The Telecoms Package was formally adopted today by the European Parliament, with 510 votes for, 40 against and 24 abstentions.
As I said when I spoke in plenary yesterday, the compromise is not perfect, but it is a step in the right direction. In particular:
It declares that the French Hadopi law is not acceptable.
To see how, let us look at the adopted compromise text. I have analyzed it earlier in the blog post Landmarks in the Telecoms text, but here is the text again:
3a. Measures taken by Member States regarding end-users’ access to or use of services and applications through electronic communications networks shall respect the fundamental rights and freedoms of natural persons, as guaranteed by the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms and general principles of Community law.
Any of these measures regarding end-user’s access to or use of services and applications through electronic communications networks liable to restrict those fundamental rights or freedoms may only be imposed if they are appropriate, proportionate and necessary within a democratic society, and their implementation shall be subject to adequate procedural safeguards in conformity with the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms and with general principles of Community law, including effective judicial protection and due process. Accordingly, these measures may only be taken with due respect for the principle of presumption of innocence and the right to privacy. A prior fair and impartial procedure shall be guaranteed, including the right to be heard of the person or persons concerned, subject to the need for appropriate conditions and procedural arrangements in duly substantiated cases of urgency in conformity with European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. The right to an effective and timely judicial review shall be guaranteed.
The French Hadopi law does not fulfill these criteria, since it does not include the right to be heard of the person or persons concerned.
The right to be heard is a quite central part of the compromise text, and it was inserted for a reason. The whole purpose of an Hadopi system is to be able to shut off a large number of suspected file shares with as little legal fuss as possible. The system is specifically designed to handle the large number of cases necessary to make getting caught a real risk for ordinary people.
By insisting that any procedure to shut people of from the internet should include the right to be heard prior to any measures being taken, the EU sends a very strong signal to the member states that laws like Hadopi are not acceptable in Europe.
If the French government wants to persist with its Hadopi law, they will have to amend it so that anybody who is accused gets the right to be heard before he is shut off from the internet. Otherwise, it is not in compliance with the Telecoms Package that was adopted by the EU today.
But an EU directive only has effect if the member states follow it. It is now up to activists on the national level to make sure that the governments of their respective countries do.
The EU today provided activists in France, the UK, and all other member states with ammunition to stop three-strikes laws from being passed on the national level. This battle has now moved from Brussels to the capitals of the member states.
Let’s make sure we win there as well.