International Anti-Counterfeiting Agreement Could Limit Internet Access

Many civil liberties groups are up in arms over a provision in the proposed Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA). They fear the international agreement, which is being negotiated by 37 countries--including the U.S., Japan and the EU's member states--would push ISPs to terminate Internet access for customers who have repeatedly uploaded or downloaded material that infringes copyright.

France has already adopted something like this. Under a law passed in October 2010, a judge in France can terminate an individual's ISP service upon the customer's third infringement.

The UK may follow in France's footsteps. It enacted a law in April empowering a government agency to examine whether Internet access should be terminated in response to a customer's repeated infringements.

In contrast, the German and Swedish governments have both ruled out any laws requiring that Internet access be terminated in response to infringement. German officials determined in 2009 that any such law would be incompatible with the country's privacy protections, officials determined. Swedish ministers rejected the idea in 2008 because they believed maintaining Internet access is "an imperative welfare issue."

More recently, the EU's data protection supervisor, Peter Hustinx, determined if ACTA effectively required ISPs to terminate the accounts of repeat infringers, the agreement would run afoul of EU privacy laws. He stated in February that such an Internet disconnection policy "would profoundly restrict the fundamental rights and freedoms of European citizens, most notably the protection of personal data and privacy."

Contributing Author

Steven Seidenberg

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