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  2. <html newsdate="2019-08-27">
  3. <head>
  4. <title>Radio Lockdown: Criticism of Controversial Directive Unlikely to Sway European Commission</title>
  5. </head>
  6. <body>
  7. <h1>
  8. Radio Lockdown: Criticism of Controversial Directive Unlikely to Sway European Commission
  9. </h1>
  10. <p newsteaser="yes">Since 2014, a European Directive has the effect of
  11. hindering users to load software on their radio devices, devices such
  12. as mobile phones, laptops and routers. While the European Commission
  13. recently closed a feedback period, where citizens shared their
  14. thoughts about the impact of the Directive, the FSFE worries that such
  15. feedback could very well go unheeded. Learn more about the feedback
  16. received, and what lies ahead.</p>
  17. <p>In 2014, the European Parliament passed <a
  18. href="https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/HTML/?uri=CELEX%3A32014L0053">the
  19. Radio Equipment Directive (the “Directive”)</a>, which, among other
  20. regulations, makes vendors of certain types of radio hardware
  21. responsible for preventing users from installing software which may
  22. alter such hardware’s radio parameters to break applicable radio
  23. regulations. While the FSFE shares the Directive’s overall purpose to
  24. keep radio frequencies clean, we have been working on this issue of <a
  25. href="https://fsfe.org/activities/radiodirective/">Radio Lockdown</a>
  26. for almost 4 years now, because the Directive's approach will have
  27. negative implications on users’ rights and Free Software, fair
  28. competition, innovation, and the environment – mostly without equal
  29. benefits for security.</p>
  30. <p>Specifically, Article 3(3)(i) of the Directive requires
  31. manufacturers of certain types of radio devices to assess every
  32. software regarding its compliance with existing national radio
  33. regulations. The classes of devices that will be affected has yet to be
  34. defined. Due to this, it will likely become impossible or very
  35. difficult for users and companies to use alternative software on
  36. devices they have bought – routers, mobile phones, WiFi-cards and the
  37. laptops they are built in, or almost all Internet-of-Things devices in
  38. the future.</p>
  39. <blockquote><p>[R]adio equipment [shall support] certain features in
  40. order to ensure that software can only be loaded into the radio
  41. equipment where the compliance of the combination of the radio
  42. equipment and software has been demonstrated.<br />
  43. – <em>Radio Equipment Directive, Article 3(3)(i)</em></p></blockquote>
  44. <p>The European Commission officially opened a online feedback period,
  45. lasting from 28 January to 4 March 2019. Some <a
  46. href="https://ec.europa.eu/info/law/better-regulation/initiatives/ares-2018-6621038/feedback_en?p_id=380919">276
  47. comments were collected</a>, the overwhelming majority of which were
  48. critical of the impact that Article 3(3)(i) would have. Most of the
  49. commenters were individual private citizens, although academic and
  50. research institutions, NGOs, and companies also provided feedback.</p>
  51. <p>We were heartened to see that the comments largely reflected the
  52. stance adopted by the FSFE. Many individuals shared their concerns that
  53. Article 3(3)(i) would have a negative effect on the usage of Free
  54. Software among individuals, public bodies, and companies, as it would
  55. compel device manufacturers to assess every software for its compliance
  56. with national radio regulations, thereby incentivising manufacturers to
  57. ensure that their products come bundled only with their own
  58. unmodifiable proprietary software. With Free Software being the only
  59. feasible method by which users of technology can break out of planned
  60. product obsolescence cycles, the feedback received reflected concerns
  61. of restrictions on the freedom of use and right to repair of radio
  62. devices.</p>
  63. <p>Many commenters also expressed their dismay at the effect of the
  64. Directive on competition and innovation. As a large amount of such
  65. developments come from the Free Software community, compliance with
  66. Article 3(3)(i) means a suppression of innovation and new technological
  67. developments. If the software present in radio equipment is locked and
  68. proprietary, this prevents the public at large from being able to learn
  69. how the software in their devices work, and from making their own
  70. potentially innovative and beneficial modifications.</p>
  71. <p>We also saw that many people were concerned about the impact Article
  72. 3(3)(i) would have on security. As the safety of radio devices
  73. deteriorate upon release, security issues can be more efficiently
  74. addressed by Free Software improvements, than by waiting for
  75. manufacturers to release updates on their own, often proprietary
  76. software. Furthermore, old devices can become insecure when a
  77. manufacturer no longer releases software updates to support them. This
  78. caused concern that without being able to deploy their own updates
  79. because of the application of Article 3(3)(i), a user would have to
  80. choose between purchasing newer models, or living with potentially
  81. insecure devices.</p>
  82. <p>Despite the wealth of negative feedback received against Article
  83. 3(3)(i), a recent meeting of the Commission Expert Group on
  84. Reconfigurable Radio Systems on 25 June 2019 attended by the FSFE
  85. showed that the scope of the problem is likely not appreciated by the
  86. European Commission. In fact, we are afraid that by the means of a <a
  87. href="/activities/radiodirective/#devices">delegated act</a>, a much
  88. broader regulation is being sought, while leading actors still do not
  89. comprehend the role of software in a digital world and economy, let
  90. alone the importance of Free Software and how its licences work.</p>
  91. <p>The FSFE is working hard to help regulators understand the negative
  92. influence their current approach will have. Our concerns regarding
  93. Article 3(3)(i) are shared by more than 50 organisations and
  94. businesses, which have signed our Joint Statement against Radio
  95. Lockdown, a result of our ongoing exchange and cooperation with the
  96. Free Software community in Europe and beyond. If your organisation
  97. would like to get involved and sign the Joint Statement, please <a
  98. href="/contact">get in touch with us</a>.</p>
  99. <p>The European Commission is currently expected to open another public
  100. consultation in the fourth quarter of 2019. You can see all the
  101. responses to the European Commission’s online feedback round <a
  102. href="https://ec.europa.eu/info/law/better-regulation/initiatives/ares-2018-6621038_en">here</a>.</p>
  103. </body>
  104. <tags>
  105. <tag>front-page</tag>
  106. <tag content="Radio Lockdown">radiodirective</tag>
  107. <tag content="Policy">policy</tag>
  108. <tag content="European Commission">EuropeanCommission</tag>
  109. </tags>
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