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The APC European Internet Rights Project

Country Report — Denmark

by Advokat Kim G. Hansen, LL.M


Access to the Internet is widely available in Denmark. According to official estimates more than 45% (1999-figures) of all Danish families now has Internet access from their own homes and more than 50% of all PC's used in companies have access to the Internet 1. In addition most educational establishments and public libraries allows their users to access the Internet for free. Based on a 1999-survey it has been estimated that 88% of all Danish companies would have their own home page by the end of year 2000. According to another survey from 19992 the use of the Internet is not gender specific, but that about 85% of the users are below 40 years of age. The relative number of users in the larger cities (Copenhagen and Aarhus) are according to this survey significantly higher than in the rest of the country.

Since the middle of the 1990-ties the Danish government has focussed on the development in the IT area in general and has tried to initiate various initiatives related to IT development. IT related subjects are normally handled by the Ministry for IT and Research. Said initiatives have resulted in a number of reports outlining different strategic goals relating to i.e. availability of computers, Internet access and education of specific groups of people or the Danish population as a whole. Among the newer and more important initiatives are the securing of a personal Internet access to everyone giving access to information about himself held by the public authorities, the possibility to access public information through the net and the possibility to exchange and submit all kinds of information, i.e. tax reports, with the public authorities and securing access to broad band data networks for everyone.

In order to facilitate e-commerce the Danish government has enacted legislation relating to electronic signatures3 as well as establishing a Internet portal relating to electronic commerce4 and in co-operation with relevant interest groups a mark of approval (e-handelsmaerket) to be used by e-commerce sites which agrees to adhere to certain minimum standards designed to further consumer trust.

Connection to the Internet is normally obtained through telephone lines and dedicated data lines. Such lines are widely available. Contemplating that European legislation would force EU member states to liberalise the telecommunications services within the EU, the Danish Parliament (Folketinget) in 1997 liberalised the access to the Danish telecommunications market. Subsequently the Danish state sold its shares in the national telecommunications company, Tele Denmark Communications (TDC), and the company, which is now controlled by an American company, SBC, is in principle subjected to free competition from others. However being the previous sole provider of telecommunications services in Denmark, TDC controls the existing physical telephone and data lines and the telephone exchanges, and other telecommunications service providers have been forced to pay, what they consider to be excessive prices, to be granted access. This issue is often brought before the public authority, Telestyrelsen, which authorises TDC's prices. Telestyrelsen has the authority to order TDC to lower its prices for the above mentioned access based on a comparison with prices in only one country. This has in several cases resulted in TDC lowering its prices. Probably due to its position as a prior monopolist and the company's present position as the main telecommunications service provider, TDC was omitted when Telestyrelsen in December 2000 appointed service providers to gain access to FWA-licences in Denmark.

Internet Service Providers are not subjected to registration nor to any ISP-specific legislation.

On the 26 may 2000 Folketinget finally managed to implement the EC-Directive on data protection and as of 1 July 2000 a new Data Protection Act has been in force5. The Data Protection Act does not contain any Internet specific provisions, but as the act applies to all information related to identifiable persons the act is relevant for data protection on the Internet as well.

According to the Danish Constitution everyone is free to express his thoughts in writing and it is not possible to restrict this right by invoking censorship by legislation. However one has to answer to the courts for ones statements, i.e. in the case of libel or defamation6. The prohibition against censorship does not extend to movies and the like. Also the provision does presumably not interfere with an ISP's rights to enter into an contractual agreements with its users, that these are forbidden to upload certain material on the ISP's servers (i.e. nazistic propaganda and the like) or agreements whereby users can be ordered to remove such material as the ISP finds unacceptable.

The rights conferred by Section 72 of the Constitution, whereby it is unlawful to examine letters belonging to others as well as to breach the secrecy to be observed in i.e. postal matters unless such examination or breach takes place under judicial order or is warranted by statute also applies to e-mail7. Anyone who conducts an unlawful examination is liable to punishment according to the Criminal Code. The protection does not extend to e-mails recieved by employes at their working place, as such e-mail is presumed to be work-related.

The use of encryption has to this date not been regulated through legislation and accordingly everyone is free to import and use cryptographic systems. After some initial doubts and hesitation the government now encourages the use of such systems by both persons and companies. The governments present position is partly based on a recommendation by the national IT Security Council8 At the present time there are no plans for the introduction of compulsory escrow of encryption keys, but the government has reserved its right to introduce such measures and is monitoring the international developments in this field.

In conclusion Internet access is widely available in Denmark. The use of the Internet is encouraged by the government, which has announced a number of forthcoming initiatives relating to this use, i.e. securing Internet access and more widely available access to broad band networks for everyone. The individuals right to privacy and confidentiality when using the Internet does not seem to be impeded by the government.


5 January 2001



1. Source: The Ministry of IT and Research: www.fsk.dk

2. Danskernes internetvaner by Anders Blauenfeldt and Mikkel B. Stegman. The report is available in Danish at http://www.znail.dk/survey/

3. Lov nr. 417 af 31/05/2000

4. http://www.elektroniskhandel.dk/

5 . This has been anticipated in the report on privacy and human rights: http://www.gilc.nl/privacy/survey/index.html

6. Section 73.

7. Please refer to the report on privacy and human rights: http://www.gilc.nl/privacy/survey/index.html

8. Available in english at www.fsk.dk



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