Martin Lucas on Thu, 6 Mar 2003 11:38:53 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> Re: no comment department

After the largest anti-war march in history I guess they couldn't be
expected to leave it alone.


Europe Hacker Laws Could Make Protest a Crime

March 5, 2003

BRUSSELS, March 4 - The justice ministers of the European Union have
agreed on laws intended to deter computer hacking and the spreading of
computer viruses. But legal experts say the new measures could pose
problems because the language could also outlaw people who organize
protests online, as happened recently, en masse, with protests against a
war in Iraq.

The agreement, reached last week, obliges all 15 member states to adopt a
new criminal offense: illegal access to, and illegal interference with an
information system. It calls on national courts to impose jail terms of at
least two years in serious cases.

Critics from the legal profession say the agreement makes no legal
distinction between an online protester and terrorists, hackers and
spreaders of computer viruses that the new laws are intended to trap.

Last Wednesday, protesters against a possible war against Iraq barraged
the White House and Senate offices with tens of thousands of messages by
phone, fax and e-mail, as part of what was billed as the first-ever
"virtual protest march."

Under the new agreement, if European Union citizens undertook a similar
electronic bombardment of the e-mail, fax and phone lines of the British
prime minister, Tony Blair, they might be liable for prosecution, said
Leon de Costa, chief executive of Judicium, a legal consultancy based in
London. The new code "criminalizes behavior which, until now, has been
seen as lawful civil disobedience," Mr. de Costa said.

Ulrich Sieber, a professor of law at Munich University, urged lawmakers to
amend the code to add a specific reference to the right to free expression
as outlined in the European Union's Charter of Fundamental Human Rights.

Marco Cappato, a European Parliament deputy from Italy, said he failed to
persuade the ministers to insert wording that differentiates between the
online equivalent of trespassing and someone breaking and entering. The
role of the European Parliament is consultative, so it cannot force
changes to the law.

A European Union diplomat involved in the drafting of the measures agreed
that protection mechanisms in the code are soft and said that amendments
could still be made.

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