Loss of Privacy

Keeping you informed on recent losses to privacy and civil rights worldwide.

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Keynote address at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg on January 27, 2012 that discusses the role of digital activism in countering bills like SOPA and the ongoing copyfight over the use of WIPO, ACTA, and aggressive laws to promote restrictive copyright rules.

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Last week, Poland and Slovenia expressed regret over the signing of ACTA. Now the Czech Republic and Romania have expressed the same doubts. Czech Prime Minister, Petr Necas, has stated that the Czech Republic will suspend the ratification process of ACTA.

“By no means would the government admit a situation where civic freedoms and free access to information would be threatened,” Necas said.

That is why the government will analyse the issue and have it assessed by experts. “We really must look into the impact it would have in real life,” Necas said.

After learning that their country had signed ACTA, many citizens of the Czech republic took to the streets in protest . Also agreeing with the protesters are several Czech Euro ministers.

Romanian Prime Minister, Emil Boc, has publically stated that he doesn’t understand why Romania even signed ACTA. Emil Boc offered his resignation shortly after, however, the president is still asking questions.

PM Emil Boc said, on Saturday, that, for the moment, he did not hold any information on the circumstances in which Romania had adopted the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), Realitatea.net informs. PSD President Victor Ponta is asking the government to publicly explain why it had signed ACTA on behalf of Romania without a prior public debate and notes that, when it goes to power, USL will suspend the enforcement of the Agreement until a dialogue with the civil society is fulfilled, he notes on his Facebook account.

This is what happens when treaties are proposed and signed in secret. Even those at the top levels of government have no idea what is happening in their countries or how such treaties will affect their citizens.

ACTA is still a very real problem and the countries involved need to take a serious look at what it is and whether they really want to be involved by informing themselves about what ACTA really is.

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Many countries that have signed ACTA are now rethinking their positions and apologizing for screwing up their countries with such legislation. Once everyone actually took the time to read and research what ACTA does, they discovered that they aren’t happy with what it entails at all.

One of the biggest regrets came from Poland this week when it suspended its ratification process for ACTA. Donald Tusk, Poland’s prime minister, said that there were insufficient consultations made before signing it.

Tusk’s backtracking could spell the end of ACTA for the entire European Union. If Poland or any other EU member state, or the European Parliament itself, fails to ratify the document, it becomes null and void across the union. As it stands, there are already five member countries that have not even signed ACTA.

Poland has seen the biggest protests against ACTA, with thousands demonstrating on the streets last week. Hackers believed to be associated with Anonymous attacked Tusk’s website, as well as the European Parliament site, after the signing.

Critics of ACTA say it has insufficient safeguards for online liberties, particularly in signing countries that do not already have strong principles of freedom of speech and expression. In addition, the agreement negotiations, which took place without the contributions of civic groups or elected representatives, have been widely described as undemocratic.

Although Slovenia also signed the agreement, their ambassador, Helena Drnovšek Zorko, has publicly apologized to her country for doing so, saying that it was a mistake.

I signed ACTA out of civic carelessness, because I did not pay enough attention.

Quite simply, I did not clearly connect the agreement I had been instructed to sign with the agreement that, according to my own civic conviction, limits and withholds the freedom of engagement on the largest and most significant network in human history, and thus limits particularly the future of our children.

The final version of ACTA is also very watered down from what it once was.

Here are some major improvements:

The provision that proposed to criminally punish ordinary users (think college kid downloading music) with fines, jail time, seizure of computers, etc., was significantly scaled back as the negotiation process moved on and finally eliminated in the final text.
The provision that required all ACTA countries to hold third parties, such as ISPs and consumer electronics manufacturers, liable for their customers’ infringement was eliminated. This provision, as drafted, was inconsistent with U.S. law and would have required changes to this complex and evolving policy space.

The provision that required countries to institute safe harbors for ISPs from their customer’s infringement was eliminated. While the idea of providing ISPs with a safe harbor is a good one and facilitates the development of platforms and services on the Internet, the way in which ACTA would have required these safe harbors was not good. It lacked safe guards for users that are contained in U.S. law. Further, it could have provided the excuse for measures such as three strikes and deep packet inspection.

The DRM provisions of ACTA were improved significantly. Earlier leaked drafts had called upon countries to prevent circumvention of DRM, treat them as both civil and criminal offenses, and consider them illegal even when there was no underlying attempt to infringe copyright. Furthermore, these drafts had not acknowledged that circumvention could be done for lawful purposes. The final text overcomes these deficiencies and gives countries flexibility in how they implement DRM provisions.

ACTA hasn’t been ratified in Europe yet, so there’s still time to protest it if you care anything at all about democracy and free speech. Protests are being called for on Saturday, 11 February 2012 across Europe.

If you’re still confused about ACTA, visit EFF’s page or this discussion on reddit.

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More at reddit.

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If SOPA were law, the man who wrote it would also be violating it.

Here is Smith’s pre-SOPA website.

Here is the background image, made by DJShulte.

Vice.com discovered the images.

So I took a look back at an archived, pre-SOPA version of his site.

I contacted DJ, to find out if Lamar had asked permission to use the image and he told me that he had no record of Lamar, or anyone from his organization, requesting permission to use it: “I switched my images from traditional copyright protection to be protected under the Creative Commons license a few years ago, which simply states that they can use my images as long as they attribute the image to me and do not use it for commercial purposes.

“I do not see anywhere on the screen capture that you have provided that the image was attributed to the source (me). So my conclusion would be that Lamar Smith’s organization did improperly use my image. So according to the SOPA bill, should it pass, maybe I could petition the court to take action against www.texansforlamarsmith.com.”

Oh dear. Luckily for DJ, there are people out there like Lamar making new laws to protect the little guy against online copyright theft. Keep fighting that good fight, Lamar!

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