A small historical turning point

Historical turning points are often discrete. One such has occured today in the European Parliament. For the first time, the Parliament has taken a position on the relationship between Internet and culture that goes against the traditional views of the large right holders lobbies. The Parliament has already arbitrated with courage between the scope and enforcement of some IPR and fundamental rights or innovation. For instance it rejected scope extensions of patents to genetic sequences (in 1995 befre a fierce lobbying convinced it to change its mind in 1998) and to software/software-based information processing methods (in 2003 and 2005). However, for subjects where one could invoke the rights of creators (even in contradiction to reality), a majority was found to adopt texts that showed insufficient respect for freedoms, the due process of law or user rights. This was the case for instance with the adoption of the IPR enforcement directive in 2004, which created a presumption of guilt and extreme preventive measures against the non-commercial usage of information and works.

Today, the Parliament has demonstrated that there are limits to the regression into absurdity. It did it at the occasion of the plenary vote on a report of Guy Bono on the cultural industry in Europe. The Parliament adopted the following amendment:

Calls on the Commission and the Member States to recognise that the Internet is a vast platform for cultural expression, access to knowledge, and democratic participation in European creativity, bringing generations together through the information society; calls on the Commission and the Member States, therefore, to avoid adopting measures conflicting with civil liberties and human rights and with the principles of proportionality, effectiveness and dissuasiveness, such as the interruption of Internet access.

As with every truly important vote in the EP, it did not follow party lines. Two identical versions of the amendement were tabled by progressive and conservative MEPs and votes for the amendment came from all across the political spectrum. One event made the vote more remarkable: a political group called for a split vote separating the principles part of the amendment from the last sentence “, such as the interruption of Internet access.” But the Parliament adopted both parts (with a close vote on the second), thus demonstrating that it knew what it was doing when it rejected the very principle of the three-strike approach and its culmination in suspending access to the Internet.

Is is now for the French government, who wrote to every French MEP to call them to reject the amendement, to decide if it wants to go on pushing in France and in Europe for the adoption of the Olivennes law proposal (or a European equivalent) when a majority of the European democratic representation has declared it incompatible with fundamental rights.

This post is also available in: French

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