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EU data protection chief slams secret ACTA talks

By Paul Meller
February 22, 2010 07:47 AM ET

IDG News Service - The anti-counterfeiting trade agreement (ACTA) being negotiated in secret by the U.S., E.U. and others potentially runs roughshod over European data protection requirements, European data protection supervisor (EDPS) Peter Hustinx said Monday.

"Intellectual property is important to society and must be protected [but] it should not be placed above individuals' fundamental rights to privacy and data protection," Hustinx said in statement.

His statement follows the leaking of part of the draft ACTA on Friday, which revealed plans to make internet service providers (ISPs) liable under civil law for the content of messages distributed on their networks.

The leak also revealed that negotiators, led by the U.S., want ISPs to monitor the content on their networks and to sever internet connections of subscribers who repeatedly upload or download copyright-protected content without permission.

The trade agreement aims to crack down on the sharing of files containing music and movies over the Internet, as well as on illegal counterfeiting of goods.

Hustinx criticized the European Commission, which is negotiating the agreement on behalf of the E.U., for not consulting him "on the content of an agreement which raises significant issues as regards individuals' fundamental rights," the EDPS's office said in the statement.

In particular he is worried that an international treaty to fight piracy on the Internet "could include the imposition of obligations on ISPs to adopt "three strikes Internet disconnection policies" -- also referred to as "graduated response" schemes, the EDPS statement said.

Under the draft trade agreement, to avoid being sued by a record company or Hollywood studio for illegally distributing copyright-protected content, an ISP would have to prove that it took action to prevent the copyright abuse, and in a footnote the draft agreement gave an example of the sort of policy ISPs would need to adopt to avoid being sued by content owners:

"An example of such a policy is providing for the termination in appropriate circumstances of subscriptions and accounts in the service provider's system or network of repeat offenders," the leaked text states.

Terminating someone's subscription is the graduated response enacted in France last year that sparked widespread controversy. The French law is dubbed the "Three Strikes" law because French ISPs must give repeat file sharers two warnings before cutting off their connection.

The EDPS suggested that instead of getting ISPs to snoop on their subscribers, "less intrusive solutions with a limited scope should be considered," such as "targeted ad hoc monitoring" of some Internet traffic, instead of the blanket surveillance proposed in the draft ACTA.

He also called for safeguards for citizens' privacy. "The EDPS calls on the E.U. to implement appropriate safeguards to all data transfers made in the context of ACTA. Such safeguards should take the form of binding agreements between EU senders and third country recipients," it said in the statement.

Reprinted with permission from IDG.net. Story copyright 2014 International Data Group. All rights reserved.
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