Eurocrat in charge of digital agenda: disconnecting people from the Internet is not a just punishment
Neelie Kroes is Vice-President of the European Commission responsible for the Digital Agenda, and recently gave a speech to the World Wide Web Conference 2012 in Lyon, France. It was a hell of a good thing, making the case for network neutrality and open standards, and stating unequivocally that it is not legitimate to punish people for what they do on the Internet by disconnecting them.
In the Arab Spring, many brave activists successfully used the open Internet to coordinate peaceful protests. In response, despotic governments sought to control or close down Internet access; and also used ICT tools as a tool of surveillance and repression.
We cannot allow democratic voices to be silenced in that way. And I am committed to ensuring "No Disconnect" in countries that struggle for democracy. We must help such activists get around arbitrary disruptions to their basic freedoms.
The benefits of openness are clear. And when it’s as simple as an oppressive government trying to turn off the Internet, it's clear that we need to do what we can to prevent that.
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):
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.
The intended benefits of this international agreement are far outweighed by the potential threats to civil liberties. Given the vagueness of certain aspects of the text and the uncertainty over its interpretation, the European Parliament cannot guarantee adequate protection for citizens' rights in the future under ACTA.
Your rapporteur therefore recommends that the European Parliament declines to give consent to ACTA. In doing so, it is important to note that increased IP rights protection for European producers trading in the global marketplace is of high importance. Following the expected revision of relevant EU directives, your rapporteur hopes the European Commission will therefore come forward with new proposals for protecting IP.
Euro MP David Martin dismisses anti-counterfeiting treaty (Thanks, TRW!)
More dominoes are falling in the global fight to kill ACTA -- Bulgaria and the Netherlands have joined Germany and many other EU nations in refusing to move further on the secretive copyright treaty that was negotiated without transparency, oversight, or civil society participation.
"I will table a proposal to the Council of Ministers to stop the procedure of Bulgaria's signing the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement," Traikov said.
The decision means Bulgaria will not take any action concerning Acta before European Union member states come up with a unified position.
Meanwhile, the Dutch Lower House has backed a motion from the Green Left party which says the Netherlands should, for the time being, refrain from signing Acta, according to a report at Radio Netherlands Worldwide.
The RNW report says that the parliament is seeking clarity about whether the treaty threatens the rights and the privacy of internet users.
On a related note, Redjade submitteratored this video shot at Saturday's anti-ACTA march in Budapest.
MEP who resigned ACTA role explains how the treaty will result in invasive border searches of personal devices, privacy-invading dissemination of public's personal information
Kader Arif is the former EU rapporteur on ACTA (the secretive copyright treaty pushed by the US Trade Rep) on Europe's behalf. He made headlines when he handed in his report on ACTA and his resignation as rapporteur, which damned ACTA as an undemocratic, overly broad and ill-conceived trainwreck. In this WSJ interview, Arif goes into detail on the problems that made ACTA utterly irredeemable, and Mike Masnick despairs at how Arif's successor in the EU is seemingly unwilling to stand up for the democratic principles that ACTA tramples.
First is the article 11 of the agreement, which states that the right holder has the right to ask for information “regarding any person involved in any aspect of the infringement or alleged infringement”. This article is worded in such wide and unclear terms that it leaves a great deal of room for interpretation. In practice, almost anyone could be linked to an infringement of intellectual property rights and face criminal sanctions under such a vague definition. It is our responsibility as legislators and people’s representatives not to leave it to a judicial authority to decide of the scope of an agreement which could affect people’s civil liberties.
The second is the issue of having travelers’ personal luggage searched at borders. ACTA foresees that the use of counterfeited goods on a commercial scale can lead to criminal sanctions. But here again no definition of “commercial scale” is given. Article 14 of the agreement clearly states that, unless contrary action is taken by one of the parties, it is possible to search people’s personal luggage, including small consignments. So if a traveler has on his laptop or MP3 player a tune or movie downloaded illegally, could he face sanctions ? How many tunes or movies would one need to set up a commercial illegal activity? In theory one would be enough… The problem again here is that ACTA does not give any clear indication. Besides the fact that it is an extremely sensitive issue to authorize for the search of all travelers’ luggage, and personally I am totally opposed to it, I see here a great risk for abuse and unjustified sanctions.
KILL ACTA: give the EU an earful about secret copyright treaties in Brussels tomorrow at 2PM (and more protests all over the world)
Tomorrow marks a day of global protest against ACTA, the profoundly undemocratic copyright treaty that was negotiated in secret, and which governments are signing up for without democratic review and debate from elected representatives. In Brussels, thousands will mass at the Bourse De Bruxelles at 2PM to give the EU an earful.
Update: Germany's out
To send a letter to your elected representatives, anywhere in the world, use the form below. You can get your own copy of this form from the good folks at KILL ACTA, here. These are the same folks who organized the SOPA blackout: let's make the global fight against ACTA twice as big!
Chief EU ACTA sponsor quits in disgust at lack of democratic fundamentals in global copyright treaty
Kader Arif, the EU "rapporteur" for ACTA (a copyright treaty negotiated in secret, which contains all the worst elements of SOPA, and which is coming to a vote in the EU) has turned in his report and resigned from his
job role, delivering a scathing rebuke to the EU negotiators and parliamentarians, and the global corporations who are pushing this through:
I want to denounce in the strongest possible manner the entire process that led to the signature of this agreement: no inclusion of civil society organisations, a lack of transparency from the start of the negotiations, repeated postponing of the signature of the text without an explanation being ever given, exclusion of the EU Parliament's demands that were expressed on several occasions in our assembly.
As rapporteur of this text, I have faced never-before-seen manoeuvres from the right wing of this Parliament to impose a rushed calendar before public opinion could be alerted, thus depriving the Parliament of its right to expression and of the tools at its disposal to convey citizens' legitimate demands.”
Everyone knows the ACTA agreement is problematic, whether it is its impact on civil liberties, the way it makes Internet access providers liable, its consequences on generic drugs manufacturing, or how little protection it gives to our geographical indications.
This agreement might have major consequences on citizens' lives, and still, everything is being done to prevent the European Parliament from having its say in this matter. That is why today, as I release this report for which I was in charge, I want to send a strong signal and alert the public opinion about this unacceptable situation. I will not take part in this masquerade.
ACTA, the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, is the notorious, unprecedented secret copyright treaty that was negotiated by industry representatives and government trade reps, without any access by elected representatives, independent business, the press, public interest groups, legal scholars, independent economists and so on. Time and again, the world's richest governmental administrations (only rich countries were in the negotiation) told their own parliaments and congresses that they could not see what was in the treaty, nor know the details of the discussion.
The European Parliament was one of the bodies that asked its administration to share the treaty discussions with the elected members, only to be turned down. Cables in the Wikileaks dumps showed US officials orchestrating this secrecy because they knew how unpopular this one-sided, heavy-handed copyright treaty would be. Freedom of Information requests to the Obama administration confirmed that the reason for the secrecy was the experience in transparent negotiation at the UN, which resulted in an uprising by developing nations, who saw stricter, more expansive copyrights as a means of extracting rents from the world's poorest people.
Now the European Parliament is being arm-twisted into ratifying ACTA, which contains many of the worst provisions that Americans rejected in SOPA and PIPA. We need your help and input to resist this terrible, dirty, punishing treaty from coming to Europe.
Previous BB coverage of ACTA (Thanks, noc314!)
David Weinberger sez, "Neelie Kroes, Vice-President of the European Commission responsible for the Digital Agenda, has followed up her controversial observation that the current copyright laws do not seem to be making things better for creators or for culture with a talk that sketches a reasonable approach to helping the Net serve as an instrument of democracy in unfree nations. Go, Neelie, go!"
First, citizens living in non-democratic regimes need technological tools to help them. Tools which shield them from indiscriminate surveillance. Tools which help them bypass restrictions on their freedom to communicate. Tools which are simple and ready-made. I want the EU to help develop and distribute those tools, in a framework that ensures the legitimacy of our action.
Second, activists may need guidance on the opportunities offered by ICT services like social networks. But they may also be dangerously ignorant of the risks they run when they use ICT: like the risk of being spied on and tracked down, even for sending a simple email or text message. We must educate them about the risks and opportunities of ICT. Through material which is simple and informative. Stuff that people without a degree in computer science can understand. In the form of pamphlets, videos, websites, whatever it takes.
Third, to respond to disruptions in ICT services, we need high-quality intelligence about what is going on "on the ground". To know when to act, we need to get information quickly, and act on it quickly. We need information we can trust. And we need to combine the expertise and intelligence of everyone – from the public sector to business, academia and civil society.
The European Court of Justice has issued a ruling that it is illegal for EU nations to spy on users with national censorship firewalls used to block entire websites accused of violating copyright. The Court held that blocking whole sites invades user privacy and restricts access to legitimate content and is an undue burden on free speech.
The Court ruled that issuing an order mandating the use of a filtering system where all subscriber communications are routinely monitored for infringements, not only on currently protected works but also those in the future, would be disproportionate and fraught with difficulty.
Scarlet would be required to install an expensive and complex computer system, which would run contrary to an EU Directive stating that measures to protect copyright may not be unnecessarily complicated or costly, the Court notes.
The implementation of such a filter would also be contrary to the requirement that an appropriate balance be found between the protection of intellectual property rights and the entrepreneurial freedom Scarlet is entitled to enjoy.
Amelia Andersdotter is the Swedish Pirate Party MEP who won her seat more than two years ago, but is only heading to the European Parliament now, due to eurocratic delays. TorrentFreak catches up with the 24-year-old, who will be the youngest MEP in the room when she finally takes her seat.
“European approaches to competition law need to be changed, at least a bit. Better sector adaptation, for instance. The lack of real control over vertical integration creates the situation where telcos (or media enterprises) own everything from the backbone cables to the music streaming service – that’s not good. One would at least expect some obligation to keep the different tiers apart,” Andersdotter says.
“Currently this type of bundling is, more worryingly, encouraged rather than regulated and it creates a very unfair balance between the infrastructure owners (in this case) and users. Competition law just now deals mostly with horizontal integration, which would be say, if one company owns all of the cable in northern Belgium (Telenet).”
Andersdotter points out that the telecommunications sector has some good sector specific laws already, the net neutrality law in the Netherlands being a prime example. The problem is, however, to get all member states to adopt these regulations.
ACTA, the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, is a punishing, secretly negotiated copyright treaty that could send ordinary people to jail for copyright infringement. The EU will soon vote on it. Here's a video for Europeans who want to learn more before their representatives vote to criminalize them, their children and their neighbours.
On the occasion of the Free Culture Forum in Barcelona, La Quadrature du Net releases three films to inform citizens and urge them to take action against ACTA, the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement.
ACTA is a threat to Internet users' fundamental freedoms and to EU Internet companies' competitiveness and free competition. The European Parliament will soon decide whether to give its consent to ACTA, or to reject it once and for all.
Every citizen can help defeat ACTA by spreading this video across the Internet, urging their fellow citizens to mobilize, and contacting their elected representatives.
An Austrian student has kicked off a movement that pits EU privacy rules against Facebook's data collection practices. Max Schrems requested a copy of the data Facebook had collected on him (which Facebook is required to provide under EU law) and found himself with more than 1,000 pages of data that demonstrated several clear breaches of EU privacy laws. Kim Cameron has a good writeup on the ensuing complaints that Schrems filed:
Max is a 24 year old law student from Vienna with a flair for the interview and plenty of smarts about both technology and legal issues. In Europe there is a requirement that entities with data about individuals make it available to them if they request it. That’s how Max ended up with a personalized CD from Facebook that he printed out on a stack of paper more than a thousand pages thick (see image below). Analysing it, he came to the conclusion that Facebook is engineered to break many of the requirements of European data protection. He argues that the record Facebook provided him finds them to be in flagrante delicto.
The logical next step was a series of 22 lucid and well-reasoned complaints that he submitted to the Irish Data Protection Commissioner (Facebook states that European users have a relationship with the Irish Facebook subsidiary). This was followed by another perfectly executed move: setting up a web site called Europe versus Facebook that does everything right in terms using web technology to mount a campaign against a commercial enterprise that depends on its public relations to succeed.
Europe versus Facebook, which seems eventually to have become an organization, then opened its own YouTube channel. As part of the documentation, they publicised the procedure Max used to get his personal CD. Somehow this recipe found its way to reddit where it ended up on a couple of top ten lists. So many people applied for their own CDs that Facebook had to send out an email indicating it was unable to comply with the requirement that it provide the information within a 40 day period.
As the world reflects on the decade following September 11th, Freedom not Fear protesters are attempting to reverse the unfortunate post-911 legacy of online anti-privacy measures. In the wake of 9/11, international government responses had significant impact on Internet privacy. The “war on terror” rhetoric enabled one of the most effective international policy laundering campaigns to quickly enact unpopular and often covert policies with minimal fanfare. Within 45 days of 9/11, then-president George W. Bush already sent his much-wanted surveillance wish list to the European Union. In a letter to the European Commission President in Brussels, the United States sets out a blueprint for privacy erosions the EU could undertake that have sacrificed privacy for little gain in the struggle against terrorism.Freedom Not Fear: Ending A Decade Long Legacy of International Privacy Erosion
The letter called on the EU to eliminate existing privacy protections so that online companies would be free to retain their customers’ online activities: “[r]evise draft privacy directives that call for mandatory destruction to permit the retention of critical data for a reasonable period.” What did this proposed revision mean? One of the key European privacy protections is the data minimization principle. This provision compels companies to limit their collection of personal information to a specific purpose [e.g., billing], and keep their data for only a specific period of time before destroying or irreversibly anonymizing it. This helps prevent online companies from developing sweeping databases on their customers’ activities, while the U.S. Government wished to encourage retention of everyone’s data, whether innocent or not, so investigators will have access to it
The deputy finance minister further disturbs my wild assumptions about him by speaking clearly, even recklessly, about subjects most finance ministers believe it is their job to obscure. He offers up, without much prompting, that he has just finished reading the latest unpublished report by I.M.F. investigators on the progress made by the Greek government in reforming itself.It’s the Economy, Dummkopf! (via Super Punch)
“They have not sufficiently implemented the measures they have promised to implement,” he says simply. “And they have a massive problem still with revenue collection. Not with the tax law itself. It’s the collection which needs to be overhauled.”
Greeks are still refusing to pay their taxes, in other words. But it is only one of many Greek sins. “They are also having a problem with the structural reform. Their labor market is changing—but not as fast as it needs to,” he continues. “Due to the developments in the last 10 years, a similar job in Germany pays 55,000 euros. In Greece it is 70,000.” To get around pay restraints in the calendar year the Greek government simply paid employees a 13th and even 14th monthly salary—months that didn’t exist. “There needs to be a change of the relationship between people and the government,” he continues. “It is not a task that can be done in three months. You need time.” He couldn’t put it more bluntly: if the Greeks and the Germans are to coexist in a currency union, the Greeks need to change who they are.
(Image: Run on Berlin Bank when War Declared, No Date, WWI, Bain Collection (LOC), a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike (2.0) image from pingnews's photostream)
The report said the machines were confused by several layers of clothing, boots, zip fasteners and even pleats, while in 10 percent of cases the passenger's posture set them off.German Police Call Airport Full-Body Scanners Useless
The police called for the scanners to be made less sensitive to movements and certain types of clothing and the software to be improved. They also said the US manufacturer L3 Communications should make them work faster.
In the wake of the 10-month trial which began on September 27 last year, German federal police see no interest in carrying out any more tests with the scanners until new more effective models become available, Welt am Sonntag said.