EUROPEAN REVIEW

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ISSUE 58 page 8

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Sites of Interest
ACTA referred to European Court of Justice as two court cases go protesters’ way
 THE ANTI-COUNTERFEITING TRADE AGREEMENT (ACTA) is an international trade treaty which aims to standardise copyright protection measures across the World in order to clamp down on both fake physical goods and the online use of copyrighted material. Although it has already been signed by 22 Member States of the EU it has yet to be ratified by the European Parliament and the signs are that opposition is building to it. Now the EU trade commissioner Karel de Gucht has referred it to the European Court of Justice to rule on whether it conflicts ‘with the EU's fundamental rights and freedoms’. Critics are worried that the balance struck by the law favours copyright holders too much and that individual Internet users will be at risk of fines and imprisonment thus stifling freedom of expression. Following demonstrations against the trade agreement Rebecca Harms, the leader of the Greens in the European Parliament called for ACTA to be abandoned and Martin Schulz the newly elected President of the parliament commented ‘I don't find it good in its current form’. However two recent cases at the European Court of Justice seem to indicate that existing EU legislation could be used to protect both users and Internet Service Providers (ISPs). Both judgements involved the Belgian society of authors, composers and editors, SABAM. In November they brought an action against Scarlet, an ISP, claiming that some of its users were illegally downloading material from their catalogue without

Harms, R.

Schulz, M.

paying royalties. They wanted Scarlet to monitor all file sharing activities on their servers and block thoseinvolving SABAM members. Scarlet argued that this was not possible without instituting a blanket filter on allits users which would not only be expensive but would contravene several existing EU directives. The court agreed, referring to laws on e-commerce, data protection and the enforcement of intellectual property rights among others. In February SABAM tried again in a case against social network company Netlog in which it attempted to fine the Ghent-based network €1,000 for every day that it failed to stop its users infringing copyright. Again the court found in favour of the Internet company citing the need to ‘install a complicated, costly, permanent computer system at its own expense’ which ‘might not distinguish adequately between unlawful content and lawful content, [leading] to the blocking of lawful communications’ as too great a burden on Netlog and a restriction on the freedom to send and receive information.
The European Internet Providers Association welcomed the judgements as ‘necessary to guarantee the openness of the Internet’ while campaigning body the Open Rights Group specifically linked them with ACTA: ‘It is especially timely because, as seen in agreements like Acta, policymakers everywhere find it much harder to respect our rights when making intellectual property policy’.

MEPs against ACTA: Green Rebecca Harms & President Martin Schulz

 

 

EU & Member States should bargain together for best cloud computing
price says Commissioner
 THE EU DIGITAL AGENDA COMMISSIONER Neelie Kroes has thrown her weight behind the adoption of cloud computing by the public sector in the European Union. Launching the European Cloud Partnership with a budget of €10 million she opined that the IT budgets of individual governments were too small to make a difference to the industry but together they could reduce costs, stimulate competition and standardise their requirements to make procurement simpler. Cloud computing allows companies or public authorities to store vast amounts of data off-site enabling them to cut down on the cost of computers and IT staff as work can be carried out through an Internet browser. The private sector already makes extensive use of it but there are more complex considerations for governments as confidential records could be held outside national borders or even on another continent. Europe also has special problems due to the lack of a single digital market and a profusion of languages and standards. On the other hand the development of cloud computing is reckoned to be capable of creating 1.5 million jobs in the EU over the next five years. Cloud computing




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