Here's an image that is destined to be truly iconic: Members of the European Parliament vote down ACTA in dramatic fashion, hefting signs that read HELLO DEMOCRACY, GOODBYE ACTA.
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A crucial Australian parliamentary committee has reported in on ACTA, the corrupt, US-led copyright treaty negotiated in secrecy, and has joined with all the relevant EU parliamentary committees in roundly rejecting it. Ellen Broad writes for the Australian Digital Alliance:
Yesterday the Australian Joint Standing Committee on Treaties (JSCOT) presented Parliament with a damning report into Australia’s negotiation of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA). The Committee, comprising members from both houses of Parliament, was unanimous in recommending against Australia’s ratification of ACTA (for now).
Adding to global criticisms levelled against ACTA, JSCOT condemns the ambiguity of its language, questions the proportionality of criminal offences for copyright infringement and demands that independent economic analysis of the anticipated costs and benefits to Australia be undertaken before they will consider the treaty again.
Europeans! Remember that the EU votes on ACTA tomorrow, and call your MEP now!
ACTA slammed by Australian Parliamentary Committee
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This Wednesday is the make-or-break moment for ACTA, the corrupt, secretly negotiated Internet copyright treaty. Wednesday is when the European Parliament will vote on ACTA, and it's a close thing. We need Europeans to write and call their MEPs and tell them that ACTA is not fit for purpose, nor will any Internet treaty negotiated in secrecy ever be. The Open Rights Group has information on contacting your MEP if you live in the UK; and Pirate Party founder Rick Falkingve has a way of contacting all MEPs at once.
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We believe that ACTA is such an imbalanced treaty that it disproportionately and unnecessarily puts innovation and freedom of expression at risk. By attempting to deal with two hugely different issues – the counterfeiting of physical goods and digital copyright infringement – the treaty lacks the kind of surgical precision necessary to ensure that fundamental rights are not sacrificed in pursuit of its goals.
Furthermore, ACTA promotes and incentivises the private 'policing' of online content through, for example, its broad thresholds for its criminal measures. It exacerbates such problems by failing to provide adequate and robust safeguards for fundamental freedoms. We set out some key points in our briefing paper.
From the moment it was sprung upon Europe, following a drafting process held in secret, the passage of ACTA has been lubricated by a total disregard for democratic principles. The European Commission has effectively sought to move decisions about ACTA further away from the people and their elected representatives.
There has been a positive consequence of all this: we have seen a renewal of interest in the workings of European democratic institutions, as large numbers of people engage with difficult debates and complex institutional processes in an attempt to understand and influence the passage of ACTA through Europe.
A fifth and final EU committee has reported unfavourably on ACTA, the controversial, secretly negotiated, far-reaching copyright treaty. The damning move came from the committee for International Trade, seen as the most important of the committees considering ACTA. Now that it has reported in, the verdict is unanimous: every expert committee in the EU has recommended against ACTA. Now it is going to the Parliament, whose "rapporteurs" (Members of the European Parliament charged with investigating and reporting on legislation to the whole group) have also roundly rejected ACTA as unsalvageable, the hopeless product of a corrupt process. The European Parliament will vote in two weeks, and there's some talk that the vote will be held in secret, which would allow MEPs to vote against all expert advice and the prevailing desires of their constituencies without fear of reprisals. If that happens, it will be a fitting end -- a corrupt, unaccountable secret vote on a corrupt, unaccountable secret treaty.
Press release – MEP: “Decisive vote against ACTA”
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Tor Books' senior editor Patrick Nielsen Hayden takes to the comments of John Scalzi's Whatever to explain why ebooks are often not available at all places in the world at the same time. It's a combination of the way that publishers feel about e-rights (publishers who acquire print rights almost always demand e-rights, too), the fact that writers and their agents sometimes feel that they can make more money by selling to different publishers in different regions, and the fact that ebook retailers have a hard time keeping things straight when it comes to who has the right to sell where, and generally default to the "safe" choice of not selling at all when there's any doubt.
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John and his agent could have sold us the “World English” package of rights, which would entitle us to publish the book in English everywhere–we would certainly have been willing to offer for that–but instead they opted to take the slightly riskier path of selling us rights only in our core market, reserving the “UK-and-a-bunch-of-Commonwealth-and-former-Commonwealth-countries” package to themselves, in order to try to sell it separately to a British publisher. (This is a slightly riskier path for most genre writers who aren’t top-level New York Times bestsellers, because British publishers don’t really buy very much SF and fantasy from the US below that sales level. This wasn’t always the case but it certainly is now.) After a period during which I imagine John’s agent shopped the book around to various British publishers (I don’t know the details because it’s, literally, not my business), they accepted an offer from Gollancz.
Three EU committees rejected ACTA this week
; good news for a bad treaty. Previously
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My latest Guardian column is "The problem with nerd politics," and it discusses the twin evils of "nerd determinism" and "nerd fatalism" -- both convenient excuses for people who care about technology policy to avoid politics.
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In "nerd determinism," technologists dismiss dangerous and stupid political, legal and regulatory proposals on the grounds that they are technologically infeasible. Geeks who care about privacy dismiss broad wiretapping laws, easy lawful interception standards, and other networked surveillance on the grounds that they themselves can evade this surveillance. For example, US and EU police agencies demand that network carriers include backdoors for criminal investigations, and geeks snort derisively and say that none of that will work on smart people who use good cryptography in their email and web sessions.
But, while it's true that geeks can get around this sort of thing – and other bad network policies, such as network-level censorship, or vendor locks on our tablets, phones, consoles, and computers – this isn't enough to protect us, let alone the world. It doesn't matter how good your email provider is, or how secure your messages are, if 95% of the people you correspond with use a free webmail service with a lawful interception backdoor, and if none of those people can figure out how to use crypto, then nearly all your email will be within reach of spooks and control-freaks and cops on fishing expeditions.
What's more, things that aren't legal don't attract monetary investment. In the UK, where it's legal to unlock your mobile phone, you can just walk into shops all over town and get your handset unlocked while you wait.
Michael Geist sez, "Earlier this year, I appeared at the European Parliament's INTA Committee Workshop on ACTA. While I previously posted my opening remarks and a video of comments, I was unable to post the full report until granted approval by the European Parliament INTA Committee. That report is now available for download and is part of a full report on the workshop that includes all the background reports and a summary of the workshop discussion. My conclusion:"
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.
The Trouble With ACTA: My Analysis of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement
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@jimmy_pirat (a Twitter account with only one post) snapped a blurrycam picture of a campus employment ad that sought students to pretend to be pro-ACTA and hold up photogenic signs, paying €100 for two hours' work. The recruitment agency named in the ad disavows any involvement with it, and has threatened to sue whomever posted it. I wonder who the hoaxter was?
Copyright Lobby Hires Pro-ACTA Demonstrators
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US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has repeated her view that the world's governments should respect Internet freedom, telling the Brasilia Open Government Summit that the world is dividing into "open" and "closed" societies characterized by their attitude towards net freedom. It's a laudable sentiment, but as they say, "We know you love freedom, we just wish you'd share." After all, America is one of the world's leading exporters of Internet censorship and surveillance laws (in the form of its intervention into copyright laws, as well as instigating unaccountable, secret copyright treaty negotiations like ACTA and TPP. They're also the world's leading exporter of Internet surveillance and censorship technology, thanks first to the US national requirement that telcoms companies buy equipment that allows for direct police surveillance, and the aggressive sale of this surveillance and control technology to the world's dictatorship by US firms.
Speaking at the inaugural meeting of the Open Government Partnership in Brasilia, she said countries could only become more secure and peaceful if they were open. "In the 21st century, the US is convinced that one of the most significant divisions between nations will be not between east or west, nor over religion, so much as between open and closed societies," she said.
"We believe those governments that hide from public view and dismiss ideas of openness and the aspirations of their people for greater freedom will find it increasingly difficult to create a secure society."
It's particularly galling that Secretary Clinton made these remarks even as the US Congress is poised to pass CISPA, which establishes a national US regime of censorship and warrantless surveillance. Read the rest
ACTA is the controversial Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, an extreme, far-reaching copyright treaty drafted in secret by industry and government trade reps, under a seal of confidentiality that even extended to Members of the European Parliament, who were not allowed to see what was being negotiated on their behalf. In February, the EU rapporteur (a member of the European Parliament charged with investigating pending legislation and presenting it to Parliament) for ACTA handed in his report and resigned as rapporteur, concluding that the treaty was a disaster for privacy, fairness and human rights, and that the process by which it had been negotiated was hopelessly corrupt. He recommended that the EU reject the treaty. He said, "I condemn the whole process which led to the signature of this agreement: no consultation of the civil society, lack of transparency since the beginning of negotiations, repeated delays of the signature of the text without any explanation given, reject of Parliament's recommendations as given in several resolutions of our assembly."
Now, a few weeks later, David Martin, the new ACTA rapporteur has echoed those earlier recommendations, again telling the EP to reject ACTA, saying "The intended benefits of this international agreement are far outweighed by the potential threats to civil liberties." Here is the conclusion from Mr Martin's report (PDF):
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Unintended consequences of the ACTA text is a serious concern. On individual
criminalisation, the definition of “commercial-scale”, the role of internet service providers
and the possible interruption of the transit of generic medicines, your rapporteur maintains
doubts that the ACTA text is as precise as is necessary.
On TechDirt, Glyn Moody covers the highlights of a new report by Carrie Ellen Sager of infojustice.org that compares the provisions in ACTA, the secretly negotiated copyright treaty currently up for adoption in Europe, the USA and other countries; and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a more extreme, more secretive version of ACTA being negotiated by various Pacific Rim countries.
On "Technological Protection Measures" TPP has two nasty turns of the infringement screw:
TPP goes beyond ACTA by applying provisions on technological protection where circumvention is carried out unknowingly or without reasonable grounds to know.
TPP goes beyond ACTA by explicitly limiting the possible limitations and exclusions to the TPM circumvention rules, while ACTA gives a country free reign to create exceptions and limitations it finds reasonable.
The second of those is particularly troublesome, since it reduces the scope for signatories to introduce more balanced copyright laws even if they wanted to.
Where TPP Goes Beyond ACTA -- And How It Shows Us The Future Of IP Enforcement
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Oregon Democratic Senator Ron Wyden has demanded that the Obama administration receive Congressional assent before signing the USA up to the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, a wide-reaching international copyright treaty that was negotiated in secret (even Congress and the European Parliament weren't allowed to read the treaty drafts as they were negotiated). Wyden argues that the Obama administration's position -- which holds that the president can unilaterally bind the US to enact and maintain legislation -- is at odds with the constitution. In Wired, David Kravets speaks to Sean Flynn, a legal expert, about the dispute, who sides with Wyden, and quotes the US Trade Rep Ron Kirk maintaining that Congress has no role in this trade negotiation.
Wyden's demand is embodied in a legislative proposal to amend H. R. 3606 (the JOBS act), whose purpose is given as "To prohibit the President from accepting or providing for the entry into force of certain legally binding trade agreements without the formal and express approval of Congress."
“It’s a huge deal whether Congress signs it or not,” said Sean Flynn, an American University, Washington College of Law intellectual-property scholar. "The reason it is a big deal, because this is what this agreement does, it tells domestic legislatures what its law must be or not be. These type of agreements are the most important to go through legislative approval and go through a public process and commenting on what the norms are of that agreement. The reason, it locally restricts what the democratic process can do."
Copyright Treaty Requires Congressional Support, Senator Says
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