Tomorrow, the UN’s Human Rights Council will adopt a report which names the UK as violating Article 19 by allowing disconnection of Internet users in the Digital Economy Act.
The Report, which examines censorship, defamation laws, filtering and privacy violations, draws attention to the Digital Economy Act as a clear violation of freedom of expression: a point ORG and others made forcefully during the passage of the Bill.
The report will be discussed tomorrow. We are writing to Jeremy Hunt to ask him for his reaction to the Special Rapporteur’s recommendation to repeal this and similar legislation.
Cc Joint Committee on Human Rights
As you will know the Open Rights Group is concerned with human rights on the Internet, and the impact of legislation on citizens’ rights, particularly freedom of expression, privacy and due process. We have been severely critical of the impacts of the Digital Economy Act in regard to these rights.
In this connection, we would like to draw to your attention the report of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, Frank La Rue, on the Internet, which he presents to the Human Rights Council of the United Nation during this 17th session.[i]
He specifically comments on the UK’s Digital Economy Act:
Disconnecting users from Internet access, including on the basis of violations of intellectual property rights law:
The Special Rapporteur … is alarmed by proposals to disconnect users from Internet access if they violate intellectual property rights. This also includes legislation based on the concept of “graduated response”, which imposes a series of penalties on copyright infringers that could lead to suspension of Internet service, such as the so-called “three- strikes-law” in France and the Digital Economy Act 2010 of the United Kingdom.[ii]
The Rapporteur concludes that such laws should be amended or repealed:
Disconnecting users from Internet access, including on the basis of intellectual property rights law
78. While blocking and filtering measures deny users access to specific content on the Internet, States have also taken measures to cut off access to the Internet entirely. The Special Rapporteur considers cutting off users from Internet access, regardless of the justification provided, including on the grounds of violating intellectual property rights law, to be disproportionate and thus a violation of article 19, paragraph 3, of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
79. The Special Rapporteur calls upon all States to ensure that Internet access is maintained at all times, including during times of political unrest. In particular, the Special Rapporteur urges States to repeal or amend existing intellectual copyright laws which permit users to be disconnected from Internet access, and to refrain from adopting such laws.[iii]
We would be very grateful to know if you concur with the UN Special Rapporteur’s views, and whether you will be responding to his recommendations to the Human Rights Council that the UK should repeal its legislation providing for disconnection or suspensions of individual for alleged copyright violations.
Executive Director, Open Rights Group
[i] Report of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, Frank La Rue A/HRC/17/27 http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/hrcouncil/docs/17session/A.HRC.17.27_en.pdf
[ii] Page 14
[iii] Page 20