call to end Web lockers is really a call to eliminate the public's ability to exchange personal information out of sight of the wide world." (link) On March 9 the Financial Times published a letter opposed to blocking Web sites from 18 signatories including Internet executives, legislators, academics, and consumer advocates warning of harm to Britain's reputation and abuse of non-judicial requests to block sites, as well as complaining of the lack of public consultation. The letter said, "blocking access as envisaged by this clause would both widely disrupt the Internet in the UK and elsewhere and threaten freedom of speech and the open Internet, without reducing copyright infringement as intended." (link) The following day, recording industry association BPI emphasized that ISPs could request court review in every case and that the proposed approach responded to suggestions that enforcement should focus on commercial piracy instead of consumers. (link)
Copyright Alliance Executive Director Patrick Ross explored the negative impact seven words could have on U.S. copyright law in a March 10 blog post. (link) The seven words "incidental, non-consumptive, or both noncommercial and personal" are drawn from Public Knowledge's Copyright Reform Act proposal to make U.S. fair use law more consumer-friendly. Additional CRA proposals from the advocacy group are anticipated. (link)
On March 9 Reps. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) and David Wu (D-Ore.) announced the formation of the bipartisan Global Internet Freedom Caucus to further the passage of anti-censorship legislation similar to bills both have separately introduced. Rep. Wu said, "While the spread of digital media technology is a tremendous force for good, it also faces a number of threats from those who seek to control information, quell dissent and censor non-violent free expression." (link) Rep. Smith said, "We see that every time a repressive regime cracks down, Internet censoring, blocking and surveillance is one of the most powerful weapons in its armory." (link)
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