Loss of Privacy

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From Keep the Web Open:

On March 7, 2012, the top Obama Administration trade official – US Trade Representative Ron Kirk – testified before the Senate Finance Committee on the disturbing, Internet-threatening work USTR is doing with the Anti Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) and the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP). Get the full hearing documents and testimony here.

You can read more about ACTA and TPP here and on Ars Technica.

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ACTA expert and canadian law professor Michael Geist at the European Parliament’s workshop on ACTA 01.03.2012

His full report can be found here.

“This report concludes that ACTA’s harm greatly exceeds its potential benefits. Given ACTA’s corrosive effect on transparency in international negotiations, the damage to international intellectual property institutions, the exclusion of the majority of the developing world from the ambit of the agreement, the potentially dangerous substantive provisions, and the uncertain benefits in countering counterfeiting, there are ample reasons for the public and politicians to reject the agreement in its current form. In doing so, governments would help restore confidence in the global intellectual property system and open the door to a new round of negotiations premised on transparency, inclusion, and evidence-based policy-making.”

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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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