Back to: Not an author interview | Forward to: Update

Urgent: Phone your MEP. Now.

Some very stinky shit is about to hit the fan in Brussels, on Monday the 7th.

To quote Hugh Hancock who spotted it a few hours ago:

You remember that proposal to remove internet access for filesharers after three infringements? The one that was blatantly excessive and bloody worrying?

Well, someone at the EU looks to be planning to stealth it through on Monday!

Professor Lillian Edwards of the University of Southhampton has an article on the subject. It’s tough going, but you need to read this - she’s one of the UK’s foremost experts on Internet law, and she lays out just what’s so very, very bad about this whole thing.

(Here's a law professor trying to explain things. Here's La quadrature du Net's analysis of the proposals. Here's The Open Rights Group sounding the alarm.)

In a nutshell: Members of the European Parliament were asked to vote for a draconian three-strikes-and-you're-out policy that would force ISPs to monitor users for signs of file sharing behaviour and cut them off. They very sensibly voted against it. Now an entirely different bill is before the IMCO and ITRE committee — a sensible and boring Telecoms Package — and a whole bunch of stealth Intellectual Property Rights amendments which have crawled out of the woodwork. And guess what they're about?

This is a serious attack on our civil liberties. For one thing, cutting off broadband connections for copyright violations risks stumbling into the muddy waters of collective punishment (in which one person's sin results in an entire group, such as a household, being punished). For another thing, it would require ISPs to snoop on their customer's communications, be they illegal or legal. It's an explicit violation of the principles of human rights at the heart of European treaty law, and it will badly damage net neutrality and privacy.

If you live in the EU, contact your MEP this weekend.

You can send them an email — some guidelines and suggested points to raise are here. Send email via Phone them as well, on Monday morning (or leave voice mail over the weekend). If your MEP isn't on the IMCO and ITRE committee, they will still know colleagues who are, and can ask them pointed questions.

Go ahead. You've got nothing to lose but your broadband connection (and your freedom).

Update: Cory picked it up — phew. (BoingBoing has immensely more punching-power that I do, or the Open Rights Group, for that matter. I suspect the phones will soon be ringing off the hook.)



Fuck this fucking bullshit. Goddammit.

Just recently, the Swedish parliament approved a law that allows their intelligence bureau to monitor all cross-border internet traffic. About 95% of my home country's (Finland) data traffic is routed through Sweden, and is therefore going to be under constant surveillance and analysis from next January. Despite the enormous implications of the law, it has received almost zero coverage from the Finnish mainstream media.

People should be rioting in the streets and throwing bricks through the windows of the Swedish embassy, but nothing happens. Nothing.

And now this. I'm just a timid geek, but being under constant assault like this is starting to make me really mad. BLOODY FUCKING HELL!

I'll do whatever I can to make people around here aware of the situation. But I know already that it won't do any damn good.



I've sent this story to Neil Gaiman -- I think he might be interested. I've also emailed my M.E.Ps.

I have, as well, and God help me, sent the story to the Sun and the Daily Mail... Who knows; might be worth a try, hopefully some fuss will be kicked up enough to have people knowing about it.

Anyway, cheers for the heads up, Chris Hyland The Book Swede


Thanks for flagging this up. I have e-mailed my MEP's (well, except the one who just got kicked out...) I was going send the story to Neil Gaiman to see if he could flag it on his blog but I see The Book Swede beat me to it. Lets hope the European Parliament cares more about our Human Rights than the national one does...


Is the European Parliament as corrupt as the US Senate? Then you need some reform, and you're barely started on federalism.


Randolph: probably not, actually. But stuff gets buried in the mountain of bureaucratic committee processes and working groups. This is a massive bundle of about 800 urgently-needed regulations for harmonizing telecoms across the EU, and half a dozen IP time bombs have been slipped into the haystack -- after the MEPs already voted to reject them -- in the hope that they'd be nodded through.


For all German-speaking people reading this, has some good background information on this. is the site to inform the 99 German MEPs.


I feel like I should apologize for my rather coarse language. I usually control myself better than that.

Anyway, I've taken time to inform (in a polite manner!) quite a large number of people of the situation. Hopefully these amendments will not pass.


Letter written to my MEPs.

Suggesting that, by passing laws which allow all internet traffic to me monitored, inclusing their email, they've set up the baseline for privatising a century of European secret police surveillance.

And who buys the company next year?


Oliver: what you said was what I thought when I first ran across it. I just calmed down a little while I was writing my blog entry.

Dave: we already have a system that the Stasi would have drooled over. The privatisation aspect is, admittedly, a new twist, but did you catch the scandal over Vodafone bugging in Greece the year before last? You may already be running behind the times ...


Wrote to my MEPs, and was knocked out of my socks to get a reply from one within 40 minutes of my email saying he'd be voting against. On a Saturday night, no less. It was one of the UKIP ones, but politics, strange bedfellows, etc.


Fuck! I don't have a MEP!

-- SCAM so-called "Austin Mayor"


THIS sort of thing is why I USED to be a strong Europhile, and am now vehemently against it. The proposed Constitution Lisbon Treaty, and Europol and this:

all make very scary reading.


Admitedly this is very worrying, although it hasn't passed yet. But what is so worrying about the constitution or Lisbon Treaty? Many countries, it seems the UK has high marks on this practice, don't seem to need a lot of EU help to oblitearate the existing rights of the people, and on the whole I think the Union has been a force for good in the recognition of rights (at least re consumer rights for instance), and would improve with ECFR in place. It's thanks to the EP we don't have software patents.


I'm generally in favour of the EU, on the principle that it's better to have a seat on the steering committee (even if you get outvoted from time to time) than to be a dog on someone else's leash, with complete autonomy right up until the moment they jerk it (see also: Suez). The UK isn't a viable independent world power any more and it's foolish to pretend otherwise: and while there's a lot to be said for our shared cultural values with the USA, in practice the UK gets no say in how US foreign policy is set, and short of actually merging with the USA that's the way it's going to be. Given that a UK/US merger simply isn't on the table (for a whole lot of reasons), the EU is our best bet for a stable future with a superpower-sized entity fighting for our corner.

Therefore, the correct response when shit like this happens is to try to fix it, not to storm off in a huff.


Charlie. The EU is getting to the point, like the ENGLISH education system, where it is broken beyond hope.

This is a horrible realisation, particularly to someone like me, who was a passionate Europhile - it was SUCH a good idea.

But the politicians of all the countries have used it as both a huge gravy-train for themselves, and an attempt to re-build Europe in the mould of Metternich's Austria, (snooping, privacy-invasion, restriction of information, arbitrary arrest-and-transportation-to-another-country, etc.) that I have turned against it.

It's hard enough to fight those things just in the UK, but when the governing elites openly conspire to do this across the whole of the continent, you are in deep trouble.


Well, I took advantage of and was pleasantly surprised to get a response from my MEP who actually sounded like he knew what he was talking about. I was particularly impressed by his comment basically saying that harassment and intimidation by media companies of those people they merely suspect of copyright infringement should be stopped.

Let us hope that enough MEPs share this view.


Contacted my Tory MEP. Asked him if helping the French government bring in legislation its public rejected by the back door was Conservative Party policy, and if so, if it wouldn't be nice to tell someone?


G. Tingey: the conspiracy isn't limited to the EU -- it's global. There are some very strange authoritarian forces at work in the world this century ...


Charlie @18:

The harder thing to for me to understand is whether those forces are new to this century, or just the old authoritarians playing the long game.


Are the Illuminated Seers of Bavaria stirring once more?

Actually I don't like conspiricies, far more likely to be good old greed and stupidity at work.


have emailed my MEPs, and passed the information on to friends.

Does anyone have any ideas on how this relates to ACTA, and the DCMP? Seems to me similar new laws are being proposed around the world.


I agree that what they are attempting to do is very bad for human rights and over authoritarian - luckily I don't think it would be in any way enforceable as it misunderstands what the internet is! We no longer have to access information down a single piece of government controlled copper. Yes, there's fibre too, but there's also mobile networks and any one with a wireless router that isn't secured, (or offers a public connection like FON) is essentially an ISP. If it passes directly to the next wireless access point without travelling to the ISPs servers (and even if it does, it's usually encrypted) then there's no way of detecting the peer to peer sharing.

If you look at it the other way they may know exactly that it's impossible to get file sharers and they are just using that as an excuse to get the draconian powers.


accelerationista: I'm pretty sure it's the same loose grouping of collections agencies and recording cartels behind the process.

The whole promise of the web was that it would cut out the middle-men, disintermediating the relationship between performers and consumers of media.

The middle-men are fighting back.

Meanwhile, other folks with different agendas see the draconian powers the middle-men are trying to grab, and find them strangely attractive.


@ #18 & 19 ... I don't think it's anything new. it appears to be old-fashioned "we, the appointed authorities know best" authoritarianism.

Which is why I deliberately used the image of Metternich's Austria. Look him up: Google or Wiki - an interesting figure, who controlled ahuge secret-police force, that ruled with an iron grip - until it all fell apart, because of Europe-wide hunger (the harvest failed EVERYWHERE except England, parts of Wales & Scotland, and Belgium - the Irish were not alone in their misery) in the revolutions of 1848.


Filesharing mmmm. Means I haven't had to buy a CD since about 2002.

Damn those European Parliament Politicians. No wonder Ireland rejected the Lisbon Treaty. Frankly this bill is proposterous, and like Charlie says, it's both an invasion of privacy and a collective punishment.

I think the EU is neccessary but should limit the range of it's constitution. Who gives it the power to tell ISP's what to do?

  • London, England

It looks like the telecoms bill has gone through - although possibly watered down.

limited information here

reuters: "We have also provided a general provision for public authorities to provide public service information to subscribers about illicit or harmful uses of the Internet but there is no requirement for any policing or reporting action," Harbour said.

"Some people have suggested this amendment opens the door for an ISP (Internet service provider) to police the Internet. This is absolutely not the case," Harbour said."

note - Harbour is the guy/swine who (according to reuters) steered the bill through parliament.

Not sure as to how other sections have gone through, not many reports available yet.

however - this still has to be ratified by the actual parliament (i think) so there may well have to be a final vote on it, maybe after the summer break - anyone know this for sure?


We need serious rider reform on both sides of the pond -- not just long titles with a specificity requirement or something. Packaged up with its like, I doubt this stuff would have a hope of passing.


From the far side of the pond - I'm getting the impression that the European Parliament couldn't agree on the time of day or whether or not it's raining outside - and that Europe's younger generation want no part of it. Certainly Ireland is giving them a hard time! So your greatest hope may lie in their perceived irrelevance and incompetence.


Greetings from DC; the social session at the Brickskellar is still one of the high points of my year. Which might just indicate how blah my year has been.


Anyway, the reauthoritarianization of the world is certainly something I've been watching for awhile, and I blame it on a number of things.

One; the commercial interests who think that getting their paid agents in the governments to break legs, rather than getting a new business model.

Two; the current administration in Washington, who decided to shoot for hegemony rather than bolstering international institutions that might allow for more openness. I'm not saying a Gore administration would have cared about such issues, but they at least wouldn't have set such a bad example; I think. I can still remember Tipper Gore when she wanted to be Secretary of Public Morality.

Three; in the wake of the globalization fuss the state struck back, not to mention when you have regimes in Beijing, Moscow, and the like who are more interested in basic survival than anything else.


This directive has nothing to do with Lisbon. Nothing whatsoever. Lisbon opponents keep muddying the waters though. As to the Union being incompetent, the Parliament is AFAIK the biggest legislative chamber in the world, so it's going to be difficult to get agreement in there. I'd say that's not an entirely bad thing though. And the Commission operates with fewer civil servants than many regional governments in Europe to regulate and implement decisions over hundreds of millions of people. I'd say they're far more efficient than the vast majority of member states.


Patricia @28: Ireland threw out the Lisbon treaty by a whopping margin of ... 4% of the voters. (In the wake of FUD campaigns asserting that signing the treaty would result in the EU forcing Ireland to accept abortion clinics and conscripting Irish kids to go and fight in a multinational army! In other words, some folks were spraining their fingers on the local version of the black helicopter/New World Order buttons.)

I'd like to back up David @30: the EU bureaucracy in total employs fewer bodies than the Scottish Office in London as of 2000 (before most of its work was moved to Edinburgh and drastically expanded to the scale of a devolved parliament).

There are a lot of rich news corporation owners (hello, Rupert Murdoch :) who seem to dislike the whole idea of the EU for some reason. One wonders why, and whether it's something to do with the Competition Commissioners being a whole lot more bitey and scratchy than the Federal Trade Commission?


Charlie, what do you make of the "For Europe, Against the EU" stance of Spiked Online?


George: unfamiliar with that campaign, although I know -- and distrust -- Spiked. (Ex-trots gone weird, IMO.)


I still think that it was a good thing that the Irish voted against the Lisbon treaty - if only to show some defiance against the neglect of most democratic elements of government that we have agreed on using in the western world. (In keeping with Aristotle's treatise on government.)

I sure would like to have a word on how Europe treats immigrants. And no, that would not include putting refugees into facilities that are concentration camps in all but name, fencing all borders of European exclaves in Africa and driving migrants into small boats hoping to arrive on European proper - letting more people die in the process each year than were killed in 28 years on the militarized border between eastern and western Germany (including those drowned in the Baltic sea).


Looks like at least half a success -- there are still some caveats in the text, but it left the committee in a much better state than it went in.


David Darkly @25, just imagine if you ever publish a book and everybody passes it around instead of buying their own copy.


Marilee @36: Well, if you're going to make up hypotheticals that never happen....


Re #36 - But the guys in those bands always get the fame, the fans and the girls. I'll be damned if they get my money too. Some people have all the luck.

I think it is different with books. For example, last week I lent a friend my lovably battered copy of The Atrocity Archives. If my friend likes it he'll surely go out and buy the sequel or some other novel authored by the inimitable Charles Stross. I don't think Charlie is going to be pissed because someone read his novel without paying for a copy. The net gain is greater, because if I hadn't have lent my friend this copy, it is unlikely he would have ever read any of the novels.

Incidentally I just got a freelance job today, editing an immigration paper. What are the chances of that?

Re #37 - Have you read my poem on cheese? I almost won the Bridport with that baby. The. Bridport. Prize.

This one got me a standing ovation on the Royal Variety Night. The Queen herself was said to be amused by my Pam Ayres-ian lyrical extravaganza.

I find your lack of faith disturbing!


Marilee @36:

Oh, you mean like if they put it in a library? Damn that Ben Franklin for popularizing means of copyright infringement! I always knew he was a seditious bastard, but this is really too much. /snark


Charlie @ 33 ... "Spiked. Ex-trots gone weird, IMO"

Don't you mean ex-trots STILL being wierd? Just in a different way.


David Darkly, @38, that's not an accurate analogy. I wouldn't complain about one person sharing a CD or book with another, but the original person gets the CD or book back. With filesharing, everybody gets their own copy. Yes, individual sharing will bring more bought copies, but filesharing, as you said in 25, means people don't buy their own copies.

Brett L. @39, no, library lending (and mine lends CDS & DVDs as well as books) is like loaning a friend a copy. With pencil marks and food crumbs. Again, people are likely to buy new books/CDs/DVDs from those artists. It's not the same as filesharing.


Oh, and I meant to say that the US should handle libraries like the UK does -- the author gets some money from library book loans. I don't know if they loan CDs or DVDs or what their royalties are.



About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Charlie Stross published on July 5, 2008 1:00 PM.

Not an author interview was the previous entry in this blog.

Update is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

Search this blog