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Parltrack needs money to keep on turning PDFs and DOCs into usable data

Stefan writes, "Parltrack is free software that liberates a lot of hard to process data (like PDFs, Word docs, and HTML pages) as reusable open data and presents this as a kind of dashboard for activists, providing fresh and relevant data not only for the concerned but the curious citizen as well. Even pros from the European Parliament have praised it. Parltrack is free software, for further development it needs a few more backers in its crowdsourcing campaign." Cory

Student Riots in Italy: a dispatch from Jasmina Tesanovic

When I myself was a protesting student, I remember vividly remembered the cold warning in the text by Pier Paolo Pasolini. He reminded us youngsters that the police we faced in the streets were also someone's children, that not all young people were fortunate enough to be in colleges rather than wearing uniforms, and that we should join all together against the general oppressor, the system, capitalism, the corporations, name it…

That was then, and this is now, and while the students and policemen still have the same interests, they are still on the opposite sides of the barricade. Austerity has driven Italy to its knees. Day by day the future of Italy's young people is vaporizing, and now the streets are flooded by torrential rains, to boot. Italian cities rocked by earthquakes might as well settle for witchcraft, rather than find responsible and competent government officials who can rescue the nation's casualties.

Read the rest

EU working group produces the stupidest set of proposed Internet rules in the entire history of the human race


An EU working group that's been charged with coming up with recommendations for a terrorist-free European Internet has been brainstorming the stupidest goddamned ideas you've ever read, which are now widely visible, thanks to a leaked memo. The group, CleanIT, which is composed of cops, governments, and some NGOs from across Europe, has been given €400,000 to make its recommendations, and a document dated August 2012 sets out some of the group's thinking to date. As mentioned, it's pretty amazingly bad. Like, infra-stupid, containing strains of stupidity so low and awful they can't be perceived with unaided human apparatus. Here's Ars Technica's summary of the ideas in the memo:

* "Knowingly providing hyperlinks on websites to terrorist content must be defined by law as illegal just like the terrorist content itself"
* "Governments must disseminate lists of illegal, terrorist websites"
* "The Council Regulation (EC) No 881/2002 of 27 May 2002 (art 1.2) should be explained that providing Internet services is included in providing economics instruments to Al Qaeda (and other terrorist persons and organisations designated by the EU) and therefore an illegal act"
* "On Voice over IP services it must be possible to flag users for terrorist activity."
* "Internet companies must allow only real, common names."
* "Social media companies must allow only real pictures of users."
* "At the European level a browser or operating system based reporting button must be developed."
* "Governments will start drafting legislation that will make offering... a system [to monitor Internet activity] to Internet users obligatory for browser or operating systems...as a condition of selling their products in this country or the European Union."

Ars Technica's Cyrus Farivar tracked down a CleanIT spokesman on his home planet. But Klaasen is the Dutch national coordinator for counterterrorism and security programme manager of the office of the Dutch national coordinator for counterterrorism and security*, and he is really upset that we can read this stupid, stupid document full of recommendations that would be illegal in European law. He also can't believe that European Digital Rights, the NGO that published the leaked stupid, stupid document, didn't honor the confidentiality notice on the stupid, stupid cover-page.

* Update Cyrus sez, "Klaasen has corrected his title calling himself now the 'programme manager of the office of the Dutch national coordinator for counterterrorism and security'. Here's his LinkedIn page. He's referred to as the 'project manager,' which as far as I can tell, makes him in charge of the whole thing."

"I do fully understand that the publishing of the document led to misunderstandings," he told Ars. "If we publish like this, it will scare people—that’s the reason that we didn’t publish it. It’s food for thought. We do realize these are very rough ideas."

..."You can compare [this situation] to taking pictures of what someone buys for dinner with how a dinner tastes—you don’t have the complete picture," he added.

..."We really didn’t expect that people would publish a document that clearly says ‘not for publication’—that really surprised us," he said. "I don’t know if it’s naive. Why can’t I trust people?" [Ed: Oh, diddums]

Proposed EU plan to stop terrorist sites even more ridiculous than it sounds

(Image: Clown, a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike (2.0) image from manc's photostream)

Neo-Nazi MEP from Hungary discovers he is Jewish

A Hungarian neo-Nazi leader has had to retire from professional antisemitism because he discovered he was Jewish. Csanad Szegedi, who had decried "Jewishness" in Hungary's political class, and referred to Jews as "lice-infested, dirty murderers," was outed by a rival within the neo-Nazi movement, who revealed that Szegedi's maternal grandmother was a Jewish Auschwitz survivor, making him Jewish as well. From an AP story in the NYT:

The fallout of Szegedi's ancestry saga has extended to his business interests. Jobbik executive director Gabor Szabo is pulling out of an Internet site selling nationalist Hungarian merchandise that he owns with Szegedi. Szabo said his sister has resigned as Szegedi's personal assistant.

In the 2010 tape, former convict Zoltan Ambrus is heard telling Szegedi that he has documents proving Szegedi is Jewish. The right-wing politician seems genuinely surprised by the news — and offers EU funds and a possible EU job to Ambrus to hush it up.

Ambrus, who served time in prison on a weapons and explosives conviction, apparently rejected the bribes. He said he secretly taped the conversation as part of an internal Jobbik power struggle aimed at ousting Szegedi from a local party leadership post. The party's reaction was swift.

Hungary Far-Right Leader Discovers Jewish Roots

Trying to understand the secretive son-of-ACTA EU/Canada trade agreement

Michael Geist sez,

Last week's revelations that the Canada - EU Trade Agreement's intellectual property chapter draws heavily from the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement sparked widespread media coverage across Europe. After initially refusing to comment, the European Commission, clearly sensing the growing public pressure, provided a response in which it claimed that the leaked February 2012 text was outdated and that the Internet provider provisions in CETA (which had mirrored ACTA) had been changed.

The European Commission statement not only confirms some changes in CETA, but suggests that the final version will look like the EU - South Korea Free Trade Agreement. This disclosure raises its own set of concerns for both Europeans and Canadians. This posts outlines six major areas of concern given the current uncertainty with CETA, its linkages to ACTA, and the influence of the EU - South Korea FTA.

1. Canada Is Reluctant to Agree to the EU - South Korea FTA Model
2. The EU - South Korea FTA Is More Problematic Than ACTA In Some Areas
3. The EU - South Korea FTA Internet Provider Provisions Are Problematic
4. The ACTA Internet Provider Provisions Are Only Part of the Internet Chapter Problem
5. The ACTA Internet Chapter Is Only Part of the ACTA Problem
6. ACTA, CETA and the EU - South Korea FTA All Share a Common Trait: Lack of Transparency

Why the European Commission's Assurances on ACTA & CETA Don't Add Up

Too many lobbyists, not enough strategists

A bit of pithy insight from the latest EDRIgram: "the intellectual property lobby employs too many lobbyists and too few strategists." In other words, Big Content can get lawmakers to do their bidding, even when doing so discredits them and riles up the opposition. (via Beyond the Beyond)

Member of European Parliament sends "Thank you for fighting ACTA" email with 2K emails in the body

Lee sez,

As part of my protest against ACTA I signed up to the fightforthefuture.org web page, and asked them to contact my MEP on my behalf, which they did.

Now that ACTA has been defeated, Paul Nuttall, UKIP MEP for the North West and UKIP Deputy Leader, emailed people who had protested, en masse. (I am in Devon in the South West, so he is not my particular representative).

I include the email below, but the interesting part is the forwarded message underneath, which includes a list of all TWO THOUSAND AND TWENTY ONE people who signed up...

33 minutes after receiving the email I received another from Paul Nuttall requesting the recall of the email, a little late really.

I frequently hear from career Euro activists that the Members of the European Parliament have little or no IT expertise and support. Everyone has mixed up CC and BCC at some time or another, but using CC or BCC to send an email to 2,021 people in the first place is poor solution to a common problem. It's the kind of thing that your IT department should be able to sort out for you, by creating a mailing list with a single address whose membership MEPs can manage through a browser.

Update: Lee, who submitted the item, clarifies: "The email wasn't BCCd or CCd to the 2021 petitioners, the email that Paul Nuttall forwarded contained the list of emails in it's body. Indeed it seems very much like this list of emails was used to create an email group, which Paul Nuttall then used. He just made the very foolish mistake of forwarding an email containing peoples personal information, whilst saying how UKIP will defend UK citizens rights and privacy."

It's possible that some of the people whose identities were revealed in the email could face workplace sanctions for opposing ACTA (I know a lot of people in the entertainment industry who privately oppose many of their employers' initiatives), so revealing their identities is a potential big deal.

It would be great to see a free/open web service that let people securely send messages to their MEPs, and then also made it easy for the MEPs to reply to them, individually or as a group. If the European Parliament and individual MEPs' parties and staffers can't handle interaction with their constituencies, then the constituents may have to handle it for them.

Update: I received this from Paul Nuttall's office:

May we please ask that you publish our response and apology - and we of course also extend that apology personally to you.

Please find the statement below.

Yours sincerely,

Office of Paul Nuttall

As a libertarian party we are in favour of internet freedom.

We oppose ACTA in its entirety and we are currently campaigning against the EU-Canada trade deal (CETA) which contains many ACTA-like provisions.

http://www.theparliament.com/latest-news/article/newsarticle/eu-accused-of-trying-to-introduce-acta-through-the-back-door/

Read the rest

ACTA IS BACK: Leaked docs show Canada/European Commission trying to sneak ACTA into Canada & back into Europe

Michael Geist sez,

Last week, the European Parliament voted overwhelmingly to reject ACTA, striking a major blow to the hopes of supporters who envisioned a landmark agreement that would set a new standard for intellectual property rights enforcement. The European Commission, which negotiates trade deals such as ACTA on behalf of the European Union, has vowed to revive the badly damaged agreement. Its most high-profile move has been to ask the European Court of Justice to rule on ACTA's compatibility with fundamental European freedoms with the hope that a favourable ruling could allow the European Parliament to reconsider the issue.

While the court referral has attracted the lion share of attention, there is an alternate secret strategy in which Canada plays a key role. According to recently leaked documents, the EU plans to use the Canada - EU Trade Agreement (CETA), which is nearing its final stages of negotiation, as a backdoor mechanism to implement the ACTA provisions.

The CETA IP chapter has already attracted attention due to EU pharmaceutical patent demands that could add billions to provincial health care costs, but the bigger story may be that the same chapter features a near word-for-word replica of ACTA. According to the leaked document, dated February 2012, Canada and the EU have already agreed to incorporate many of the ACTA enforcement provisions into CETA, including the rules on general obligations on enforcement, preserving evidence, damages, injunctions, and border measure rules. One of these provisions even specifically references ACTA. My post includes a comparison table of ACTA and the leaked CETA chapter.

Go read the rest. The European Commission -- a gang of unelected technocrats in the pockets of multinational corporations -- are hell-bent on seeing ACTA turn into European law, even if the elected chamber rejects it. They can't imagine why treaties that will impact everything we do on the Internet (which will be everything we do, shortly) shouldn't be negotiated in secret with a bunch of corporate bums who're looking to line their pockets at public expense.

The Canadian government is almost certain to go along with this -- a more textbook example of corporate lickspittles you will never find. It's up to Europeans to save Europe from its bureaucrats and Canada from its politicians.

ACTA Lives: How the EU & Canada Are Using CETA as Backdoor Mechanism To Revive ACTA

Austerity creates an organlegging bubble

As economic collapse and austerity settle over Europe, criminal gangs have found a lucrative trade in brokering the sale of organs from the desperate poor to the dying rich. In his New York Times feature, Dan Bilefsky opens with the story of Pavle Mircov and his partner Daniella, Serbians who are trying to sell their kidneys so that they can feed and educate their teenage children. The sale of "kidneys, lungs, bone marrow or corneas" is rampant in former Soviet states, but it's also booming in Spain, Italy and Greece -- countries where mandated austerity has stripped away the social safety net at the very moment in which the economy has collapsed and unemployment has spiked (in Spain, youth unemployment is over 50 percent).

I really came to understand this subject better through my reading of The Red Market, by Scott Carney, an excellent book on the sale of human tissues around the world. Though it seems like Mr Carney may have to write a new chapter for the econopocalypse.

Trade in organs in Serbia is illegal and punishable by up to 10 years in prison. But that is not deterring the people of Doljevac, a poor municipality of 19,000 people in southern Serbia, where the government refused an attempt by residents to register a local agency to sell their organs and blood abroad for profit.

Violeta Cavac, a homemaker advocating for the network, said that the unemployment rate in Doljevac was 50 percent and that more than 3,000 people had wanted to participate. Deprived of a legal channel to sell their organs, she said, residents are now trying to sell body parts in neighboring Bulgaria or in Kosovo.

“I will sell my kidney, my liver, or do anything necessary to survive,” she said.

Hunched over his computer in Kovin, about 25 miles from Belgrade, Mr. Mircov showed a reporter his kidney-for-sale advertisement, which included his blood type and phone number.

“Must sell kidney. Blood group A,” the ad said. “My financial situation is very difficult. I lost my job, and I need money for school for my two children.”

Black Market for Body Parts Spreads Among the Poor in Europe

Public rights, private rights, and downloads

Rob posted earlier about a EU high court ruling that upholds the right of people who buy downloadable games to resell them. Many people will point out that this makes it much harder to pursue certain game-distribution business models. This is true, but so what? There are lots of business models that might thrive if only we abolish the rights of purchasers -- "I'll sell you clothes, but you are legally required to buy my special laundry soap" or "I'll sell you yarn, but you have to pay me again if you make socks out of it." Technology makes lots of things possible, but as between, "My business gets more profits at your expense," and "You get more value at the expense of my profits," there's no reason to default to the former. Cory

MEPs vote down ACTA: "HELLO DEMOCRACY, GOODBYE ACTA"


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.

(Thanks, Rene!)

ACTA IS DEAD (ish) (for now)

Michael Geist sez,

On October 23, 2007, the U.S., E.U., Canada, and a handful of other countries announced plans to the negotiate the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement. The behind-the-scenes discussions had apparently been ongoing for several years, leading some countries to believe that a full agreement could be concluded within a year to coincide with the end of the Bush administration. Few paid much attention as the agreement itself was shrouded in secrecy. ACTA details slowly began to emerge, however, including revelations that lobby groups had been granted preferential access, the location of various meetings, and troubling details about the agreement itself.

This morning, the European Parliament voted overwhelmingly against the agreement, effectively killing ACTA within the EU. The vote was 478 against, 39 in favour, with 165 abstentions This is a remarkable development that was virtually unthinkable even a year ago. Much credit goes to the thousands of Europeans who spoke out against ACTA and to the Members of the European Parliament who withstood enormous political pressure to vote against the deal.

The European developments have had a ripple effect, with the recent Australian parliamentary committee recommendation to delay ACTA ratification and the mounting opposition around the world. ACTA is not yet dead - it may still eke out the necessary six ratifications in a year or two for it to take effect - but it is badly damaged and will seemingly never achieve the goals of its supporters as a model for other countries to adopt and to emerge as a new global standard for IP enforcement. That said, ACTA supporters will not take today's decision as the final verdict. In the coming weeks and months, we can expect new efforts to revive the agreement within Europe and to find alternative means to implement its provisions. That suggests the fight will continue, but for today, it is worth celebrating how the seemingly impossible - stopping a one-sided, secretly negotiated global IP agreement - became possible.

The European Parliament Rejects ACTA: The Impossible Becomes Possible

Last push to kill ACTA: act now or the Internet gets it

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.

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. People like you have helped to make sure that the democratic process is respected and obeyed.

ACTA: We’re almost there!

Powerful EU committee rejects ACTA - now it's unanimous

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”

ACTA crash-landing in the EU

Michael Geist has more detail on the fortunes of ACTA, the secretive copyright treaty that seems to be crash-landing in Europe, about which Rob posted earlier:

Earlier today, three European Parliament committees studying the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement - the Legal Affairs Committee (JURI), the Committee for Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE) and the Committee for Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) - all voted against implementing ACTA. The rejection from all three committees confirms the lack of support with the Parliament for ACTA. A final European Parliament vote is expected in July with additional committee recommendations coming next month.

The strength of the anti-ACTA movement within the European Parliament is part of a broader backlash against secretive intellectual property agreements that are either incorporated into broad trade agreements or raise critical questions about prioritizing IP enforcement over fundamental rights. This week the Dutch Parliament voted against ratifying the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, a move that some experts say could effectively kill ACTA (which is a "mixed agreement") throughout Europe. The opposition to ACTA-style treaties (which obviously include the Trans Pacific Partnership and bi-lateral agreements such as CETA) is part of a growing international trend as elected officials and independent policy officials around the world voice their objection to these treaties.

The implications of this backlash are significant as they points to increasing discomfort with the inclusion of intellectual property chapters within large scale trade agreements. Indeed, intellectual property is invariably one of the major stumbling blocks within these agreements - whether the inclusion of the Internet provisions in ACTA, the TPP IP chapter, and the Canada-European Union Trade Agreement which is facing a major backlash over the IP rules. Note that these are not "anti-IP countries" but rather countries that recognize that trade agreements frequently do not yield intellectual property rules that serve their national interest. The development of global IP norms is important, but it belongs in open, transparent, inclusive multilateral institutions, not secretive trade deals like ACTA, the TPP, and CETA.

EP Committees Reject ACTA As Backlash Against Secretive IP Agreements Continues to Grow (Thanks, Michael!)