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Where there is no law, but every man does what is right in his own eyes, there is the least of real liberty
Henry M. Robert

Boundless space

French expert Julia MORENETS says Ukraine can regulate its Internet space using democratic means
8 September, 2011 - 00:00

Julia (Yulia) Morenets, after finishing a grade school in Odesa, received a higher education in France, graduating from the Faculty of International Relations at the Institute of Political Sciences of Paris [and later, from the Faculty of Law of Strasbourg University]. She has long worked with the Council of Europe Convention on Cybercrime, as a Consultant and Deputy Head of the Unit on Cybercrime and Organized Crime within the Economic Crime Division of the Council of Europe. She combined efforts with other IT experts in forming what became known as the TaC — Together against Cybercrime — a non-profit organization and center for the dissemination of information and expert advice. Not so long ago, she organized a children’s IGF on France. Then she took part in the Kyiv-based IGF-UA (September 2-3, 2011) for the second time. Her presentation, entitled “Internet Security and Balance of Frankness,” attracted special interest. The Day used the advantage to have an exclusive lobby interview with Ms. Morenets.

Ms. Morenets, aren’t you surprised witnessing such a representative forum in Ukraine, considering that this is all about a dialog between IT experts, non-profit organizations, and authorities, including officials from law enforcement agencies?

“I’m sure this means a big step forward because our participants — we call them ‘actors,’ people engaged in various fields of endeavor — could converse on an international and European levels. What I personally appreciate above all, and what is appreciated on the Internet, is that your authorities have no way to interfere with this process by enforcing their decisions. The forum in Kyiv is proof that Ukraine understands the importance of this. Nothing will happen here wihout our participants taking part; it is very important for the users to know and to express their attitude to what’s happening here — I mean private businesses and NGOs. In a word, I regard this forum as another step taken toward democracy.”

Do you hold such forums in France? Or maybe all such problems have been solved there?

“Far from all Internet problems have been solved, and this is true of all countries. The Internet means boundless information space. Of course, there are problems and each has to be resolved. There are no IGFs in France. None would work there, simply because we can’t generate this kind of mass interactive environment. I mean various users representing various spheres are thus far unable to get together. I can only hope that we will organize such a forum before long. And so Ukraine is the leader in this realm, which is further evidence that you are headed for true democracy. You should be happy to see people representing such a variety of [official] structures [and businesses] in your audience.”

How would you formulate the main law of the Internet — I mean the freedom of expression? Should this freedom have no boundaries? Should there be any restrictions imposed internationally?

“Like I said, the Internet spells boundless information space. This calls the whole issue into question. There is Herr Wolfgang Kierwachen, head of a task force set up by the Council of Europe (I’m a guest expert there). They hold sessions discussing boundless Internet problems. After all, some rules and regulations should be established, shouldn’t they? This can only be accomplished with Internet users’ knowledge and cooperation, with people representing all official and business structures, and with all those campaigning for the Internet’s boundless freedom of expression. Of course, we will have to act with an eye to the European Convention on Human Rights, with its clauses concerning the right to receive information and to freely express one’s views and persuasions.”

Do you think the Internet can accept any boundary lines in principle?

“You mean censorship?”

No, I realize that this is out of the question.

“I think that certain well-motivated restrictions, taboos, are possible. In fact, the Internet users must have been formulating them, which is only natural. There must be a sense of responsibility among the users. During the dialog with European government officials, concerning their attitude to the Internet, was discussed freedom of expression. Indeed, where does this freedom start and end? If a user does something that runs counter to the human rights convention or damages another user’s rights, if one threatens another or otherwise damages him, then there should be rules and regulations to be applied in such cases. I mean the guilty party should be made aware of his answerability.

“On the other hand, how can we restrict this freedom? My answer is in the negative. All Internet users should enjoy this freedom, but of course, with an eye to their answerability, if and when they act in a manner that can damage someone else.”

Do you mean the Internet users should recognize freedom as necessity?

“For me, freedom of expression on the Internet is a global principle we must adhere to, no matter what — just like the right to live and to join associations. But then you find websites aimed against certain persons, with rude statements. Should we allow this? Is this part of our freedom of expression? Certainly not. By allowing this to happen we damage fellow humans. Everyone must realize that the Internet means rights as well as responsibilities, what with our campaigning against any authorities imposing any restrictions or regulations.”

How about establishing such regulations after reaching a consensus with society and government?

“Even then I would campaign for softer rights and recommendations — like ones produced by a board made up of officials representing various countries and businesses — rather than regulations. By the way, this is precisely what this IGF-UA is trying to produce, involving various structures and Internet users.”

From what I know, you are an expert on cybercrimes and Internet copyright. How abut briefly formulating this copyright, its boundary lines? Suppose someone generates a website with a free download/online access to a motion picture, would this be contrary to the copyright law? Or suppose I find any articles or interviews of mine on the Internet, displayed there without my knowledge and consent (let alone payments due the author), should I consider this to be standing practice or a breach of some rules?

“I happen to be on the payroll of a law firm that specializes in protecting Internet copyright. The French laws read that copyright can be seen as breached only when someone other than your newspaper staff has written something without your editors’ knowledge and consent.”

Cybercrime. Is this phenomenon widespread in France and Europe?

“Cybercrime is widespread in all countries, although the crime rate depends on national legislation, on how effective it is; on the presence of social programs meant to combat this evil. I mean working with schoolchildren and adults to convince them to avoid abusing the Internet — like posting children’s porno pictures. In terms of legislation, there are legal boundary lines in France. The local users are forbidden to generate social websites, like ones meant to promote cyberculture and security. Spams, phishings, unauthorized access to others’ PCs, and banking fraud are punishable under the French laws. Children’s porno sites are a separate case envisaging an especially harsh legal punishment. There are other cybercrimes relating to copyright that are subject to criminal prosecution under the European Convention on Cybercrime (signed and Ratified by Ukraine). Now the big question is how this legislation is being implemented. Cybercrime cases are found all over France and the rest of Europe. You can get phishings on your PC any day, with cybercrime rate increasing all over the world, including counterfeit web pages (I have a collection to demonstrate to my children). I might as well add that we have been fruitfully collaborating with the Ministry of Education of France, working out procedures to help schoolchildren develop immunity against the hazards of cyberspace. For example, I show them phishing web pages (with sham banking and personal ID information), explaining that such tricks are used to transfer the money on someone’s legitimate account to the wrongdoer’s one.

“Now children’s porno videos. France is seriously concerned about this problem. To combat this crime, the French Criminal Code was amended one day, allowing police officers to work undercover, posing as potential pedophiles, thus provoking the real ones to show their hand, even their networks. Later, this CC clause was nullified. We recently worked with the International Centre for Missing & Exploited Children and were told that Ukraine is also faced with this kind of criminal offences, and that the situation is serious in your country; that you need social programs for children, parents, and schoolteachers.”

How do you feel about WikiLeaks, I mean the copyright status?

“This is a global and very complicated issue involving freedom of speech and copyright that appear to be intertwined. How can you choose between the soft principles long since adopted by veteran Internet users, people who abide by the Internet’s inherent freedom of expression, and government officials saying this is cybercrime? I think that any document on a given website should be considered separately. In other words, this question remains open.”

Are there any French laws that mete out legal punishments — perhaps rulings expressing disapproval — when detecting breaches of copyright on the Internet? What does the claimant do? Bring the case to a court of law? Will this case be accepted and duly processed?

“Copyright is observed by the Internet the same way it is respected by any other business entity. There have been many copyright lawsuits. We adopted the so-called three-stage ADP law, in June 2009, making it possible to play online and/or download music without paying for it. But then an official controlling authority, named ADP (sic), was formed, tasked with protecting Internet copyrights and promoting Internet copyright culture. This law envisages three stages of informing users that they are playing online or downloading music or movie files. If and when the controlling authorities detect such users, they transfer the incriminating data to ADP. The latter contacts the Internet provider and then monitors the user in question. If this user keeps acting contrary to the law, he receives an email and a letter, delivered by registered mail, warning him against such unlawful conduct. Failing to take notice of these warnings, the guilty party faces criminal prosecution ending in a fine or court ruling ordering his Internet access suspended, for only a month.

“By the way, from what I know there is distorted information about this law being spread in Ukraine. They say this law allows to terminate Internet access for a year. Ridiculous! Like I said, not longer than a month. Besides, the decision is to be made by a judge. We consider this [month-long] term to be a severe punishment in France and there are many claiming this clause is an infringement on civil rights.”

What about Ukrainian copyright on the Internet in Ukraine? Is Ukraine prepared to place the responsibility for its breaches of Internet copyrights on its law-making agenda?

“I think the time has come for Ukraine. Considering this IGF-UA get-together and the countless authors with their works on the Internet, they ought to be copyrighted, of course. At the same time, you should uphold the freedom of expression and information, so you have to achieve some kind of consensus in your legal realm.”

Which measures would you describe as the most effective ones in combating Internet copyright violations? New, harsher laws, harsher legal punishment, or measures aimed at providing conditions when you can do your business in peace and quiet? Here in Ukraine we often hear that all we need is political will. Does France have enough political will? Can you see it in Ukraine?

“Considering the enactment of the ADP law, France has this will, even though it was previously frequently criticized, especially by our structure and other NGOs, including my personal verbal attacks. At the time you could find Internet sources claiming that this law was worked out and made effective by a team of influential business people in the music sphere, I know that there are heated discussions along these lines in Ukraine; I also know that some of your ranking officials have taken a rigid stand against cybercrime (as evidenced by the presence of all interested parties at this IFG-UA event).”

What about your latest visit to Ukraine? What did you think had changed?

“Regrettably, I seldom visit Ukraine. The last time I visited it was a year and a half ago, to attend a similar forum, and I haven’t visited my native Odesa for a long time. My impression is that, during the 13 years I’ve lived outside Ukraine, your living standard has been straightened out; you appear to have good businesses. I regard this as a positive trend. I met friendly people in Ukraine. I like everything I see here. I could walk down a city street and ask directions from a passer-by and would always receive a friendly reply. I have visited many countries but rarely met with such friendly attitude.”

By Vitalii KNIAZHANSKY, The Day