– A. Governments
A. Governments Take the Lead in Bringing Order to the Digital Universe
Governments and regulatory bodies have made the most visible attempts to address the disparate and at times conflicting rights and interests of the primary stakeholders.
- ‘‘Three strikes” laws adopted to enforce copyright in the online environment, and to provide a more cost-effective way to uphold valid copyright claims. Such laws require that three notices be sent to infringers before legal action is initiated.
- France’s Hadopi Law (Creation and Internet Law) of 2009: The Hadopi law was intended as a means to protect intellectual property rights in online environments. Under the law, the rights owner identifies the infringement and informs Hadopi (a government bureau named after the law). Hadopi then verifies the infringement and contacts the Internet service provider (ISP) to identify the Internet protocol (IP) address owner. Following verification, the first of potentially three warning messages is sent to the IP-address owner. The Hadopi law appears to have had a positive impact by reducing piracy and increasing legal downloads in France to an extent
- New Zealand’s Copyright Infringing File Sharing Amendment Act of 2011: New Zealand’s act differs from the Hadopi law in several important ways. Rights owners pay a fee to ISPs to investigate each claim of infringement as well as to the government if litigation ensues. They also make the ultimate decision to proceed with a copyright enforcement action. If no action is taken, any previous notices against the alleged infringer are voided. Finally, the copyright tribunal can impose stiff penalties on the guilty of up to NZ$ 15,000.
- Increased monitoring of online activity by governments to limit access to inflammatory content, identify political dissenters, or disrupt organized protests that might present challenges to national security or stability. Five examples stand out:
- Content bans in China: China and foreign search engines have an ongoing disagreement about the government’s monitoring of e-mail and search traffic. China bans certain content and blocks access to some websites, while an Internet police force confronts and even arrests those suspected of violating the bans. Such government actions to protect national security generally come at the expense of citizens’ freedom of expression and companies’ market participation. Consumers may not always be aware of the monitoring, however. When asked if they agreed with the statement “I am very careful about what I do or say on the Internet,” more than 70% of respondents in India agreed, while just 43% of respondents in China agreed. The U.S.-based search engine, Google, decided to shut down its mainland China operations in 2010 rather than comply with laws requiring censorship of searches or government requests to reveal e-mail user or blogger identities. Chinese-originated search engines adhere to the policies, and major Chinese players, including Tencent, Baidu.com, and Sohu.com outperform Google page views are approximately 260,000, 240,000, 230,000 vs 100,000 respectively as of April 2012)1, even though Google dominates the page view ranks in most other countries.
- Monitoring in the United Kingdom: In the wake of riots in 2010, the United Kingdom government announced plans to increase surveillance of social media and e-mail traffic to identify and quell terrorist and illegal activity. Some countries, such as Morocco and Tunisia, have set up public entities to control and regulate personal data on the Web.2
- E-mail routing in India: Participants in the Forum’s November 2012 New Delhi Workshop cited some examples of wrangling between government monitors and Internet companies. The government requires Internet portals to have a physical location on Indian soil through the “IT Rules 2011.” Foreign companies that offer e-mail services, including Yahoo! and Google, are now expected to route e-mails via local servers. For the moment, Yahoo! is routing e-mails via servers based in India only for online accounts registered in India. E-mail addresses for accounts registered abroad are routed through overseas servers so that Indian security services cannot inspect them without a country-to-country request.3
- Content bans in India: Additionally, participants at the Forum’s New Delhi Workshop discussed the balance between national security and preserving freedom of expression for their citizens. The IT Rules 2011 require the removal of any content deemed “defamatory,” “hateful,” “harmful to minors,” or that “infringes copyright.” This has turned technical intermediaries into Web censorship police informants. The Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) argues that the regulations are impeding India’s social network development. As an outcome of this act, in August 2012, the Indian government blocked more than 300 specific uniform resource locators (URLs), including the domains of Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, BlogSpot, Wikipedia, and The Times of India.
- Right to data portability/right to be forgotten in the EU: The EU’s Data Protection Regulation, adopted by the EU Commission in January 2012, gives citizens a “right to data portability” when they leave one site to join another. Also, the Regulation establishes a “right to be forgotten” which mandates that people should have the right for their data to be deleted by a site if there is no legitimate grounds for retaining it. Crucially, the regulation requires informed consent (i.e. an affirmative opt-in by individuals) before commercial services can process data stored in digital files. Compliance with the EU’s proposal for a General Data Protection Regulation would cost the United Kingdom between £100 million and £360 million a year.4
1 ComScore database
2 The “Comission de contrôle de protection des données personelles” in Morocco and the “Instance nationale de protection des données à caractère personnel” in Tunisia
3 Internet Enemies 2012 – Reporters Without Borders
4 United Kingdom Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Justice