< Internet Censorship From Around the Globe

Transcript

Friday, January 27, 2012

BOB GARFIELD:

Don't mess with the Internet. That was the message to Congress last week when public outrage forced it to table some Hollywood-backed bills that would have attacked online piracy by barring access to suspected sites.

But Hollywood's influence extends well beyond Capitol Hill. The Electronic Frontier Foundation has created a website called Global Chokepoints, which tracks pending or existing legislation that would kick people or websites off the Internet all around the world.

Take, for example, Spain's Ley Sinde, a law enacted earlier this month which adopted some of the most controversial parts of the American SOPA legislation shelved last week. According to diplomatic cables exposed by WikiLeaks, the US put intense pressure on Spain to adopt tougher copyright laws. The cables specifically cite the influence on the US ambassador to Spain by the head of the Motion Picture Association of America.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation's Rainey Reitman says this did not sit well with the Spanish public.

RAINEY REITMAN:

There was a huge outcry in Spain. They felt that American powers were trying to force legislation that Spain didn't want onto the Spanish people. And they actually defeated the law. The government changed in Spain and within ten days we did see the new government decide to enact this legislation. So now, for the first time, we are seeing Ley Sinde as an active piece of legislation in Spain.

BOB GARFIELD:

Now, the allegation is, and what the WikiLeaks leaks seemed to corroborate, is that the Embassy and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative strong-armed the government into accepting Ley Sinde, but with what as leverage? What was the quid pro quo?

RAINEY REITMAN:

So every year the Office of the US Trade Representatives puts out this special 301 Report. This is a statement towards American businesses about whether or not they should be investing in those countries, and the letter was leaked to the Spanish newspaper El Pais, showing that the U.S. ambassador had put additional pressure on the Spanish government threatening not just to put this on this 301 watch list, but on the even more scary priority watch list which only about a dozen countries in the world are put on.

In the letter the U.S. ambassador said that he felt that the decision not to enact the Ley Sinde law would have a detrimental effect on the reputation and economy of Spain.

BOB GARFIELD:

The countries that you are listing on Global Chokepoints are actually not limited to Europe. There's also South Korea and New Zealand, and various kinds of laws that you say restrict Internet freedom. What are the, the various ways that these laws work?

RAINEY REITMAN:

In France they have what's called the double pane. So France has a, a law called HADOPI that came around in October of 2009, and when individuals there are accused on the third time of violating intellectual property laws, they won't only have their Internet shut down, but also have to continue to pay for it.

BOB GARFIELD:

Now, New Zealand is also another kind of three strikes deal, but what was interesting is the way it was tacked onto another piece of legislation that had to pass because it was so timely.

RAINEY REITMAN:

It was tacked onto an Earthquake Victims Relief Act back in April of 2011. But basically it is the same process, where people who are accused of repeated infringement of intellectual property law will be disconnected from the Internet for up to six months and could get substantial fines as well.

BOB GARFIELD:

How about South Korea?

RAINEY REITMAN:

They had 11 users cut off in 2010. And in 2011 they cut off 17. How long these individuals will be shut off from the Internet is not clear in the legislation itself.

BOB GARFIELD:

Tell me about the Bizarro World circumstances in Ireland.

RAINEY REITMAN:

Unlike these other countries, Ireland didn't have a law put into place. Instead, what they have is a backroom deal that was negotiated between the Irish Recorded Music Association and Eircom, which is the largest ISP in Ireland. These two groups were involved in a lawsuit, and rather than finish the lawsuit, they settled out of court and in May 2010 Eircom decided to adopt what they're calling a voluntary three strikes policy. That means there's no judge involved, no jury.

Individuals who have Internet service through Eircom will receive three warnings, and on the fourth warning they could have their Internet cut off for up to one year - again, no judge, no jury.

BOB GARFIELD:

So if you're a consumer, what can you do?

RAINEY REITMAN:

We're seeing, by some estimates, up to a thousand a month subscribers leaving Eircom to go to alternative ISPs. However, we know for a fact that the Irish Recorded Music Association is engaged in eight other lawsuits against ISPs in Ireland, perhaps trying to reach the same settlement agreement that they got with Eircom.

And one could imagine a situation where there were no additional options for users who wanted to go elsewhere, and there'd be no law in place, and thus, no law that they could possibly have overturned.

BOB GARFIELD:

Rainey, thank you so much.

RAINEY REITMAN:

Thank you so much for having me.

 

BOB GARFIELD:

Rainey Reitman is the activism director for the Electronic Frontier Foundation.