Few things are are captivating as the various machinations of European politics, what with the countless measures, motions, proposals and whatnot. The latest one to interest us: the passage of a report that rejects the use of so-called “three strike” anti-piracy schemes, like the one currently being considered by France. The report, which passed the European Parliament (which sounds a lot more important than it really is, if I remember correctly—see the “democracy deficit”), says that while securing the Internet is cool and all, Europe shouldn’t do so at the expense of its citizens’ rights and freedom.
The French law in question—well, proposed law—targets alleged file sharers. Long story short, if The Man catches you trading the latest U2 album or whatever, and catches you doing so three times, you’ll be disconnected from your ISP. If that doesn’t seem insane to you then you’re probably reading the wrong Web site.
Anyway, the moral of the story is that the EU Parliament passed a report saying, yeah, it’s cool and all trying to insure the security of the Internet, but it’s decidedly not cool to do so at the expense of people’s freedoms and rights. Disconnecting alleged file sharers from the Internet, which has become a vital tool in the lives of so many, is an absurd punishment.
Here’s where the democracy deficit comes into play. The French government, currently headed by President Sarkozy, doesn’t necessarily have to take that EP ruling into account; it could well ignore it, and press along with the legislation as it sees fit. (I think; I’m basing that on a class I took in the Fall of 2007.) That’s partly why the EU is so interesting, in a wonkish sort of way: all these different institutions have power, yet at the same the many National Governments still have a degree of autonomy.