Internet executives meeting in Paris will urge G8 leaders to adopt an international approach to protecting users' personal data but will recommend leaving the thorny issue of copyright protection largely to national governments, according to a draft communique seen by Reuters.
The so-called e-G8 forum, which has attracted Internet industry leaders including Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg and Google's Eric Schmidt, is due to make recommendations to a meeting of G8 leaders in France later this week.
Significant divisions have been exposed between policy makers and the Internet industry on the best ways to regulate the Internet without crimping growth or personal freedoms at the forum convened by French President Nicolas Sarkozy.
But the communique, which has still to be finalized, mainly uses general language to paper over the differences and highlights challenges without proposing concrete solutions.
As we adopt more innovative Internet-based services, we face challenges in harmonizing our public policies on issues such as the protection of personal data, neutrality, trans-border data flow, information security and intellectual property, it says.
Action from all governments is needed through national policies, but also through the promotion of international cooperation.
The draft communique says governments should cooperate to find common approaches to the problem of privacy on the Web.
Recent, highly publicized breaches of user data at Sony have highlighted the responsibilities companies have when they are entrusted with large amounts of customers' personal information.
We encourage the development of common approaches taking into account national legal frameworks, based on fundamental rights and that protect personal data, whilst allowing the legitimate transfer of data, the draft communique says.
Europe is in the midst of revising its data protection rules, which could lead to stricter requirements of Internet companies, such as registering their databases and notifying users of data breaches.
Concerns on the continent that data may be less safe in certain countries, notably the United States, have given rise to restrictions on the transfer of data outside the European Union's jurisdiction.
Many analysts believe the rules have hindered adoption in Europe of cloud computing, a fast-growing industry in which organizations outsource data storage and processing to third parties like Amazon.
Yochi Benkler, a Harvard University professor known for championing open source ideas, slammed French anti-piracy laws for cutting off people from their fundamental right to the Internet.
You can make the Internet safe for Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga, or you can make it safe for the next Skype, Benkler said, referring to two pop music stars and the wildly successful start-up Internet telephony service. You have to choose.
The draft communique largely side-steps the fraught issue of intellectual property on the Web, one of the most divisive issues being discussed at the forum.
With regard to the protection of intellectual property ... we recognize the need to have national laws and frameworks for improved enforcement, while encouraging the development of online trade in goods and content which are respectful of intellectual property, it says.
Sarkozy has gained notoriety in the online world for adopting tough measures to protect established creative industries and artists, including a law to cut off internet access to repeat piracy offenders.
On Tuesday, he adopted a more conciliatory tone while urging a key role for governments in internet regulation.
We don't want to make mistakes in regulating this powerful yet fragile ecosystem, he said in response to a question from journalism professor Jeff Jarvis. We have to act with pragmatism. It is better to do nothing than to do harm.
Maurice Levy, chief executive of Publicis, told a closing press conference Sarkozy's speech had been well balanced. The president's speech was well received. Those who were there were surprised. They had expected a speech of a regulator; they got a very balanced speech.
The final document (which will be presented to the G8) need not be a consensual document. It may present contradictions. It could present disagreements.
(Additional reporting by Matt Cowan and Gwenaelle Barzic; Editing by David Holmes)