Blocking of sites - Telia Company's comment on new legislation in Lithuania

New legislation in Lithuania on blocking of websites was adopted in August 2018 with effect from April 1, 2019. In this article, Telia Company shares its view on the new legislation as well as on blocking in general.

The new regulation in Lithuania sets a possibility for rightsholders and organizations representing the interest of rightsholders to claim a violation of their rights using an administrative procedure defined by this new legislation.

The administrative procedure means that such a claim can be provided to the Radio and Television Commission of Lithuania which examines all evidence and decides whether to block internet sites, by use of DNS blocking. Such a decision is then sanctioned by the Supreme Administrative Court of Lithuania. The claimant is obliged to use all extrajudicial means before providing a claim, a requirement which is not fully clear and defined in the law.

The full text of the new legislation, in Lithuanian, is available here.

Telia Lietuva’s efforts
Telia Lietuva has engaged in dialogue with the legislator during the full law-making process, pointing to the need for due balancing, in this case, of freedom of expression and copyright protection. As further defined in our Group policy on freedom of expression and surveillance privacy, we have advocated for clear and transparent legal provisions on proportionality and necessity.

Telia Lietuva has also, since the law was adopted in November 2018, pointed to the necessary procedures to be able to efficiently implement the law. There is still work to be done and need for some clarifications, for example how to assess proportionality of access restriction.

It can be noted that, since the introduction in January 2016 of legislation to block illegal gambling sites based on the same model as above, the Lithuanian legislator has introduced a range of blocking legislations covering this far more than ten different laws on such as; advertisement of alcohol, certain financial services, violation of the rights of minors, and now blocking of sites in breach of copyright. It is our view that blocking as a tool must be handled thoroughly, harmonized and centrally, taking not only necessity and proportionality but also the rule of law fully into account.

Blocking of websites, our basic view
Challenges such as e.g. disinformation, copyright piracy, privacy violations, hate speech and terror propaganda have led to a growing debate in general, not only in Lithuania, on what should be available on the internet, and what content that should be blocked.

These issues are very complex and multi-facetted. There are no easy solutions. The legislators and courts must ensure to balance the needs of the society and define what is illegal and what must be blocked, and by whom.

Telia Company has had the same position for long. As internet service providers, we are not to – and will not –take the role of legislator and court by deciding what is legal or not. We will, however, act swiftly based on proportionate and necessary decisions by courts and legislators, based on the rule of law, on what is illegal and must be blocked.