The United States, along with 40 other nations, has signed a statement made by Sweden to the United Nations Human Rights Counsel condemning the “three strikes” laws against online copyright infringers as a violation of human rights, reports Ars Technica. Neither the UK nor France, two nations who have such laws on the books, signed the statement.
“All users…should have greatest possible access to Internet-based content, applications and services, whether or not they are offered free of charge.” the Swedes’ statement says, adding that “[c]utting off users from access to the Internet is generally not a proportionate sanction.”
The statement follows a decree by the UN that access to the Internet is a “human right” because it allows people to “exercise their right to freedom of opinion and expression.”
One surprise supporter of the statement was New Zealand, which recently signed into law anti-piracy legislation that allows the government to impose a mandatory disconnection from the Internet for up to six months. Other countries that signed the bill include India, Turkey, Japan, Brazil and Poland.
The statement went beyond the “three strikes” rules, saying that “there should be as little restriction as possible to the flow of information on the Internet,” and that only in “limited circumstances” should content be restricted, such as in cases where other human rights are being violated because of the information’s online distribution.
“We call on all states to ensure strong protection of freedom of expression online in accordance with international human rights law,” the statement reads.
The statement also supported the right to converse online anonymously and pushed the importance of privacy protection.
US criticism of the “three strikes” law comes at the same time as the PROTECT IP Act — a bill that would give both the US government and private copyright holders the ability to completely block access to websites that violate intellectual property laws — enters Congress for debate. PROTECT IP is opposed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, The New York Times’ and the Los Angeles Times’ editorial boards, among others.