With the passage of last year's Copyright Directive, the EU demanded that member states pass laws that reduce copyright infringement by internet users while also requiring that they safeguard the fundamental rights of users (such as the right to free
expression) and also the limitations to copyright . These safeguards must include protections for the new EU-wide exemption for commentary and criticism. Meanwhile states are also required to uphold the GDPR, which safeguards users against mass,
indiscriminate surveillance, while somehow monitoring everything every user posts to decide whether it infringes copyright .
Serving these goals means that when EU member states turn the Directive into their national laws (the
"transposition" process), their governments will have to decide to give more weight to some parts of the Directive, and that courts would have to figure out whether the resulting laws passed constitutional muster while satisfying the
requirement of EU members to follow its rules.
The initial forays into transposition were catastrophic. First came France's disastrous proposal , which "balanced" copyright enforcement with Europeans' fundamental rights
to fairness, free expression, and privacy by simply ignoring those public rights.
Now, the Dutch Parliament has landed in the same untenable legislative cul-de-sac as their French counterparts, proposing a Made-in-Holland version
of the Copyright Directive that omits:
Legally sufficient protections for users unjustly censored due to false accusations of copyright infringement;
Legally sufficient protection for users whose work makes use of the mandatory, statutory
exemptions for parody and criticism;
A ban on "general monitoring"-- that is, continuous, mass surveillance;
Legally sufficient protection for "legitimate uses" of copyright
These are not optional elements of the Copyright Directive. These protections were enshrined in the Directive as part of the bargain meant to balance the fundamental rights of Europeans against the commercial interests of
entertainment corporations. The Dutch Parliament's willingness to pay mere lip-service to these human rights-preserving measures as legislative inconveniences is a grim harbinger of other EU nations' pending lawmaking, and an indictment of the Dutch
Parliament's commitment to human rights.
EFF was pleased to lead a coalition of libraries, human rights NGOs, and users' rights organizations in an open letter to the EU Commission asking them to monitor national implementations
that respect human rights.
In April, we followed this letter with a note to the EC's Copyright Stakeholder Dialogue Team , setting out the impossibility of squaring the Copyright Directive with the GDPR's rules protecting
Europeans from "general monitoring," and calling on them to direct member-states to create test suites that can evaluate whether companies' responses to their laws live up to their human rights obligations.
renew these and other demands, and we ask that Dutch Parliamentarians do their job in transposing the Copyright Directive , with the understanding that the provisions that protect Europeans' rights are not mere ornaments, and any law that fails to uphold
those provisions is on a collision course with years of painful, costly litigation.
The Italian Senate is set to take up new legislation to block all online porn sites in the country, requiring internet users to specifically request that the porn blocks be removed The proposed new censorship law was introduced by Senator Simone Pillon,
a member of Italy's nationalist Northern League party, led by former Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini.
The law would require all makers of internet-connected devices, including computers, cell phones, and smart TVs, to install software that would
automatically block all porn sites. Users would have to file a specific request to remove the software in order to view porn online, under the proposed law.
It is not yet clear whether this internet censorship measure has a realistic chance of
The lower house of the Italian parliament has approved an agenda item by the ruling PD's Enza Bruno Bossio to prevent the passage of a controversial amendment that would have required all adult sites to be automatically blocked by
device manufacturers, and at the ISP level, with the proposal that subscribers would be required to individually request the block to be lifted.
The amendment had been inserted, as XBIZ reported earlier this week, at the legislative committee stage by
Simone Pillon, a representative from the Lega party, and it was due to come to a vote by Monday.
La Repubblica opined that the matter is not yet settled, though Bossio's agenda item is an important roadblock to the Lega's attempt to censor all adult
content on the Italian internet.
In 2015, a a human rights organization that monitors web-censorship and pirate site blockades in Russia was itself ordered to be blocked by a local court for offering advice on how to use tools including Tor and VPNs.
Court of Human Rights has now ruled that the order to disable access to that advice was illegal and a violation of the freedom to receive and impart information.
ECHR Russsia-based project RosComSvoboda advocates human rights and
freedoms on the Internet. Part of that work involves monitoring and publishing data on website blockades and providing assistance to Internet users and site operators who are wrongfully subjected to restrictions.
In 2015, it found
itself in a battle of its own when a local court ordered its advice portal to be blocked by local ISPs. RosComSvoboda's crime was to provide information on tools that can circumvent censorship. While it didn't offer any for direct download, the resource
offered advice on VPNs , proxies, TOR, The Pirate Bay's Pirate Browser, I2P and Opera's turbo mode.
According to the ruling by the Anapa Town Court, the resource allowed people to access content banned in Russia so it too became
prohibited content. Subsequently, telecoms watchdog Roscomnadzor contacted RosComSvoboda with an order to remove its anti-censorship tools information page or face being completely blocked.
The site's operator complied and filed
an appeal against the decision, arguing that providing information about such tools isn't illegal under Russian law. The Krasnodar Regional Court rejected the appeal without addressing this defense so in 2016, RosComSvoboda's operator, German national
Gregory Engels, took his case to the European Court of Human Rights.
This week the ECHR handed down its decision, siding with Engels' assertion that the order for him to remove the content from his site was in breach of Article 10
of the European Convention on Human Rights. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers, the Article reads.
The ECHR found that the action against Engels breached Article 10. It also declared a breach of Article 13 due to a failure by the Russian court to involve him in the blocking action or consider the merits of his arguments on appeal. The Russian state
was ordered to pay 10,000 euros in damages to Engels plus interest.
French internet censorship law suuposedly targeted at hate speech on online platforms has been widely deemed as unconstitutional by France's Constitutional Council, the top authority in charge of ruling whether a new law complies with the constitution.
It won't come into effect as expected in the coming weeks.
The original law said that online platforms should remove within 24 hours illicit content that has been flagged. Otherwise, companies will have to pay hefty fines every time they infringe the
law. For social media companies, it could have potentially cost them many millions of dollars per year.
And of course illicit content means anything that would be considered threating or insulting, such as death threats, discrimination, Holocaust
But the Constitutional Council says that such a technical list makes it difficult to rule what is illicit content and what is not. Due to the short window of time, online platforms can't check with a court whether a tweet, a post, a
photo or a blog post is deemed as illicit or not. When you combine that with potential fines, the Constitutional Council fears that online platforms will censor content a bit too quickly.
The government said it would respond to the criticisism and
change the law accordingly.