UN: disconnecting file sharers violates human rights

By on June 4, 2011, 3:07 PM

The UN believes anti-filesharing provisions such as those outlined in France and the UK are disproportionate and should be repealed. In fact, disconnecting Internet users for sharing content from the music and movie industries is a violation of human rights, according to a report published in May 2011 and to be adopted this month by the UN's Human Rights Council.

The Report of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression is concerned about measures being put in place by various governments to punish online copyright infringement, such as denying citizens' Internet access. The author of the report, Frank La Rue, is "alarmed" by proposals to severely punish Internet users if they violate intellectual property rights, according to TorrentFreak.

"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 reports says. "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. 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"

It's not clear whether this report will be able to influence governments to change their practices, but it's certainly a start. I doubt the French or British governments will decide to completely change their laws in response to this report, but at least the UN is trying to bring attention the issue. I would love to hear their official responses to the 22-page report, which by the way you can read in full below:

This is not the first time we've heard that Internet access should be considered a human right. In fact, just two months ago, we heard it from someone who really does matter. Sir Timothy John Berners-Lee, the man credited with inventing the World Wide Web, declared that humans have become so reliant on the Internet, that access to it should now be considered a basic right.




User Comments: 38

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treetops treetops said:

Hmmm my rights got denied last week from my isp. They turned off my net for using bittorrent. They said it takes up to much bandwidth and if I use it again they will drop me. If I wasn't getting internet for free from a relatives work then I would switch isp's.

Benny26 Benny26, TechSpot Paladin, said:

How are government could police this is a laugh anyway. Sure, cut peoples broadband, they'll just go buy pay as you go dongles. Very little chance the government could stop that.

And even if they could, why not just offer temporary bans like driving bans are handled? That should calm the UN down a bit.

Seems obvious to me.

ramonsterns said:

Freedom: 1

Movie/Game Industry: $$$$$$$$ (-1)

treetops treetops said:

Its kind of funny, I have netflex but I still torrent because netflex movies have such low quality streaming.

Guest said:

I guess many haven't heard PROTECT IP Act that unanimously passed the Senate Judiciary Committee at the end of May.

"The U.S. Government is determined to put an end to online piracy. In an attempt to give copyright holders and the authorities all the tools required to disable access to so-called rogue sites, lawmakers will soon introduce the PROTECT IP Act. Through domain seizures, ISP blockades, search engine censorship, and cutting funding of allegedly copyright infringing websites, the bill takes Internet censorship to the next level."

- Torrent Freak

Shnig said:

Guest said:

I guess many haven't heard PROTECT IP Act that unanimously passed the Senate Judiciary Committee at the end of May.

"The U.S. Government is determined to put an end to online piracy. In an attempt to give copyright holders and the authorities all the tools required to disable access to so-called rogue sites, lawmakers will soon introduce the PROTECT IP Act. Through domain seizures, ISP blockades, search engine censorship, and cutting funding of allegedly copyright infringing websites, the bill takes Internet censorship to the next level."

- Torrent Freak

Eh that has very little to do with the rights of the individual user to use the internet...

Guest said:

I know here in the United States, Insight Communications, will quickly shut off your broadband internet if you continue use of any torrent client after the one and only warning they will give you. My friend got his account terminated about four months ago because he ignored their warning.

gwailo247, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

As long as there are people being tortured, starved and denied the most basic of rights, the UN and everyone should just shut up about the internet being a human right.

They turn a blind eye to abuses left and right, but feel the need to speak up for some French movie pirate? Or are we just writing off the third world, and focusing on this problem?

ihaveaname said:

Lol ... maybe calling it a 'violation of human rights' might be going just a little over the top? Call me pro-corporation/conservative/shitheadly but I always thought of the internet as a privilege, not a right. If I didn't have the internet I might cry a bit (read: a lot) but I'm hardly going to die....

ET3D, TechSpot Paladin, said:

gwailo247 said:

As long as there are people being tortured, starved and denied the most basic of rights, the UN and everyone should just shut up about the internet being a human right.

They turn a blind eye to abuses left and right, but feel the need to speak up for some French movie pirate? Or are we just writing off the third world, and focusing on this problem?

First of all, why do you say that the UN turns a blind eye to abuses? Any particular examples? The UN is largely an organisation without teeth, but it does help a lot in poor countries.

Secondly, what does one have to do with the other. It's like saying "as long as there are murders, police should ignore rapes and thefts." The UN can very well comment about matters important to people in developed countries while also commenting about other matters that you feel are more important.

ihaveaname said:

Lol ... maybe calling it a 'violation of human rights' might be going just a little over the top? Call me pro-corporation/conservative/shitheadly but I always thought of the internet as a privilege, not a right. If I didn't have the internet I might cry a bit (read: a lot) but I'm hardly going to die....

If I didn't have internet I wouldn't be able to do my job and will have to find another one, I'll find harder to keep in touch with friends or colleagues who are abroad, and if my internet access gets banned it will also affect my family, which shares that connection.

So no, I'm not going to die, but my standard of living and the standard of living of those who depend on me will go down quite a bit. The internet is so intertwined in people's lives these days that cutting it can affect them significantly. If your electricity got cut you probably wouldn't die either, but I wouldn't say that's the criterion to use for determining if it's important. And conversely, no one died from being affected by copyright violation.

That's not to say that I ever plan to perform a copyright violation, but the problem with the way things are going is that people can get banned or sued without any clear evidence that they commited a violation. It can sometimes be enough to bittorrent (which has perfectly legal uses) to get banned.

cmbjive said:

"If I didn't have internet I wouldn't be able to do my job and will have to find another one, I'll find harder to keep in touch with friends or colleagues who are abroad, and if my internet access gets banned it will also affect my family, which shares that connection."

Do you know how many jobs don't require the internet? You may be required to have the internet, but you don't need it enough for it to be declared a human right. If having access is a human right, the everything and nothing's a human right. How exactly would you have the internet were it not for the men who have to provide the infrastructure for it and the men who have to provide the power for it?

This is where people really need to begin to question the purpose of the U.N.

p51d007 said:

Oh good grief! As much as I think the RIAA/MPAA is a mafia goon squad..."human rights"???? Can we just dissolve the U.N. (USELESS Nations) now?

I mean, they have NO credibility....Iran, Libya on the human rights panel?

Guest said:

Eventually the Internet will become as mandatory to normal life as the telephone, if you don't see that you're pretty shortsighted. Already here in the UK the majority of job postings are only advertised online, and some explicitely require you to apply online as no other method is available. Some companies are dropping call centre support and requiring customers to communicate with them via online forms or email.

andy06shake said:

F**k the UN, and any other goverment or organisation that try's too mess with our internet! HACK THE PLANET!!!!

PanicX PanicX, TechSpot Ambassador, said:

I could be totally wrong here, but I'm thinking that this has less to do with RIAA/MPAA and more to do with political organization and strife. In the past year we've seen several civil conflicts in different countries that involved the government shutting down the internet and other forms of communication to try and crush peaceful and violent rebellions. These mediums are necessary for exercising the current set of agreed upon human rights.

In essence, its like taking away a persons right to contribute to a political campaign ( vote, organize, distribute) without criminal proceedings. It's giving oppressive regimes a scapegoat for denying political rebels organizational mediums (Hey they were all pirates, we had to cut them off). And potentially when voting is submitted via internet kiosks, it's rigging the elections.

tonylukac said:

Don't fret, hollywood. A lot of things are rights but are ignored anyway. Where's our right to privacy?

TJGeezer said:

gwailo247 said:

As long as there are people being tortured, starved and denied the most basic of rights, the UN and everyone should just shut up about the internet being a human right.

They turn a blind eye to abuses left and right, but feel the need to speak up for some French movie pirate? Or are we just writing off the third world, and focusing on this problem?

Right. And why do you think the first thing a tyranny in trouble, like Libya, does after urging the police and army to shoot at their own populace is to cut off the Internet? It's because that's how people communicate and find out what's going on. Don't trivialize this an over-response to a single abuser's case, or as dissing the third world's problems. That's not only blindered thinking, it's kinda silly.

gwailo247, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

ET3D said:

First of all, why do you say that the UN turns a blind eye to abuses? Any particular examples? The UN is largely an organisation without teeth, but it does help a lot in poor countries.

I dunno. Rwanda? Bosnia?

ET3D said:

Secondly, what does one have to do with the other. It's like saying "as long as there are murders, police should ignore rapes and thefts." The UN can very well comment about matters important to people in developed countries while also commenting about other matters that you feel are more important.

You do understand what these people did to have their "human rights" violated? They live in a country where a law was passed in which the consequence of repeated piracy would result in them being banned from use of the internet. They repeatedly did this, repeatedly were warned, and finally they were punished.

Its all about perspective. When a huge chunk of the world's population is suffering from human rights violations, and an even bigger chunk of the world does not have access to what are considered basic human rights (water, food, shelter), its out of place for the UN to make a public statement basically sticking up for people who willingly committed piracy, and now are suffering the consequences.

This is the equivalent of sticking up for people who have had their licenses taken away for too many DUI's because now they can't drive to work.

I don't happen to agree with the law that your internet access would be completely taken away for too much piracy, but at the same time, the people who are affected by this law do so willingly, and are a world away from people suffering real human rights violations by virtue of being born in a third world country.

gwailo247, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

TJGeezer said:

Right. And why do you think the first thing a tyranny in trouble, like Libya, does after urging the police and army to shoot at their own populace is to cut off the Internet? It's because that's how people communicate and find out what's going on. Don't trivialize this an over-response to a single abuser's case, or as dissing the third world's problems. That's not only blindered thinking, it's kinda silly.

Except they were not talking about Libya or Yemen, they were talking about the people who are singled out to get their internet access taken away because of their actions, which were illegal in the country that they live in. Why don't you read the article again?

Tanstar said:

gwailo247 said:

As long as there are people being tortured, starved and denied the most basic of rights, the UN and everyone should just shut up about the internet being a human right.

They turn a blind eye to abuses left and right, but feel the need to speak up for some French movie pirate? Or are we just writing off the third world, and focusing on this problem?

This.

PanicX PanicX, TechSpot Ambassador, said:

Except they were not talking about Libya or Yemen, they were talking about the people who are singled out to get their internet access taken away because of their actions, which were illegal in the country that they live in. Why don't you read the article again?

::facepalm::

From the article:

"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."

"In addition to calling on governments to maintain Internet access "during times of political unrest," the report goes on to urge States to change copyright laws, not in favor of the music and movie industries as has been the recent trend, but in keeping with citizens' rights."

TJGeezer said:

gwailo247 said:

TJGeezer said:

Right. And why do you think the first thing a tyranny in trouble, like Libya, does after urging the police and army to shoot at their own populace is to cut off the Internet? It's because that's how people communicate and find out what's going on. Don't trivialize this an over-response to a single abuser's case, or as dissing the third world's problems. That's not only blindered thinking, it's kinda silly.

Except they were not talking about Libya or Yemen, they were talking about the people who are singled out to get their internet access taken away because of their actions, which were illegal in the country that they live in. Why don't you read the article again?

And who else, do you suppose, makes up an area's populace but individuals? IIRC the report didn't say IP shouldn't be protected. It said over-reaction violates people's rights. Cutting off communication was thought inappropriate to the severity of sharing digital entertainment. The whole IP "piracy" argument echoes back through the past as dominant industries that didn't want to change tried to bludgeon change away. In this case, however, the bludgeon sets precedence to cut off people's channels of communication in times of crisis. Now even Obama wants an "off" switch. The UN is saying please rethink your reactions. I agree with the UN. Cutting off people's communication in the name of some chauffeured movie or music mogul is simply an abuse of power.

gwailo247, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

TJGeezer said:

And who else, do you suppose, makes up an area's populace but individuals? IIRC the report didn't say IP shouldn't be protected. It said over-reaction violates people's rights. Cutting off communication was thought inappropriate to the severity of sharing digital entertainment. The whole IP "piracy" argument echoes back through the past as dominant industries that didn't want to change tried to bludgeon change away. In this case, however, the bludgeon sets precedence to cut off people's channels of communication in times of crisis. Now even Obama wants an "off" switch. The UN is saying please rethink your reactions. I agree with the UN. Cutting off people's communication in the name of some chauffeured movie or music mogul is simply an abuse of power.

And I am not arguing against the fact that people should have access to the Internet. I am saying that people who receive the consequences of their illegal actions are not being deprived of their human rights the same way that people in the Middle East or Asia are.

Look free speech is a prerequisite to free internet access. Most of the countries mentioned in this discussion have no free speech, so cutting off internet access is just an extension of that policy of restricted free speech, not an independent phenomenon. Find me a single country where lack of internet access is the worst human rights violation experienced by the populace.

I just saw no point for the UN to look out for, and specifically mention, the rights of pirates when they are suffering the consequences of their actions. Their plight has no place in a discussion of human rights, and frankly is an insult to people around the world who are suffering through no fault of their own. I feel its just as insulting to equate them with people in the Middle East that are protesting against their governments.

There are two separate issues here, both of which are lumped together in this report. Yes, in the big picture internet access could be considered a basic human right, if you're making such a list, although it does not rank as high in importance as you think, as a third of the world's population feels that clean water is more important as this internet thing they've never used. I feel that the UN should work on those problems, before becoming the champion of the rights of the internet users. Its like dealing with shoplifting while a serial killer is on the loose.

Second, we are talking about the legal consequences of breaking laws of a country. We're not talking about stealing bread to feed your family. We're talking about people, who repeatedly pirate, repeatedly get caught, repeatedly get warned, and finally are punished, and we're going to lump them in the same category as Ai Weiwei or Aung San Suu Kyi?

captaincranky captaincranky, TechSpot Addict, said:

What Gwailo said! And then there's this.

The UN is comprised of "dignataries", most of whom are policital appointments. Have any of you ever seen, "ambassador to the UN", on any ballot, in any election in which you've participated? I didn't think so.

The UN is a paper tiger, and it's employees are politicians. In fact, they're not really politicians, but synchophants to the politicians.

Examine the social dynamic by which Hillary Clinton became US Secretary of State.

Mostly these positions are held by people who are trying for the sociological "tri-fecta". They already have money and power, now they're reaching for the brass ring of "prestige". The questions remain, "how badly have deluded themselves into believing what they might be actually able to accomplish", and, "are they actually qualified for these positions".

I do sympathize to a certain extent, in that I know my own limitations. I'll never be a "diplomat", not nohow, not noway. Although, the definition of diplomat, to me at least, "is somebody who can bite their tongue harder than anybody else in the room".

I can't possibly fathom where the ability to infringe on, and maintaining the ability to infringe on someone's copyright, is tantamount to being a "basic human right". That's absurd.

Guest said:

oh what vain mumblings from this fickle organization ?

Food and a roof over your head - that is a human right.

Thievery - no way !

Next they'll be telling us that 9/11 was one big oopsie and Bin Laden had some twisted "right" to do whatever heinous crime blah blah blah.

The world needs to grow a pair . . . which is unlikely to happen as we descend unto the abyss of anarchy (all in the name of human rights).

captaincranky captaincranky, TechSpot Addict, said:

::facepalm::

From the article:

"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."

Now there's a "dignitary" that truly enjoys the sound of his own voice.

"In addition to calling on governments to maintain Internet access "during times of political unrest,"
At least that makes a bit of sense. However, why would you expect any oppressive regime to give a rat's a** what this guy thinks? I mean really, I more envision them sending him an invitation to come join one of their civil liberties demonstrations. Don't you?

the report goes on to urge States to change copyright laws, not in favor of the music and movie industries as has been the recent trend, but in keeping with citizens' rights."
Think about this for as moment. Without any controls in place to foster intellectual property rights, then all that remains is to designate a sucker to buy the first copy of anything, and let the internet take over from there.

And about the usual file sharing explanation, "I just downloaded it to see if I liked, it so I could buy a copy", doggerel; I think whomever spouts that, is full of s***.

PanicX PanicX, TechSpot Ambassador, said:

Think about this for as moment. Without any controls in place to foster intellectual property rights, then all that remains is to designate a sucker to buy the first copy of anything, and let the internet take over from there.

There's no mention of the UN requesting full exoneration of all copyright violators. I think they're doing the smart thing and looking forward. As technology progresses and we become even more dependent on the internet, it makes sense to stipulate now that full disconnection is not a proper punishment for copyright violation. Particularly as it's a reasonable knee jerk reaction for copyright holders to request. Without criminal proceedings, its like losing your right to vote because you didn't pay your cable bill.

Leeky Leeky said:

Hmmm my rights got denied last week from my isp. They turned off my net for using bittorrent. They said it takes up to much bandwidth and if I use it again they will drop me. If I wasn't getting internet for free from a relatives work then I would switch isp's.

Really???

My ISP know how much I download, and what I'm doing and don't even batter an eyelid at what I'm doing. I was quite shocked recently when the operator on the phone was able to tell me so much information about my activities in regards to downloads, and how much data had been downloaded on my IPs.

According to my last discussion a few days ago with my ISP, they said I was averaging over 250GB (In May I downloaded over 300GB!) a month.... Maybe its a UK thing, but mine just don't seem even remotely bothered, and I sure do abuse it!

captaincranky captaincranky, TechSpot Addict, said:

Really???

My ISP know how much I download, and what I'm doing and don't even batter an eyelid at what I'm doing. I was quite shocked recently when the operator on the phone was able to tell me so much information about my activities in regards to downloads, and how much data had been downloaded on my IPs.

According to my last discussion a few days ago with my ISP, they said I was averaging over 250GB (In May I downloaded over 300GB!) a month.... Maybe its a UK thing, but mine just don't seem even remotely bothered, and I sure do abuse it!

Somehow, I believe you've missed the point completely.

Not having a data cap, is a far different issue from a third party asking to have you cut off from the WWW. The issue at hand is how much information an ISP is willing to fork over to 3rd parties, such as the RIAA, and how much, if push came to shove they'd defend youu.

Perhaps the reason you haven't been, is because nobody has approached your ISP with a valid complaint.

The DMCA certainly is legislation recognized by the UK, and just ask, "LightningUK" how he was dealt with regarding "DVD Decryptor".

Leeky Leeky said:

Maybe...

My point was more that I found it shocking that someone would be cut off, especially given a persons ISP knowing exactly what your up to most of the time anyway. Its not like my ISP know less than the OP's for example.

Maybe that is the reason, but I'm not shy with downloading, so I fail to see thats the issue when so many others have been caught.

Maybe my ISP aren't bothered.

captaincranky captaincranky, TechSpot Addict, said:

Well, a line from the old Eagles song, "Desperado", may shed light on a situation such as this. "If you're fast, and if you're lucky, you may never see that hanging tree". Good stuff, early Eagles.

Leeky Leeky said:

Luck is not something I would associate with my current situation (personally). So I doubt its much to do with that, but thanks for going easy on me today!

I'm very delicate these days Sir!

captaincranky captaincranky, TechSpot Addict, said:

Its not like my ISP know less than the OP's for example.
Singular subject, needs, needs singular verb; "my ISP know(s) less than the OP's".

Maybe my ISP aren't bothered.
Unless you have multiple ISPs, I'd want to go with "isn't" as the verb.

For God's sake man, show us uppity colonists how it's done!

(Sorry, I know I can be such a **** Chaney in these matters).

On the other hand, you were right about the Intel "K" CPU issues. The unlocked multiplier models do carry a different VGA designation. (3000 as opposed to 2000).

Leeky Leeky said:

On the other hand, you were right about the Intel "K" CPU issues. The unlocked multiplier models do carry a different VGA designation. (3000 as opposed to 2000).

I got something right then?

P.S. I find it easier to make mistakes and therefore blend in, than correct one's English.

captaincranky captaincranky, TechSpot Addict, said:

P.S. I find it easier to make mistakes and therefore blend in, than correct one's English.

Unfortunately, (as I'm sure you're aware), blending has never been my strongest suit, or a motivating desire...

Leeky Leeky said:

Unfortunately, (as I'm sure you're aware), blending has never been my strongest suit, or a motivating desire...

Nope, your about as subtle as a howitzer at an anti-firearm's convention.....

jobeard jobeard, TS Ambassador, said:

wow

the signal-to-noise ratio on this topic is just amazing - - like 1/100 imo.

it would appear that the constitution's bill of rights were at stake.

Looks like the right bait was thrown into the water - - just look what it caught :grin:

captaincranky captaincranky, TechSpot Addict, said:

the signal-to-noise ratio on this topic is just amazing - - like 1/100 imo.

it would appear that the constitution's bill of rights were at stake.

Looks like the right bate was thrown into the water - - just look what it caught :grin:

You mean "bait", as in "b-a-i-t"? Yep, I just heard the splash, at about post # 38... Or did you mean that, the constitution's bill of rights were."at steak"...?

For a more familiar look to the S/N ratio, I'd suggest stating is as "noise to signal" ratio.

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