Egypt: a new threat to Internet freedom

In a new try to impose more restrictions on Internet in Egypt allegedly keeping a new legal protection for intellectual property, the Egyptian minister of culture issued an administrative decision on august 31, 2010 starting to cancel all websites which publish any video or audio contents that does not abide by the 2002 intellectual property law in Egypt (no 28). The ministry of culture announced the decision through a statement signed by the Minister Farouk Hosni. According to the statement, the decision was issued after a complaint from “Central Association of Owners of Audio And Video Recordings” claiming that there are many websites publishing contents owned by it's members without license from them. This decision came in with many provisions which stipulate that the governmental central administration for censorship on artistic works is the competent institution to investigate the abusing websites based on a database owned by the “Association of Owners of Audio And Video Recordings ” that determines who have the right to exploit the creative content. The same association will issue a quarterly report after checking websites and monitoring all complaints before the police agencies and public persecutor. In the case of proven copyright violation, the administration of censorship will submit a report to the ministry of communications and information technology which can take down the website.

By this decision the ministry of culture made itself the controller upon the society in respect to using digital creative contents. Another important aspect of the new law is that it does not make any balance between the rights of intellectual property and the right of access to creative contents.

At the same time there are many voices in Egypt that try to apply the notion of “creative commons ” which gives the authors all rights of intellectual property but in the same time respect individual rights to access and exchange the creative content.

The decision by the ministry of culture is considered to be a violation of many international and regional conventions like article 19 from international covenant on civil and political rights ( ICCPR ) which stipulates that everyone shall have freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice. Also article 9 from the African charter on people's and human rights stipulates that every individual have the right to receive information.

On September, 6, 2010, the association for freedom of thought and expression made a judicial appeal on this decision before administrative court in Cairo and demand the court to cancel it since it violates internet users right to access information.

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