The Straits Times reports that Singapore is joining the group of countries considering (or implementing) the three strikes law to fight illegal copyright violation. Or as the newspaper buts it:
terminating Internet access of hardcore pirates who refuse to quit despite repeat warnings.
Three strikes is already in force in South Korea and has been proposed in Britain, France and New Zealand.
The problem with these types of laws is that the internet connection is not a personal item but is shared with others Closing an internet connection negatively effects the whole group of users who rely on there internet connections to carry out their daily lives. Not to mention the difficulty of what to do when other family members apply for a new connection to the same address as the blocked user.
Internet service providers are hardly known for their efforts to protect the rights of their clients. This is hardly surprising considering they low amount of money they make per client compared to the legal costs which would be entailed in attempting to defend a client. For example: A cheap web hosting service costs less per year than a lawyer costs per hour. It’s not too difficult to work it out.
At the same time the ISPs are our lifeline and basis of our ability to participate in a digital society so this lack of help is a serious flaw. So it was nice to see that the Council of Europe have published Human rights guidelines for Internet service providers
Developed by the Council of Europe in close co-operation with the European Internet Services Providers Association (EuroISPA), these guidelines provide human rights benchmarks for internet service providers (ISPs). While underlining the important role played by ISPs in delivering key services for the Internet user, such as access, e-mail or content services, they stress the importance of users’ safety and their right to privacy and freedom of expression and, in this connection, the importance for the providers to be aware of the human rights impact that their activities can have.
in addition to this document the Council of Europe have also published Human rights guidelines for online games providers
Developed by the Council of Europe in close co-operation with the Interactive Software Federation of Europe (ISFE), these guidelines provide human rights benchmarks for online games providers and developers. While underlining the primary value of games as tools for expression and communication, they stress the importance of gamers safety and their right to privacy and freedom of expression and, in this connection, the importance for the games industry to be aware of the human rights impact that games can have.
Documents such as these are the early steps at ensuring the protection of individuals online rights and as such should be applauded even if it is kind of worrying that we still see a need to attempt to define rights in online environments as something fundamentally different from human rights in the offline world.
Virtual Law@LSE writes that BT, Virgin, Orange, Tiscali, BSkyB and Carphone Warehouse have all signed up to the Government’s new Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on File Sharing. [BBC, Guardian, Telegraph]
The MOU means that the companies have to work to create a “significant reduction” in illegal filesharing. This may sound easy enough but spying on customers and accusing them of violating copyright law is not really good business – especially for companies whose business it is to sell faster (and more expensive) broadband. The ISP’s have in the MoU agreed to send out “informative letters” to customers whose accounts have been identified as being used for potential file sharing. But as Virtual Law@LSE writes:
It would appear many thousands of people will get letters from their ISPs telling them that the BPI has identified them as potentially being in breach of copyright. The ISPs should be careful here in terms of customer relations. It is never a good idea to tell a customer of your that someone believes them to be a copyright infringer. It will (a) suggest you are snooping on them (which to an extent is true), (b) suggests you are entitled to lecture them on their activities online and (c) suggests you are serving the interests of the BPI not their own customers.
In order to be able to send the letters to suspected file sharers the ISP’s must either monitor all data traffic or only monitor those who use unusually high amounts of broadband. Either way the ISP’s are uncomfortably close to violating peoples privacy. Maybe not in a legal sense and maybe they are acting within the limitations of their customer contracts but still tantamount to surveillence and a violation of privacy.
It is also a form of privatized regulation through technology which sits uncomfortably with the potential freedom that the technology enables…