Loss of Privacy

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

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I’ve written before about many European countries taking a stand against ACTA. Today, four more countries join in opposition of passing the controversial trade agreement. Austria, Bulgaria, and The Netherlands have stood up and agreed that ACTA needs to be seriously rethought and possibly scrapped altogether.

Two million people are already supporting an online petition against the international anti-piracy agreement. It would undermine the privacy, Internet service providers should provide the authorities of private data from users. “People are confused,” Interior Minister recognizes Johanna Mikl-Leitner (VP), the sign of the times and today announced over a veto on the ratification of the Council of Ministers on ACTA.

Now the European Parliament on the train. On 12 June in Brussels on ACTA entschieden.Auch the local Social Democratic Party faction opposes ACTA. If the contract in the EU do not find a majority, he would have to be confirmed in this country in the National Council. “The freedom of the Internet is for us young ones a very valuable asset,” says VP-Secretary Sebastian Kurz.Auch he wants ACTA shelve.

Bulgaria, who also originally signed ACTA, have said they are freezing the ratification of the agreement after numerous protests against it.

Bulgaria will not ratify the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement over fears it will curb freedom to download movies and music for free and encourage internet surveillance, economy minister Traicho Traikov said on Tuesday.

Bulgaria’s Economy and Energy Minister Traicho Traikov says Sofia will not ratify the agreement until the EU member states elaborate a joint position on the document.

So, Bulgaria, like Germany, awaiting the decision of the EU Parliament, but they appear firmly on the side of abandoning ACTA. The Netherlands also haven’t signed the treaty and it looks like they aren’t planning on it any time soon.

They only intend to change this position if there’s irrefutable evidence that it doesn’t violate basic human rights.

Right now this is certainly not the case, as professors Douwe Korff and Ian Brown examined ACTA’s compatibility with human rights and concluded:

“Overall, ACTA tilts the balance of IPR protection manifestly unfairly towards one group of beneficiaries of the right to property, IP right holders, and unfairly against others.”

“It equally disproportionately interferes with a range of other fundamental rights, and provides or allows for the determination of such rights in procedures that fail to allow for the taking into account of the different, competing interests, but rather, stack all the weight at one end. “

“This makes the entire Agreement, in our opinion, incompatible with fundamental European human rights instruments and -standards.”

Again, The Netherlands is looking into it and, if it doesn’t violate basic human rights, the would sign it.

The European Commission is even advising that a partial retreat be taken on ACTA.

The minutes of the meeting, Which have been Obtained by EDRI, say that the head of cabinet Described the “strong mobilization” against the agreement by “Certain NGOs and movements active on the Internet” and stated that a referral of the Agreement to the Court of Justice is being considered. It is noteworthy that the only suggestion is to check the compatibility of ACTA with primary EU law. Such a referral, Depending on how it is framed, risks being quite vague and may not lead to a comprehensive response. However, any broadly Favourable response from the Court would most certainly be used to push through the agreement, on the basis that the ruling “Proves” that there is no problem.

The head of cabinet added that it is Necessary to instigate a period of reflection on how the EU should position itself on this issue and to make an effort to go beyond the argument that growth in the digital economy is only possible with adequate protection of intellectual property . The Secretary General of the Commission closed the discussion by saying the Commission would return to the dossier in due course, after a “period of reflection thorough.”

Viviane Reding, Vice-President of the European Commission and EU Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship, is also backing a review of ACTA before it proceeds any further.

she states “for me, blocking the Internet is never an option” and goes onto argue the current  situation “can and must not be changed by the ACTA agreement”.

“I therefore welcome the intention of several members of the European Parliament to ask the European Court of Justice for a legal opinion to clarify that the ACTA agreement cannot limit freedom of expression and freedom of the Internet.”

If these lawmakers had not taken it upon themselves to vote for such agreements in secret, actually read the documents they were voting on, and considered the people they are supposed to represent, we would be having riots and demonstrations and ACTA would either never have been signed or a different version would have emerged. Now, there is a mess that needs to be cleaned up and those who were supposed to uphold the law are scrambling to figure out what they should do.

Mitchell Baker, the Chair of the Mozilla Foundation, has come out strongly against ACTA as well.

One aspect of the controversy about ACTA is the closed process where only a tiny subset of people affected by the law were allowed to participate. Another great controversy is about the actual content of ACTA. We know that the goal of stopping unauthorized access to digital content can lead to very dangerous results. The proposed SOPA and PIPA legislation in the U.S made this abundantly clear. This is an area where even good intentions can lead to imbalanced and dangerous results.

More people are learning about ACTA. If they can put the pressure on like they did with SOPA/PIPA, there’s a very real chance that ACTA will never be ratified or enacted. The pressure just needs to be applied continually until June when the EU Parliament decide the matter.

Photo from Heute.at.

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In the past few days, Germany, Latvia, and Lithuania have joined other European countries in halting the controversial ACTA treaty. The Economist and the Financial times are now saying that ACTA is as good as dead.

Germany has announce that it is holding off on signing ACTA until the EU Parliament has decided on ACTA. Some believe it’s just a ploy by Germany to appease protesters and that, once the protests die down, they will sign it.

Latvia’s Economy Minister, Daniels Pavluts, has said he will stop ratification of ACTA.

Pavļuts is set to ask the Ombudsman as well as other concerned ministries to provide a detailed explanation and analysis of the ACTA and its potential impact on the Latvian legislative framework for intellectual property rights, copyright law, human rights and fundamental freedoms.

“Despite the fact that the ACTA agreement took several years to be developed, still a number of community groups have raised concern, reflecting the public distrust in the state power and its organs. Such an attitude towards the government has developed in the recent years, because of the lack of a genuine dialogue between the power and the society. Restoring this confidence is a new task for the government,” Pavluts says.

Lithuania’s Minister of Justice, Remigijus Simasius, has also condemned ACTA as unnecessary.

The essence of my comment was that certain provisions of ACTA are new to our legal system (more severe punishment, more control of internet providing services) and I do not see why those provisions are necessary.

I have also stated that our life is more and more dependent on R&D, new inventions, creativity. Existing IP protection system, however, is more about protecting the IP protection industry than a protection of inventors and authors. Current debate worldwide is a clear sign that we have to re-evaluate the existing IP rights system.

While some are saying that there will be no ACTA, there is still a chance that the European parliament will pass ACTA, forcing countries who don’t want the treaty to be bound by it. It all comes down to how the different countries interpret the Lisbon Treaty [pdf]and whether or not they think they need to follow it.

The European Union should also take note that most of the countries that are questioning ACTA are Eastern European countries who know how agreements such as ACTA can play out. They also don’t have very close ties to the United States, who are pushing hard for ACTA worldwide.

The protest map for today may be an indication of why so many politicians are finally taking a serious look at what ACTA is and what it can do.

Photo from Reuters.

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The Transpacific Partnership Agreement, or TPP, is a new trade agreement being sought after by the United States with its trade partners in Asia. If signed, Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru , the US, and Vietnam would cover goods and services and intellectual property between partner nations. Unlike ACTA, the first draft of TPP hasn’t been made yet, however, content owners in the United States are already attempting to dictate what should and should not be included in the agreement.

A paper prepared by the U.S. Business Coalition for TPP (reported to be drafted by the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufactures of America, the US Chamber of Commerce, and the Motion Picture Association of America) and leaked on the Internet, indicates that rights holders are urging the USTR to include in TPP IP protections more extensive than those present in ACTA. Specifically, the paper suggests that the following issues be addressed in TPP:

Temporary copies: The US Business Coalition paper urges TPP countries to include a provision requiring protection for temporary copies. Temporary copies are copies made when you access webpages, or music, or any other content on the Internet. In addition, your computer makes transient copies, such a buffer copies, in the course of replaying such content. These copies have no value independent of the ultimate use they facilitate – your viewing of the movie or listening to the music. Treating them as worthy of copyright protection allows rights holders to claim additional rents where none are due.

This provision actually makes sense. There is no point in copyrighting this sort of information when it is only needed for a short time before it is deleted and of no further use. The fact that such a provision is even needed displays the fact that many companies on the internet are already thinking of implementing such usage of temporary files.

Besides provisions covering copyright length, statutory damages, and circumvention of digital locks (DMCA, WIPO, WPPT), there has been talk of forcing ISPs to act as copyright cops as well as punishing those who commit a single act of infringement the same as someone who commits multiple acts and who may be profiting off of said infringement.

Fortunately, some of the countries negotiating the TPP seem to be aware of concerns with IP provisions in trade agreements. An internal document of the New Zealand government, leaked on the Internet, indicates the government’s reticence to adopt an IP chapter similar to ACTA. The document observes:

“Analysis of the costs and benefits of IP protection shows that there is a tendency towards overprotection of IP in all our societies, particularly in the areas of copyright and patents. The analysis also shows that the optimal rate of protection differs between countries and that it can differ across time as countries move through different stages of economic development.”

“These developments are underpinned by an increasing pressure from rights holders to internationalise a larger array of issues and find international solutions to issues that have only had limited consideration at the national level. This is particularly true for the area of copyright, where rights holders have been seeking the adoption of more intrusive international rules with respect to a range of copyright issues at an early stage of norm development.”

The good news is tat the New Zealand government believes that existing treaties, such as the DMCA, are flawed and were implemented without enough information to formulate an ethical and fair treaty. The bad news is that, while New Zealand government thinks the enforcement of IP and copyright through DRM is bad, they believe it should be monetized instead.

New Zealand also believes that governments should re-evaluate their current treaties in order to bring them up to date with modern technologies while discontinuing the practice of passing any treaties in secret without any civilian oversight.

Many of the current laws and agreements are at least ten years old. Some go back a century or more. It it is vital that these laws be re-evaluated, rewritten, or simply inactivated so that new laws can be created to keep up with the technology that didn’t even exist when they were enacted.

While privacy activists prefer to have the section of TPP’s IP recommendations removed, if it is to be forced upon the citizens of Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru , the US, and Vietnam, then it is vital that the negotiations be publicly held, with input from the public. Without public input, then only those who are directly involved in IP (MPAA, RIAA, etc.) will be the ones dictating policies that affect millions who have no voice.

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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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