Three new Swiss federal laws could force Internet service providers (ISPs) to block access to certain web sites and to transmit customer data to entities that allege that copyrights have been violated.
The Swiss government has recently published for consultation revisions of three laws, the law on telecommunications, the copyright law, and the law on gambling.
All three laws could oblige ISPs to block certain sites that would be considered illegal in Switzerland. The copyright law could oblige ISPs to transmit to the authorities personal data on customers who are suspected of violating copyright by using peer-to-peer services. These measures are known not to be effective and they have unwanted side-effects, in particular preventing access to legitimate sites.
The Swiss chapter of the Internet society reiterates its strong opposition to the use of blocking or blacklists as part of the measures to combat illegal web sites.
Blocking and blacklists are not effective because illegal content is moved around rapidly and can be found through search engines; furthermore, “blocked” sites can be accessed through virtual private networks (VPN) or The Onion Ring (TOR).
The measures foreseen in the copyright law regarding disclosure of user information are also inappropriate. The user of an ISP and the person who downloads copyright material are often not the same person. Such measures could lead to the same dysfunctional results seen in Germany, where parents have to pay fines for unwitting downloads performed by their children. In such cases, users will often agree to pay large fines to avoid a court proceeding, even if there was no actual copyright violation.
The measures proposed will increase costs for ISPs, and consequently users, without actually contributing to the desired goal. Further, they are limitations on freedom of speech and the right to connect that are not justified in terms of the stated goals.
The press releases, in German and French, can be found here: