Messages from Bern 2016
The 2016 Swiss IGF was held on 24 May in the Kursaal in Bern providing a compact program and proving intensive debates among all stakeholder groups again. The rough conclusions from the three plenary sessions are, as approved by the wrap-up:
In a world of pervasive and unlimited data collection, storage, use and reproduction:
- There was widespread consensus that there is a role for states in establishing an enabling environment for innovative data platforms, their governance and trustworthiness being key for their acceptance by society.
- Questions of individual data ownership and a focus on the potential of data use were addressed, while remaining mindful of the potential missuses, especially when dealing with sensitive data.
- Opportunities and challenges for states in this new environment were discussed. Will states compete amongst each other? What is their relationship with global private players and their marge de manoeuvre in an environment of transborder data flows?
- Data policy is now arriving at the top of the political agenda. There is a need to raise awareness in the population and develop a shared, common and understandable vision for a holistic data policy.
In plenary session two participants engaged in an open exchange on the questions of filtering and blocking.
- This discussion is due to the growing perception and concerns about unlawful and/or harmful contents found online, which impinge/affect different legal interests, while at the same time measures to protect such legal interests may endanger the freedom to access information.
- However, consensus is not found already at the level of the degree of warranted protection of these different legal interests, with some (such as children protection against sexual exploitation) finding absolute consensus, while others finding a divergence of views (copyright).
- As to the measures to protect such legal interests, points of view also diverge. While some only agree with elimination of unlawful content at the source or plead for educational and follow-the-money approaches, others consider that reasonable, proportionate, and transparent filtering and blocking measures with appeal
possibilities may also be needed, if elimination at the source is not available. Participants argued that there is also need for “fast procedures” that can’t be guaranteed with the current legal system. The risks of overblocking and overreaching were widely discussed, with counter-productive effects of filtering and blocking measures as well as circumvention possibilities of any such measures also being highlighted.
- Finally, the desirability of international instruments was also discussed, considering the transborder dimension of these issues, while it was also mentioned that states have a role to play at the national level not only with a view to protect rights but also to ensure spaces of freedom – a role which might not be imposed and/or delegated upon private platforms.
Discussions focused on the question whether the proposed copyright reforms adequately answer the challenges posed by the digital environment:
- There was general agreement that an appropriate balance should be sought between the interests of society as a whole, including those embodied by libraries and other cultural institutions, and the interests of creators, maintaining the original intent of copyright to maximize access to works and promote creators‘ work;
- The increased use of collective licensing schemes gained certain traction to address some of the challenges. However, the role and adaptation of collective rights management societies to the digital environment was questioned. Market power exercised by global players to impose conditions when granting access to works was criticized.
- The specific means proposed to fight piracy were discussed and some concerns were put forward which will still need to be further debated, e.g. the chilling effects of notice and take down procedures or dangers posed on the accessibility to public domain works.
- Alternative business models and means to legal access to works (including lending rights) are needed and must be further developed.
Bern, May 2016