Ásta Helgadóttir, reserve MP for the Icelandic Pirate Party, writes, "The European copyright reform is here -- and we have the chance to influence policy reform in this area for the first time in at least 15 years, and there is no way to say when this chance will come around again. The European Commission has opened up for consultation on their proposal for legislation (which then will be sent to the European Parliament) and you, as an individual, alien or organization can give your honest opinion about whatever copyright has done, good or bad, for and to you in the past decades.
The European Commission does not want too many replies at all. The EC has given an extremely short consultation period: only 60 days for 80 questions. It has not provided any translations of this document, and in addition the language used is very technical. Not all Europeans are able to read English, and one thing is for sure: The upcoming copyright reform is going to affect them. The timing, Christmas and holiday period, when people are sure to be busy with other matters, is also strategic. The Commission has rejected pleas on extending the consultation period and providing translations at least in French, German and Polish.
I believe this consultation is important for the future of culture and knowledge in Europe. We cannot make peer-to-peer filesharing illegal -- that is how we, in modern times, share culture, information and knowledge. To make people liable for the content of webpages they link to is just absurd. The objective of copyright should not be to make normal usage and sharing of culture criminal -- but that is a likely outcome of the European copyright reform, unless we make ourselves heard.
Go to www.copywrongs.eu and answer the questions which are important to you. You do not have to answer all the questions, only the ones that matter to you.
The deadline is 5 February 2014. Until then, we should provide the European Commission with as many responses as possible!
Amelia Andersdotter, MEP for the Swedish Pirate Party, and I, Ásta Helgadóttir, reserve MP for the Icelandic Pirate Party, had a workshop on the Copyright Consultation at the 30C3 in Hamburg. We didn't have a clear idea of what the results should be, just that we wanted to motivate as many as possible to answer the consultation. One of the outcomes of that workshop was www.copywrongs.eu, something way beyond what Amelia and I had ever dreamt of. The great people from the Pirate Party Austria, Wikimedia in Germany and Open Knowledge Foundation Germany, all really deserve lots of praise for such hard work.
In Salaries and Work Effort: An Analysis of the European Union Parliamentarians [PDF], a paper by professors Naci Mocan and Duha Altindag in the latest Economics Journal, the researchers take advantage of a recent change in the pay of Members of the European Parliament to examine the relationship between pay and work.
Until 2009, each EU nation chose how much to pay its MEPs, and salaries were highly variant. When they were harmonized in 2009, some MEPs got paycuts, other got raises. The researchers examined MEPs' behavior before and after, and concluded that the MEPs who got raises did less work (attending meetings and sessions) than they had under lower salary conditions; while MEPs who took cuts started showing up for work more.
The UK just gave massive, above-inflation raises to its MPs, and part of the argument was that you have to pay for quality. That proposition does not appear to accord with the data.
The unique event allowed the economists to compare the effects of pay rises and decreases on MEPs' performances between July 2004 and December 2011. From this they drew a startling conclusion: MEPs who got an increase ended up attending fewer meetings, while those who had a pay cut raised their attendance rate. Each percentage increase in salary resulted in a decrease of around 0.04% in the number of days an MEP attended parliament. For example, the average French MEP, whose salary increased from about €76,000 to €92,000, ended up missing an additional parliamentary meeting a year.
"We find that a decrease in salaries motivates parliamentarians to increase their attendance," the economists write. The increase in salary also had a negative impact on the number of written or oral questions asked by parliamentarians.
"European parliamentarians are responsible for passing laws that govern the member countries," the two academics write. "They have control over the EU budget and they supervise the other EU institutions. So given the significance of the job, it might be presumed that the effort MEPs put into their work would not be influenced by their salary. The results of our analysis show that this is not the case."
Paying politicians too much harms their work ethic, study claims [Jamie Doward/The Guardian]
A poll of voters in the UK, Germany, France and Poland finds the UK's position in the EU in a precarious state. It's well understood that there's widespread hostility to EU membership in the UK, with the xenophobic (and racist, and sexist, and unbelievably cruel) UK Independence Party gaining ground and the UK Tories fighting back by espousing eugenics and swearing to renegotiate the UK's position in Europe.
But what's news is the sentiment in Europe, where voters are indifferent-to-hostile to the UK, and seemingly prepared for the country to make an exit from the European Parliament. Only 9% of Germans and 15% of French voters polled think that the UK is a force for good in the EU (Poles were more bullish, but still decidedly lacklustre, at 33%).
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Marietje Schaake, the EU's most tech-savvy MEP, writes, "Recently I launched a global campaign against the trade in digital arms from the EU: stopdigitalarms.eu It is unacceptable that EU-made technologies are still exported, deployed and operated by European companies to third countries without oversight."
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Swedish Pirate Party Member of the European Parliament Amelia Andersdotter sez, "I'm organising a panel in the European parliament on the topic of DRM in
the HTML5 standards because it's clearly a politically contentious
issue. I see no way in which DRM in HTML5 will not worsen the
lives of individuals and technology users in the EU: we are
already in an extremely bad place with respect to cross-border access to
culture, licensing, libraries, services and individuals. So that is a
political mess that I think it is our political and democratic
prerogative to be sorting out in the law, and through politics, before
some technical people with, granted, strong financial backing, start
mucking about with the users' primary tool to reach the internet. There
are some discussions political people should be taking, and other
decisions that technical people should be taking."
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Jacob Appelbaum of the Tor Project and Wikileaks addressed the European Parliament on the issue of surveillance and freedom. It was a remarkable speech, even by Appelbaum's high standards. An amateur transcript gives you a sense of what's going on, but the video is even better: "Is it used for coercion? Is data passed to autocratic regimes? Is it used to study groups? Is it used to disrupt? Yes, yes, and yes. Might they force or forge data? Absolutely."
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We therefore call on EU policy makers:
• to oppose corporate lobbying and to prevent the erosion of privacy protections in the European Union,
• to set a high standard and ensure that EU data protection law sets a global standard for privacy;
• to ensure specific rights of individuals are being preserved, such as explicit consent to personal data processing, the right to access, rectification and certain rights to erasure that are in the existing European legal framework,
• to ensure basic principles that would help protect citizens against untargeted and disproportionate surveillance measures, such as data minimization, purpose limitation, limited storage periods and notification procedures,
• to ensure that personal data processed in the EU is not transferred to third country authorities without a determination that there are adequate privacy safeguards.
Microsoft's new XBox One will ship with region-locks that divide the world; yours will only work if it connects to the DRM server from one of 21 selected countries. The countries include some, but not all, EU nations, which is almost certainly illegal under the EU's strict common market rules. Here's hoping that Redmond gets a punitive fine big enough to clobber the program and scare the shit out of any other company contemplating similar idiocy.
Notably this "region coding" splits up the EU - most countries are in but some are out - and it also excludes Poland, the development home of The Witcher game series, a title Microsoft touted in its E3 launch presentation. Yes, that's right, the developers of this Xbox launch title will not be able to play the game they developed. I generally find it wise to assume that Microsoft are not stupid, but whatever their plan is, it's eluding me here. Sony was quick to announce that its competitive product, the PS4, would not be region-locked.
MSFT to Region-Lock Xbox One on Launch [Alan Wexelblat/Copyfight]
European Broadcasting Union steps in to keep the Greek national broadcaster on the air after police shut it down
Yesterday, the Greek government forcibly shut down the state broadcaster, ERT, sending in the police to drag journalists away from their microphones. The government claimed that the shutdown was the result of inescapable austerity measures. In response, the European Broadcasting Union -- an umbrella group representing public broadcasters across Europe -- has set up a makeshift mobile studio where ERT broadcasters can continue to work and stay on air.
This is being fed around Europe on an EBU satellite as part of its European news exchange operation and can be picked up by commercial stations in Greece but not the general public.
A spokesman for the EBU, which is headquartered in Geneva, said a "high-level meeting with a conference call" with the director general of ERT would take place later on Wednesday to decide on next steps.
Roger Mosey, the BBC's editorial director, who is on the EBU board told the Guardian: "We're watching events in Greece with great concern. When countries are in difficulty, there's an even bigger need for public service broadcasting and for independent, impartial news coverage. I hope that's restored in Greece as soon as possible."
The EBU spokesman said ERT staff in contact with the organisation have told them the power has not yet been cut by the government, but email servers have been taken down. They are now contacting the EBU through smartphones, using Facebook and personal email accounts.
"This is unprecedented, stations have closed and re-opened for a number of reasons, but never with such abruptness," said a spokesman for the EBU.
ERT shutdown: European Broadcasting Union sets up makeshift studio [Lisa O'Carroll/The Guardian]
Proposed EU Data Protection amendment would open the door for secret funneling of Europeans' data to the NSA
Here's an important consideration for Europeans in light of the NSA dragnet surveillance revealed by the recent leaks: some of the amendments to the controversial new EU Data Protection Regulation would open the door to the secret transfer of EU citizens' private information to US intelligence agencies. The UK Liberal Democrat MEP Baroness Ludford has advocated amendments that do this. The Open Rights Group and principled UK LibDems are calling on the Baroness to withdraw her support for these amendments and support transparency and accountability in the handling of sensitive personal information of Europeans.
For instance, the Baroness is behind amendment number 1210.
This removes the right to know if your data might be transferred to a third country or international organisation. It does this by deleting the following bit of the proposed Regulation:
Article 14 – paragraph 1 – point g
(g) where applicable, that the controller intends to transfer to a third country or international organisation and on the level of protection afforded by that third country or international organisation by reference to an adequacy decision by the Commission;
It hardly needs spelling out given the recent news about PRISM and state surveillance, but knowing which companies or countries your data might be moved to is likely to increasingly be a fundamental consideration for someone deciding whether to share personal data.