US And EU Still Clueless About What The SOPA And ACTA Defeats Really Mean
from the how-can-they-not-get-it? dept
In the wake of the recent defeat of ACTA in the European Parliament, the key questions are not just what the European Commission will now do, but what lessons the EU and US will learn from it, especially in the wake of the equally dramatic derailing of SOPA earlier this year. At the annual meeting of the Transatlantic Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) Working Group in Brussels last week, both the EU and US agencies and rights holders let slip a few hints about what they are really thinking.
Here, for example, is how the EU views the post-ACTA situation, as reported by Intellectual Property Watch:
Where IP rights once was a field for experts, now it drives the masses to the streets, the European Commission said referring to recent protests against the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA). Without a much stronger commitment from rights holders, the rejection of ACTA would just be the beginning, Commission representatives said according to observers.
This is extraordinary: rather than taking on board the concerns expressed by tens of thousands of European citizens about how ACTA was negotiated, and the way it sought to preserve outdated business models by weakening online privacy and freedom, the European Commission instead wants rights holders to fight back against this wave of protests. No sense, then, that maybe the Commission and copyright industries should possibly change their position to reflect the clearly-expressed wishes of European citizens, only a worry that without some kind of concerted action, things might swing slightly in the public's favor for once -- perish the thought.
The European Commission wasn't even prepared to consider splitting ACTA into two separate treaties -- one dealing with counterfeits, the other with online copyright issues:
Jean-Luc Demarty, the director general of the Trade Directorate of the European Commission, said at the meeting with regard to question of a potential split of counterfeiting and copyright piracy, IPR could not just be for bags and t-shirts.
This betrays a woeful -- or perhaps willful -- lack of understanding about why physical counterfeits and digital copies are fundamentally different, and need to be addressed with different means.
The US side was not much better:
George York, deputy assistant to the US Trade Representative for IP and Innovation, and Susan Wilson, director of the Office of Intellectual Property Rights in the US Department of Commerce, confirmed during the meeting that despite ACTA’s failure in the EU, the ratification process would go on in the US, despite concerns by some experts about potential inconsistencies with US laws.
Again, no hint that maybe ACTA was the wrong solution, or that it lacked legitimacy without the support of citizens in signatory nations. Just the insistence that the US would plough ahead, regardless of any inconsistencies with those tiresome laws.
As if that weren't enough, the meeting's participants went on to express that they are "highly skeptical" about open access to scientific knowledge -- despite the huge and growing support for it among scientists themselves. The old FUD that open access somehow undermines peer review was rolled out -- even though no one who understands open access even minimally could possibly make that absurd accusation.
The US and EU administrations also both said that India's compulsory licensing of Bayer's anti-cancer drug rang "alarm bells"; tellingly, the EU side added that the EU-India Free Trade Agreement currently being negotiatied "still needs work" -- presumably so as to limit India's freedom to issue more such compulsory licenses.
The nearest thing to a tacit admission that the defeat of SOPA and ACTA indicated something was seriously wrong with the whole system came from William E. Kennard, the US Ambassador to the EU, who boldly suggested that legislators still have not got the balance in this area "quite right". Such a laughable characterization of the chasm that separates what the law tries to impose and what the public now believes is reasonable shows just how little US and EU officials and rights holders have really grasped what this year's extraordinary events mean for copyright -- and for them.