The Internet offers the potential to provide unprecedented global access to the collective knowledge of all humankind. But that potential is threatened by intellectual property (IP) rightsholders who are pressuring Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and other such Internet intermediaries to enforce overbroad IP laws. These Internet intermediaries are vital in facilitating access to information.
As countries adopt new copyright laws aimed at increasing the legal liability of Internet intermediaries, it is clear that they are creating new global standards with as little scrutiny as possible. These proposals raise significant concerns for citizens’ privacy, due process, and freedom of expression rights, as they threaten to restrict the free and open Internet. Global Chokepoints is a comprehensive online resource that will document and monitor these new copyright proposals on a country-by-country basis. Our goal is to give civil society members a clear understanding about the laws being discussed and who they can contact to affect the process. While each country has differed in its approach, four main policy proposals have emerged as the biggest threat to individual freedoms:
- Three-strikes policies and laws that require Internet intermediaries to terminate their users’ Internet access on repeat allegations of copyright infringement
- Requirements for Internet intermediaries to filter all Internet communications for potentially copyright-infringing material
- ISP obligations to block access to websites that allegedly infringe or facilitate copyright infringement
- Efforts to force intermediaries to disclose the identities of their customers to IP rightsholders on an allegation of copyright infringement.
As both the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression and the European Court of Justice have recognized, these initiatives harm Internet users’ rights of privacy, due process and freedom of expression, and endanger the future of the free and open Internet.
By forcing intermediaries to become much more than service providers, many of these proposals attempt to make Internet intermediaries the sole arbiter and enforcer of the law instead of courts and judges, thereby impairing due process rights. Many ISPs will simply not have the knowledge or resources to evaluate the inherent risks of these decisions and will therefore be more likely to act conservatively to avoid any potential liability at the expense of users’ rights.
Global Chokepoints will shine sunlight on these proposals and empower civil society with both the knowledge and support to enact strong definitive reform. The site include links to digital rights organizations, consumer groups, law school clinics and technology industry groups that are opposing the spread of overbroad copyright policing efforts, and national advocacy campaigns to protect the free and open Internet and citizens’ fundamental rights.