The United Nations adopted a report today that says that disconnecting file-sharers from the Internet is a violation of human rights. The Report of the Special Rapporteur was published in May. The report focused on the protection of freedom of opinion and expression, and moves by various governments to take away an individual’s Internet access.
"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," read the report.
The report goes on to say that various anti-file-sharing laws violate international law:
"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 case you are wondering, here is what Article 19 says:
1. Everyone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference.
2. Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice.
3. The exercise of the rights provided for in paragraph 2 of this article carries with it special duties and responsibilities. It may therefore be subject to certain restrictions, but these shall only be such as are provided by law and are necessary:
(a) For respect of the rights or reputations of others;
(b) For the protection of national security or of public order (ordre public), or of public health or morals.
The report goes on to say that governments throughout the world should maintain Internet access during times of "political unrest" and urged them to change copyright laws that take away citizens' rights to Internet access.
"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," notes the report.
"In particular, the Special Rapporteur urges States to repeal or amend existing intellectual copyright laws which permit users to be disconnected from Internet access, and to refrain from adopting such laws," the report adds.
The United Kingdom’s Digital Economy Act and France’s Hadopi legislation are cited as prime examples of laws that have provisions to remove Internet access.