A new report out by the UN which brands internet access a human right has thrown the issue of pirated and non pirated material as well as internet blocking into disarray.According to the UN, demands for companies accused of piracy to be disconnected from the Internet contravenes the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which protects basic civil rights.
” [Internet] Blocking is not justified to pursue aims which are listed under article 19, paragraph 3, of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and blocking lists are generally kept secret, which makes it difficult to assess whether access to content is being restricted for a legitimate purpose,” the report released this month states.
Internet access is regarded by the UN as right and a fundamental “enabler” of other rights, including economic, social and cultural, as well as providing the right to engage in cultural activities.
In addition, online blocking (with the exception of child porn) is also questionable without an independent judiciary review and the intermittent nature of blocked sites between nations “make it difficult to assess whether access to content is being restricted for a legitimate purpose,” the report written by also states.
This throws the recent test case brought against Aussie ISP iiNet back into the spotlight, and ‘will most likely swing the advantage back in the direction of ISPs, copyright law expert and senior lecturer at the University of Queensland,’ Kimberlee Weatherall, told the SMH.
The case which saw Australian Federation Against Copyright Theft Group (AFACT) representing some of the biggest Hollywood movie houses including Village Roadshow, Universal Pictures, Warner Bros, Paramount Pictures, as well as the Seven Network, looking to demand ISPs block users from accessing ‘illegal downloads’ of content such as movies and other entertainment, which they argue is infringing on copyrights.
Although the case against iiNet was dismissed, AFACT lodged an appeal which is to be heard in July.
The report, written by the UN’s Special Rapporteur on the right to freedom of expression, Frank La Rue, also now also opens up a fresh can of worms on internet access and piracy and the report also cites concerns about the freedom of expression and the protection of ‘citizen journalists’ and raises concerns that ‘that legitimate online expression is being “criminalized in contravention of States’ international human rights obligations.”
The report also referred to China as being a major censor of the net, “which has in place one of the most sophisticated and extensive systems for controlling information on the Internet, has adopted extensive filtering systems that block access to websites containing key terms such as “democracy” and “human rights”.
It also said it was “deeply concerned” that mechanisms used to regulate and censor information on the Internet are increasingly sophisticated, with multi-layered controls that are often hidden from the public.