Is Europe on a slippery slope?

By: spambot on 14 February 2008
Posted in Europe

The news from Europe has been full of reports about The Pirate Bay. Denmark’s largest ISP, Tele2, after complying with a court injunction and blocking access to the famous file sharing site, yesterday announced they would fight the injunction instead. The injunction was issued at the request of the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), which alleged people are using The Pirate Bay to find lists of available torrents of copyrighted material.

In a colorful example of why filtering is often an ineffective tool, The Pirate Bay reported that traffic from Denmark increased 12% the day following the initial block. Site owners created a page for users of Tele2, explaining how to circumvent the block.

One reason for this decision to challenge the injunction was explained by Niels Elgar Larsen from IT-Political Association of Denmark:
"We see a slippery slope. Blocking of first child porn, then a non-EU (Russian) site with alleged illegal music (AllOfMp3), and now a search engine inside the EU. Elsewhere in EU we hear politicians that want to block recipes for explosives, ads for non-taxed gambling, etc.This is not about music and movies at pirate bay or anywhere else. This is about making ISP's police the content flowing through their networks. It is about freedom on the internet. Do we want an open or a closed internet?"
Though filtering has proved an inadequate solution to containing any of the myriad undesirable activities on the Internet, ISPs are uncomfortable with what could be a nasty slippery slope.

Countries including Denmark, Finland, Germany, Italy, Norway, Sweden, and the UK filter for child pornography at some level.At the end of 2007 IFPI tried to pressure European policy-makers to reevaluate the critical issue of intellectual property rights, and to call for "Internet service providers to apply filtering measures to prevent copyright infringements". Thus far the EU seems to refuse regulation requiring ISPs to block or filter.

At the same time, Member States may choose to force ISPs to filter or block access to P2P sites on their own. In France, for example, a Memorandum of Understanding between the media industry, ISPs, and the Government was signed in November 2007. Under the agreement, a new authority will be set up, with the power to suspend or cut access to the web by those who illegally share files.

It has been reported that the UK might follow the French model, after the film and music industry failed to reach an independent agreement with ISPs over illegal file sharing.

In summer 2007, in a case between the Belgian Society of Authors, Composers and Publishers (SABAM) and ISP Scarlet (formerly Tiscali), the Belgian Court decided that Scarlet had to implement technical measures in order to stop copyright infringement of its subscribers through P2P sites. On commenting on the case, Sabam stressed that the ISP was not obliged to monitor its network, “just” to apply technical instruments that limited themselves to blocking and filtering certain information transmitted on the network.

Music and film industries can be strong enough to force governments to require ISP to block content. Is it a matter of money and lobbying capability to force blocking and filtering? What will be the next? Are filtering and blocking the best solutions to avoid anything? Is Europe on a slippery slope?