La Quadrature writes to the new European Commissioners

Yesterday, following the hearings of the Commissioners last month, the European Parliament approved the full college of the new Commission.

The new Commission, led by José Manuel Barroso, will launch major initiatives to determine the future of Internet-related EU legislation (see for instance, La Quadrature du Net's comments on the EU 2020 consultation, the i2010 consultation, the "online creative content" consultation, and the communication on the enforcement of so-called "intellectual property rights").

La Quadrature du Net sent a letter to Commissioners Neelie Kroes (Digital Agenda), Viviane Reding (Fundamental Rights and Citizenship), Michel Barnier (Internal Market), who will share responsibility on the dossiers related to the Internet. La Quadrature congratulates them for their confirmation and calls them to protect and enhance the rights and freedoms of Internet users through legislation favoring an inclusive knowledge society.

Letter to Commissioner Kroes

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Dear Commissioner Kroes,

We first would like to congratulate you on your confirmation as Vice President of the European Commission and Commissioner designate for the Digital Agenda. You will inherit the challenging but engaging task of bringing the European legislation into the digital age.

As former Commissioner of Competition, and given your courageous statement during your confirmation hearing, we are confident that you will understand the importance of mandating Net neutrality rules for the future of the European digital economy. As you know, Net neutrality is a founding principle of the Internet that rules out any discrimination against the source, destination or the type of data transmitted over the network. In the words of Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web, it is “the freedom of connection, with any application, to any party”.

Some Telecoms operators look forward to put an end to this principle in order to create an artificial scarcity of bandwidth, arguing that network capacities are being reached. Such attempts would allow them to develop new business-models based on charging either the providers or the consumers for delivering services, applications and content, by discriminating over information flows. However, such practices would put at risk the level-playing field that the Internet represents for small and innovative businesses, thereby seriously harming European innovation and competition.

More generally, the Internet has become a free and open platform for democracy, providing people with the resources to share information and exchange their views. Here again, Net neutrality is instrumental to preserving the Internet's openness. It ensures that the ability to voice opinions on the Internet does not depend on users' financial capacities or social status. It gives people the freedom to express themselves as they wish, and to access the information they want without risking to be discriminated by the few actors who operate the network. Abandoning or even weakening Net neutrality in Europe would mean handing out to private actors the control of the new, networked public sphere.

In addition, we understand that an important part of the digital agenda will consist in adapting European copyright to today's world. Current copyright law is profoundly at odds with the way people access, create and use cultural goods in the digital age, and is now turned against the public. While Net neutrality can ensure that users will not face illegitimate discrimination on the network, the adaptation of copyright law will foster the innovative and empowering practices that the Internet enables. Trying to enforce today's copyright law on the Internet through three-strikes schemes and content filtering or by dismantling the limited legal liability faced by technical intermediaries would severely threaten European citizens' freedoms.

Contrary to some worrying policy-making endeavours carried on these past few years at the national and international level, the EU should move toward embracing the new uses enabled by digital technologies while ensuring fair funding for authors and other right-holders. We particularly encourage you to explore ways of authorizing non-commercial peer-to-peer exchange of digital works on the Internet as a strategy complementary to the effective remuneration and funding of artistic creation.

We are confident that you will remain committed to defending European consumers and citizens.


Philippe Aigrain, Gérald Sédrati-Dinet, Benjamin Sonntag, Jérémie Zimmermann
Co-founders of citizen advocacy group La Quadrature du Net

Letter to Commissioner Reding

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Dear Commissioner Reding,

We first would like to congratulate you on your confirmation as Vice President of the European Commission and Commissioner designate Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship. We welcome all the more your nomination to this new position considering your strong record of protecting Internet users' rights during your previous mandate as Commissioner for the Information Society and Media.

In June 2009, in its decision against the French HADOPI law implementing “three strikes” policy against file-sharing, the French Constitutional Council found that “in the current state of the means of communication and given the generalized development of public online communication services and the importance of the latter for the participation in democracy and the expression of ideas and opinions, [freedom of expression] implies freedom to access such services”.

During the heated debate over the Telecoms package's “amendment 138”, you have courageously sided with the vast majority of the Members of the European Parliament to defend the principle that “no restriction may be imposed on the fundamental rights and freedoms of end-users, without a prior ruling by the judicial authorities.” Even though “amendment 138” was eventually replaced by a weaker provision, we know that you understand that the free access to the Internet has become a condition for the exercise of fundamental freedoms. Your new position allows you to push for the full recognition of this fundamental principle.

Restrictions to a free Internet access equate to a deprivation of fundamental freedom. This means that any such restrictions represent very severe measures, which should carry the most important safeguards, except in cases of compelling public interest motives. A prior ruling by the judiciary is therefore necessary to ensure that the restrictions are proportionate and legitimate, which is extremely complex to establish in the case of online activities. Considering the fundamental rights at stake -- including the protection of privacy -- it is indispensable that the judiciary authority be the only one entitled to order restrictions to individual's Internet access, after a due process.

Given your understanding of the the technical complexity of the online world, we feel reassured that the rights and freedoms of all will have a strong supporter in the new European Commission.


Philippe Aigrain, Gérald Sédrati-Dinet, Benjamin Sonntag, Jérémie Zimmermann
Co-founders of citizen advocacy group La Quadrature du Net

Letter to Commissioner Barnier

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Monsieur le Commissaire Barnier,

Nous tenons tout d'abord à vous féliciter pour votre confirmation au poste de Commissaire en charge du Marché intérieur et des Services. Avec ce portefeuille, vous serez responsable des services de la Commission en charge de la propriété intellectuelle, dont vous avez confirmé pendant votre audition qu'elle sera un sujet important de l'agenda législatif de la prochaine Commission.

Cependant, si l'Union européenne souhaite encourager le développement de la société de la connaissance il lui faudra adapter son approche en matière de droit d'auteur et de brevets, et ce afin de maximiser les bénéfices attendus d'Internet et des technologies numériques, pour un nouvel élan économique. Les technologies de l'information et de la communication, tout comme les technologies environnementales, suscitent en effet un réel enthousiasme chez nos concitoyens, notamment chez les jeunes, et leur libre usage doit participer de l'invention d'un nouveau modèle de développement.

Internet est également devenu un moyen essentiel de l'exercice des droits et libertés des citoyens Comme le soulignait le Conseil constitutionnel à l'occasion de sa décision historique concernant la première des lois HADOPI, « en l'état actuel des moyens de communication et eu égard au développement généralisé des services de communication au public en ligne ainsi qu'à l'importance prise par ces services pour la participation à la vie démocratique et l'expression des idées et des opinions, ce droit implique la liberté d'accéder à ces services». Et les sages de rappeler, en conséquence, la compétence du seul juge judiciaire pour le prononcé des sanctions restreignant l'accès à Internet.

De ce point de vue, les dispositifs de riposte graduée ou de filtrage des contenus transitant sur les réseaux, qu'il s'agisse de mesures prises par les États membres ou par des opérateurs privés, sont extrêmement dangereux. Or, ceux-ci sont implicitement envisagés par les services de la direction générale dont avez désormais la charge et ont récemment été proposés par les États-Unis dans le cadre des négociations sur le traité commercial destiné à lutter contre la contrefaçon (ACTA, selon son acronyme anglais). Confondre la contrefaçon de biens physiques dans un but lucratif et le partage d'œuvres culturelles en ligne pourrait conduire à de graves remises en cause des droits sur Internet, alors même que ces pratiques sont fondamentalement différentes.

Aussi, nous espérons que vous saurez faire preuve de courage politique pour vous opposer à la mise en œuvre forcenée d'un régime juridique du droit d'auteur devenu profondément inadapté à notre époque et tourné contre le public. Au delà, il vous faudra accompagner, en collaboration avec la Commissaire Neelie Kroes, une réforme ambitieuse en la matière et vous saisir des instruments internationaux existants afin de créer de nouvelles et nécessaires exceptions au droit d'auteur.

Restant à votre disposition, nous vous prions d'agréer, Monsieur le Commissaire, l'expression de nos salutations les plus respectueuses.

Philippe Aigrain, Gérald Sédrati-Dinet, Benjamin Sonntag, Jérémie Zimmermann,
co-fondateurs de La Quadrature du Net.

LaQuadratureduNet-20100209_Letter_to_Commissioner_REDING.pdf55.64 KB
LaQuadratureduNet-20100209_Lettre_au_Commissaire_BARNIER.pdf56.87 KB
LaQuadratureduNet-200100209_Letter_to_Commissioner_KROES.pdf74.25 KB