OK, I'm in need of help here. Have I got this right?
I got an interesting pointer from a European Copyfight reader indicating that I should take a look at the growing controversy over the European Parliament's proposed new telecoms package. As far as I can tell the source of this controversy is here: http://www.europarl.europa.eu/eplive/expert/shotlist_page/20080708SHL33636/default_en.htm
This is a set of innocuous-sounding proposals to "co-ordinate" and "harmonise" radio spectrum use. It contains high-minded phrases like "safeguard media pluralism." It proposes setting up some kind of overarching governing body (Body of European Regulators in Telecommunications (BERT)). National regulators would have to submit proposed regulations to BERT. Seems pretty simple. That's one side.
On the other side we have some pretty inflammatory language. "European Parliament rushes towards Soviet Internet" screams the not-for-profit FFII (Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure).
The FFII claims to be "largely responsible for the rejection of the EU software patent directive in July 2005" and to speak for over 100,000 members. Their objection to the telecom package seems to revolve around a set of amendments that were (to use a US phrase) back-doored in at the last minute. Apparently, these amendments would permit BERT "to define which are the authorised software applications for the internet." Which is to say, if your preferred app doesn't meet with regulatory approval then you can't run it, your ISP can't provide it to you?
That'd be... bad. But wait, there's more.
A site called "TELECOMTV" is conducting a related petition campaign against the package, on the grounds that among the 800 or so amendments to the package is language that would remove ISPs content-neutral immunity.
In particular, ISPs currently aren't required to monitor or police content or user identities on their networks, until something specific arises such as an allegation of copyright violation or other illegal activity. ISPs are "mere conduits" under current laws; the new amendments would remove that protection and force ISPs to track or even block individuals' access to the net.
TelecomTV is arguing for the removal of three specific amendments that would force ISPs to act as copyright police. They are also opposed to the spread of something like a "3 Strikes" rule ("Riposte Graduee" in French) that would require ISPs to warn, discipline, and eventually sever users.
This doctrine is presently generating a lot of criticism in France where it was first proposed. Organizations such as "La Quadrature du Net" are calling for a moratorium on new rules related to digital telecoms rights & freedoms. The argument is that the MEP (Members of the European Parliament) didn't really understand what they were voting on, don't grok the net, and need to consider the implications of new regulations more fully before passing them.
I hope I've done this issue some measure of justice. An American point of view isn't necessarily going to translate some of these things well, even though most of the published materials are in English.