by Mike Masnick
Wed, Jul 11th 2012 10:30am
by Mike Masnick
Wed, Jul 11th 2012 5:09am
from the do-these-people-think? dept
The headline defines the kind of malarkey we're in for, stating: Throwing out Acta will not bring a free internet, but cultural disaster.
Really? So blocking an agreement that ratchets up copyright enforcement marginally, and which might criminalize a few things that are widely accepted in the public, means we're headed for cultural disaster? How so? Morrison never bothers to tell us. He makes no reference, whatsoever, to anything that's actually in ACTA, but seems to merely assume that ACTA would have magically made piracy go away and sent people back to buying CDs and DVDs... and even paying for news again. Clearly he has never read ACTA. Many of our concerns about ACTA weren't in what it would directly do, but in how it would set new floors that meant today's problems in copyright law couldn't be fixed going forward. There were also issues of vague definitions that we were afraid would be used overly broadly ("commercial scale" for example), but that wouldn't have changed the basic issues Morrison seems concerned with.
History is strewn with moments when politicians made swift decisions that led to disastrous consequences. One such moment has just occurred. In throwing out the Acta (Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement) bill on Wednesday, MEPs in the European parliament have unwittingly signed their countries up for a future in which internet piracy will lead to the decline of film, the novel, journalism and music on an industrial scale.This is pretty funny, in that this was actually quite the opposite of a "swift decision." Copyright expansion, on the other hand, has a long history of government officials pushing for "swift decisions" that expand copyright law, without giving anyone any actual economic evidence that it's needed, or explaining any logical rationale. This is an issue that goes back centuries. Copyright expansion is always rushed through. We almost never see thoughtful debate on the issue. Instead, the rejection of ACTA was quite the opposite. It was a case where the public spoke up, and many MEPs actually took the time to inform themselves of the details and realized that ACTA is not a path forward. In fact, many MEPs changed their minds on the issue over the last six months as more data and evidence was presented to them. That's the exact opposite of what Morrison claims happened.
This is not scaremongering. One need only look at the stats from the US, where during the Clinton administration the internet companies were given free rein to pillage copyright material via the rushed-through Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).I have to assume that Morrison was not paying much attention during the battle over the DMCA, because it was anything but "rushed through." In fact, if Morrison actually knew anything about the history of the DMCA, and the long and hard-fought battle that went into it, he would know that it was championed by the legacy entertainment industry as the savior for their business (just as they demanded SOPA and ACTA) and it was the other side -- those who believed it would lock up culture -- who were protesting against it, and worked for years to have it repealed. For the "copyleft," the DMCA was considered a huge failure. For Hollywood it was considered a long-fought win. Pretending it was quick and a victory for the other side, is an attempt to either rewrite history, or is history written by someone who is ignorant of what really happened.
This revisionist history of the DMCA is really amusing for those of us who lived through the original battle. However, due to some misinformation, a few new copyright maximalists today pretend that the DMCA was a bad law for them, even though it was what they fought for. Of course, their real complaint is with just one aspect of the DMCA: the section 512 safe harbors, which the ISPs fought to have included in the law, because without it, folks like the RIAA and MPAA (and, apparently, Ewan Morrison) would try to sue the ISPs if they didn't wave a magic wand and stop their users from infringing. If you actually take the time to understand the safe harbors, they make perfect sense: they say that you blame the party actually infringing, not the tools they use. To people like Morrison, apparently, it's better to blame the tools. For what it's worth, the DMCA only applies in the US. If Morrison -- who appears to not live in the US -- is really so troubled by it, I'd imagine he'd have proof of services in other countries that succeed in stopping piracy because they can be sued out of existence based on their users' actions. Oh, he doesn't?
According to Robert Levine, in his book Free Ride, the music industry in the US has declined by over 55% in the last decade. Film is following with its first decline in recorded history. Journalism is heading towards "free". All because people now assume that "ripping" is the norm. If "aggregation" is OK, as the Huffington Post do it, then why should we pay for journalism? Why should we be branded pirates? This is what the European parliament has just ruled. Everything on the net, from now on, will be free.Almost everything stated here is wrong. First of all, the music industry in the US has not declined by over 55%. The recording industry has. But the recording industry is not the music industry. The music industry continues to grow (and that's based on the IFPI's numbers -- yes, the industry's own numbers).
As for "film," more and more films are being produced every year, and all sorts of new business models are popping up. 10% of the movies at Sundance this year were financed by Kickstarter -- a site that was less than 3 years old at the time. Imagine how many films will be financed by new business models and services going forward?
As for journalism, that's not heading towards "free" because "ripping" is the norm, but because of the basic economics of the internet and the fact that there's a lot more competition. The attack on HuffPo is just totally misinformed, since HuffPo/AOL actually employs a ton of journalists, contrary to Morrison's claim. Besides, if "aggregation" is beating your reporting, you're doing it wrong.
And, as for that final line: "This is what the European parliament has just ruled. Everything on the net, from now on, will be free." I'm curious if Morrison can point out (1) where it says that everything online will be free and (2) where ACTA would have stopped that? Does he think that ACTA would have magically stopped fundamental economics of competition? That ACTA would have magically wiped out free content online? The failure of ACTA doesn't make content free. Morrison seems to think ACTA is something that it is not. And ACTA supporters claim that those who fought ACTA ran a misinformation campaign -- where are they denouncing Morrison's crazy claims? ACTA would not have had any impact on the online services that Morrison seems to think are the root of all of the problems in the world. It didn't address that issue at all.
As a journalist, novelist and a friend of many who "used to be" musicians, I see the wrong in this."This" being the strawman that Morrison just set up -- that without ACTA, everything is free. You see the wrong in a claim that you totally made up out of thin air that has no basis in reality. Kudos to you.
I defend copyright because it is the lifeblood of the creative industries and of democracy.And yet... somehow, magically, as copyright has become less and less respected, content production has increased by orders of magnitude and creative industries have grown as well. If it's the lifeblood of creative industries, then that wouldn't be true. In other words, this claim is flat out wrong.
And, uh, copyright is the lifeblood of democracy? How so? Morrison provides no other explanation and there is none, because that's a ridiculous claim that has no basis in, well, anything. Hell, here in the US, the first major democracy, we came quite close to not having copyright law at all. No one -- on any side of this issue -- thinks that it is necessary in a democracy. You might argue that it's a good thing, or a bad thing, but no one thinks it's the lifeblood of democracy.
Other unexpected voices have joined the cause of copyright protection – Dr Dre claims there will be no future generations of rappers because of piracy and the expectation that recording artists will put their work out for free.Hello, totally random non-sequitur. Why is Dr. Dre an "unexpected voice" in all of this? I could just as easily list off tons of musicians who claim otherwise. If we're looking at the rap world, why not talk to Chuck D or Hank Shocklee or 50 Cent -- all of whom have stated the exact opposite. I actually tried to look up the details of this claim by Dre, and couldn't find it anywhere. The only thing I found was that he followed Lars Ulrich's original lawsuit against Napster with his own such lawsuit. That was more than a dozen years ago. The market for rappers has not disappeared at all. In fact, it's grown. Why? In large part because of the mixtape world, in which artists put their work out for free -- which has resulted in many of the top rappers today getting discovered, and making a ton of money down the road. So, forgive me for not buying the claim from Dr. Dre when reality has shown the exact opposite.
Modern consumers don't think of the next year – they are hooked on the short-term quick fix. They don't understand the negative impact of piracy.Of course, we're still waiting for the actual economic evidence of the "negative impact of piracy." Most studies don't seem to show that. They do show that it has caused some difficulty for some record labels, and shifted around where some of the money goes, but that's about it.
Over the last year, I've conducted surveys of the students I've lectured and 90-98% of them, between the ages of 18 and 32, are involved in daily acts of piracy.Not quite sure where he lectures, but there is absolutely no reasonable study that supports this claim. None. Zilch. Zippo. Music Ally, who's really good on these things, did a survey a few years back, and found that the rate of infringement among younger people was actually decreasing -- and they were looking at those who did it at least once a month (not daily, as Morrison says is the case of the young people he talks to). In 2009, they found that the percentage of teens who file shared once a month was 26% (down from 42% two years earlier). And yet Morrison claims that it's 90 to 98% infringing daily? Meanwhile, a study done at Columbia University last year found that 70% of those 18 to 29 had acquired some infringing content, but that "large scale" piracy was exceptionally rare. Of those in the 18 to 29 year age bracket (closely corresponding to Morrison's 18 to 32) a mere 7% had large digital music collections -- which you would expect if they were sharing every day.
So forgive me for putting on my skeptic's hat, but that 90 to 98% claim doesn't pass even the simplest laugh test.
Oh, and let's not even start discussing the fact that every single study on the subject has shown that "regular" infringers spend more on content than those who don't infringe at all. In other words, if Morrison's number was actually accurate, there likely would be a lot more spending on content.
They no longer pay for music or films or journalism.Again, the actual evidence has shown that those who infringe actually spend more than those who don't bother. But why let facts get in the way of good rant?
They have a vague idea that what they do is left wing, that it has somehow to do with freedom of speech. And I say to them, but don't you want to make films, be journalists, make music? Where will the money come from if you don't pay? This is a blind generation. And there is no point trying to convince them person-to-person that what they are doing is damaging their own future.Which of course ignores the fact that many of these kids are likely aware of all sorts of new business models that have been popping up all over the place. They know that the live music market has grown tremendously. They know that there are platforms like PledgeMusic and Kickstarter and IndieGoGo. They know that services like Spotify are now paying larger and larger sums and many users are switching to them away from infringement out of convenience. They know, then, that there's still plenty of money to be made.
The only solution is governmental.Er, except that we've already seen that the actual solution is not governmental, but is coming from all sorts of amazing innovations and new services that help artists create, distribute, promote and monetize already.
And the problem started with legislation: the DMCA, with Clinton, who was bullied into it by the tech companies in Silicone Valley.Again, this is an astounding rewriting of history in that it flips the story completely on its head. First of all, it's Silicon Valley, not Silicone. Second, the DMCA was pushed almost exclusively by the entertainment industry, and its passing was celebrated by them, and decried by the tech industry in Silicon Valley who, for years, sought to have it repealed. It's difficult to take Morrison seriously when his key talking point appears to be the opposite of what really happened.
The ruling makes it impossible to sue internet providers for copyright infringement on their own sites. So for example, if I am a band, it will be my responsibility, or that of my record company, to trawl the tens of thousands of rips of my songs and send out writs and sue individuals. Meanwhile, the internet companies who profit from piracy are left scot-free, legally.First of all, the DMCA is a law, not a "ruling." Second, it is not impossible to sue internet providers for copyright infringement if they're responsible for the infringement. It only says that if they are the tool provider, you don't blame them for how people use the tool -- but you can use the DMCA to have them take down infringing content. And I wonder: how "scot-free" did Veoh get off? That company was sued by Universal Music for copyright infringement and had to shut down because of the legal costs... even though the judge eventually ruled Veoh legal. YouTube has been fighting a massive infringement lawsuit from Viacom. Scot-free? Meanwhile, lots of other companies have been shut down in a post-DMCA era, including Napster, Grokster, Aimster, Kazaa, Morpheus, Zediva, etc. Scot-free? Even if you believe many of these companies should have been found legal, it's clearly 100% false that any company can use the DMCA to avoid legal impact.
And, these days, nearly every major user-generated content site offers a copyright filter, anyway, that lets copyright holders "register" their works and have them blocked.
According to Robert Levine, 75% of all material on YouTube is in breach of copyright. That's a $36bn company, with 75% of its content based on piracy. And don't forget that Google owns YouTube. Also, Google Adsense places advertisements on YouTube pages, and makes money from them, without any proper legal procedure to test whether such pages have been ripped. Google and YouTube also sell ads on pirated pages. And 99% of their income is based on selling ads.First of all, I'm not sure where the "$36 billion company" part comes from. Google is valued at closer to $200 billion. Perhaps he means just the YouTube part of it, which perhaps is valued at $36 billion, but as a subsidiary of Google I'm not sure that number is accurate. Either way, even if we accept the claim that 75% of the material on YouTube is infringing -- a claim that seems dubious -- that doesn't mean squat. Where is YouTube actually making its money? Videos on YouTube are not all equal.
And, here's the big thing that Morrison leaves out: YouTube long ago instituted ContentID -- a system that lets anyone designate all of the content they hold copyright on, and prevent any of it from being uploaded to YouTube. It also has this amazing thing that lets copyright holders monetize the videos by putting ads on them and having Google give most of that money to the copyright holder. In other words, for many, many copyright holders, YouTube has become a massive profit center. And Morrison doesn't even mention that, bizarrely suggesting that only Google makes money on those ads. Also, while some Google ads have made their way onto sites that offer infringing works, Google is pretty good at policing that. In fact, part of the evidence against Megaupload was the fact that Google cut off their ads on the site. That seems to disprove the basic claims Morrison makes.
The internet is a vast succubus that preys on the content made by the creative industries. Ask yourself why it is that recent culture has ground to a halt.Er, culture hasn't ground to a halt. More music is being released today than ever before in history. More movies are being released today than ever before in history. More books are being released today than ever before in history. More sources are reporting the news today than ever before in history.
There is nothing radical or hip about being a pirate. Those who think they are being counter-cultural by ripping content off the web are fools, and this includes those who fought against Acta in the name of "freedom of expression". They want the internet to be some kind of 60s utopia where everything and everyone is free. But we still live in capitalism, and if you make culture free, you make it a ghetto.I have no words to respond to this paragraph, because it makes no sense and has no basis in reality. In all the years that I've been involved in these discussions I have never, not once, heard anyone claim that they're looking for some sort of hippie/utopian vision where "everyone is free." In fact, many of us believe strongly in true free market capitalism, where we try to minimize things like government granted monopolies on abundant goods. And, again, this idea that if culture is "free" it's a ghetto is again proven wrong by reality. Shakespeare wrote in a time without copyright, and seemed to create some pretty compelling cultural artifacts. Oh, and if you look at the data, it sure looks like public domain works sell pretty damn well. The copyright-free world is not a cultural ghetto, and we have empirical evidence to show that.
The internet is not free. It is about as free as the free market. And the companies that run the internet are all massive US corporations. When you rip material on the net, there is a cost. You are handing over you own country's cultural content to US corporations, who will never pay a penny in return.Really, now? Of course, paying the RIAA/MPAA labels and studios -- who both have a long and very detailed history of failing to pay royalties -- is somehow better? Whereas, when you actually look at the companies that Morrison is slamming, you discover a very different story. We've already discussed Google's ContentID program, which returns a hell of a lot more than "pennies" to content creators. And then you look at things like Kickstarter, in which more than 90% of the revenue goes directly to the artist -- completely flipping the traditional label structure on its head (where standard royalty rates are 10% to 15% and only if you recoup).
After Acta has died, we must go back to US legislation and overturn the DMCA. Sites like YouTube would then be deprived of 75% of their illegal content. It won't be much fun – 75% less fun, but then maybe we will start to understand that we have to pay for culture.As if ACTA would have changed the DMCA? It would not have. At all. Morrison clearly has not read it. Second: if, in this mythical version of the world, we did in fact "overturn the DMCA" (or, rather the only part he really dislikes -- the safe harbors -- because I imagine he'd throw a complete shit-fit if the rest of the DMCA were overturned), there wouldn't be 75% less content on YouTube. YouTube would basically cease to exist. There would be 100% less content. And you know what? For all of those who want to distribute and share their content, they would no longer get to use YouTube's storage, bandwidth and software for free.
You see, these services he's slamming as somehow profiting unfairly, also happen to provide tremendously useful services for content creators. Before YouTube, if you wanted to post video online, you had to install a complex and expensive video server that had serious compatibility issues, and you had to pay for all that bandwidth at crazy high prices. But YouTube provided all that stuff for free... and made it easy. If he's so concerned about "free," then I assume that he doesn't use any of these free services online.
Over the years, we've seen all sorts of ignorance spouted in support of copyright maximalist positions, but I have to admit that this piece takes all of that to new and never-before-seen levels. As far as I can tell, there is not a single accurate or sensible sentence in the entire piece. Kudos, Ewan Morrison, for setting a new bar in ridiculous articles. All others shall, in the future, be measured on the scale you set in this entirely fact-free piece.
by Glyn Moody
Tue, Jul 10th 2012 3:52pm
from the messy dept
In the arguments over ACTA, one criticism seemed widely accepted: that it tries to bundle together two quite different challenges -- tackling counterfeit goods, like fake medicines, and dealing with unauthorized file sharing. One popular suggestion was that ACTA should be split in two in order to handle those separately – for example, David Martin, the politician who played a key role in convincing the European Parliament to reject ACTA this week, supports this approach.
But a case reported on TorrentFreak suggests that the distinction between the two worlds is starting to blur:
A New York federal court has ordered a rare default judgment in favor of John Wiley & Sons, one of the world’s largest book publishers. Robert Carpenter from Poughkeepsie, New York, has been ordered to pay the publisher $7,000 in damages for sharing a copy of "WordPress All-in-One For Dummies" on BitTorrent. According to Judge William Pauley, the man is guilty of both copyright and trademark infringement.
The judge specified that $2,000 of those damages were "for Carpenter’s counterfeiting of Wiley’s Trademarks". As TorrentFreak notes:
To our knowledge, this is the first time that sharing files on BitTorrent has been viewed as counterfeiting, a description that’s usually reserved for fake goods sold as the real deal.
That's troubling, because it would seem to open the door for anti-counterfeiting measures aimed at tackling serious trademark infringement to be applied routinely to P2P sharing of copyright files simply because they are exact copies of originals. That, in its turn, would mean that separating ACTA's measures against counterfeit goods from those dealing with online infringement might not be enough to solve the treaty's problems, since the former would still apply to the digital world. Yet another reason to bin ACTA completely and to start again from scratch.
by Mike Masnick
Mon, Jul 9th 2012 11:12am
from the will-it-matter dept
Last week, a group of public interests organizations also hand delivered an online petition that was signed by over 90,000 people raising concerns about TPP. I generally don't think much of online petitions like this, but in this situation, where's it's incredibly important for the USTR to recognize that the public and internet users are watching -- and are concerned -- something like this seems like it could be helpful in at least making the USTR negotiators recognize that the public matters.
Of course, for them to prove that they really understand that, they'd need to start being a hell of a lot more transparent, such as by releasing the US recommendations that are being negotiated. Until that happens, it's difficult to trust the USTR to really be looking out for the public's best interests.
by Glyn Moody
Mon, Jul 9th 2012 9:00am
ACTA's Back: European Commission Trying To Sneak In Worst Parts Using Canada-EU Trade Agreement As A Trojan Horse
from the not-dead-yet dept
Even in the face of a resounding rejection of ACTA by the European Parliament last week, the European Commission seems determined to keep pushing for its eventual adoption. Techdirt noted some ways in which it might try to do that, but an important article by Michael Geist lays out what seems to be an alternative approach that is already close to fruition:
According to recently leaked documents [pdf], 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.
Here's how that would work:
The European Commission strategy appears to be to use CETA as the new ACTA, burying its provisions in a broader Canadian trade agreement with the hope that the European Parliament accepts the same provisions it just rejected with the ACTA framework. If successful, it would likely then argue that ACTA poses no new concerns since the same rules were approved within the Canadian trade deal.
What's extraordinary is how slavishly the CETA IP chapter follows ACTA -- Geist's post provides a table comparing the two in detail, and for many key issues, CETA adopts ACTA's wording exactly.
This includes requiring the promotion of "cooperative efforts" that could see ISPs taking down content on a "voluntary" basis; the use of the meaningless term "fair process"; disclosure of a subscriber's information "expeditiously" upon accusation of infringement; civil damages that consider "any legitimate measure of value that may be submitted by the right holder, including lost profits"; the use of the vague term "commercial scale" for both civil and criminal enforcement measures; and criminal liability for "aiding and abetting" infringement.
What that means is that practically all of the key stumbling blocks that persuaded the European Parliament to vote against ACTA are also present in CETA. As Geist observes;
The backdoor ACTA approach creates enormous risks for Canada's trade ambitions. Given the huge anti-ACTA movement, the Canada-EU trade deal could face widespread European opposition with CETA becoming swept up in similar protests.
After all, if those proposals were problematic in ACTA, they are equally problematic for CETA, and so it seems likely that the European Parliament will vote against the entire Canada-EU trade deal just as it threw out ACTA. The obvious solution is to remove the intellectual property chapter from CETA altogether to avoid this risk. Geist points out there's an important precedent for this:
the U.S. and EU recently announced their own plans to negotiate a trade deal but agreed to keep intellectual property issues out of the talks. If CETA becomes known as ACTA II, the future of the Canada-EU trade deal may hinge on adopting a similar approach.
That would not only be a good idea for CETA, it would be sensible for all trade agreements, since it would return them to their original aim of promoting trade between nations, not regulating the domestic laws governing things like copyright.
by Mike Masnick
Fri, Jul 6th 2012 8:12am
Will The Failures Of SOPA & ACTA Highlight The End Of The MPAA & RIAA's Disproportionate Influence On Policy?
from the this-isn't-industry-vs.-the-public dept
Keep in mind that the majority of people working for USTR don’t like to waste effort any more than the rest of us, and the realization that a significant portion of the rest of the world may reject whatever final deal negotiators agree to if it goes too far on copyright is no doubt causing many to rethink their positions. In addition, USTR has many other industries it services besides Hollywood. They need trade agreements — and USTR is required to negotiate these. The Hollywood crazy train on intellectual property enforcement now very visibly threatens the ability to get future trade agreements ratified by Congress or by foreign governments. The manufacturing sector, the retail sector, and others that have until now tolerated Hollywood’s demands in the interest of maintaining a united industry front will not sacrifice their own international trade interests for the Entertainment industry — and will push USTR to negotiate agreements that actually have a chance at ratification.This, obviously, seems like a good thing. As he notes, the USTR now has a lot of incentives to actually be more open and to listen to those who helped kill off SOPA and ACTA. If they actually want to have their proposals mean something, they might as well start talking to those who have the influence to do something meaningful. And that's less and less the RIAA and the MPAA.
Of course, this goes even further than that. While Feld talks up the increasing importance of activists in the conversation, I'd argue that it should also lead to most other industries pushing back on the RIAA/MPAA's crazy demands as well. Perhaps the US Chamber of Commerce will start to reconsider pushing the RIAA/MPAA point of view when it's clearly harmful to the interests of most other industries.
by Glyn Moody
Wed, Jul 4th 2012 8:51am
European Parliament Declares Its Independence From The European Commission With A Massive Rejection Of ACTA. Now What?
from the power-to-the-people dept
In a plenary vote today, the European Parliament has rejected ACTA by 478 votes to 39, with 165 abstentions. That followed a failed attempt by the right-of-center EPP Group to call for a postponement. Although the final result was not totally unexpected, since the signs had been pointing this way for a time, it nonetheless represents a huge victory for campaigners who had more or less given up hope of stopping ACTA in Europe even a few months ago. So the question now becomes: what are the ramifications?
In its closing speech, the European Commission repeated its statement that it would wait for the European Court of Justice's opinion on the compatibility of ACTA with the EU's laws, even if the vote went against it. It also hinted that it might then call for another vote on ACTA in the European Parliament. Whether that was simply a bluff, or whether it will go ahead with this seemingly pointless exercise, is unclear.
David Martin, the EU parliamentarian charged with handling the ACTA vote, said afterwards in a press conference that he did not believe the Commission could simply re-submit ACTA in its present form. Changing ACTA would require agreement from the other ACTA signatories, which is likely to be hard to obtain, but even then Martin was skeptical that ACTA was the right way to address the problem of counterfeit goods. Moreover, the sheer size of the majority against ACTA today means that the Commission can't realistically hope that next time things will go much better. Instead, Martin suggested splitting ACTA into two new and quite distinct treaties -- one dealing with physical counterfeits, the other with online infringement.
Martin also said that he believed that ACTA is dead, and not only in the European Union. For example, he noted that Australia's politicians were having second thoughts even before the EU vote. If, in the wake of today's resounding rejection, Australia also refuses to ratify the treaty, it will leave ACTA looking tattered and hardly the exemplary globe-spanning agreement its supporters have been pushing for. And that's assuming that the US administration can resolve the issues surrounding its own approval of the treaty, and can muster enough ratifications among other signatories so that ACTA comes into force. And as people are already pointing out, if ACTA does collapse, TPP might be next.
The true measure of the effect of the European Parliament's rejection of ACTA remains to be seen; but two things are already clear. The first is a new recognition that European citizens not only care deeply about key issues like freedom and privacy, but that they are keen to engage with politicians on these and related subjects, as the President of the European Parliament acknowledged in a statement after the ACTA vote:
The debate on ACTA demonstrated the existence of European public opinion that transcends national borders. All over Europe, people were engaged in protests and debates. The mobilisation of public opinion was unprecedented. As the President of the European Parliament, I am committed to dialogue with citizens and to make Europe more democratic and understandable.
The second point was noted by David Martin in a blog post published shortly after ACTA's defeat:
This is a historic day in terms of European politics. For the first time the European Parliament has used the powers granted by the Lisbon Treaty to reject an International Trade Agreement. The Commission and the Council will now be aware that they cannot overrun the Parliament, which represents and defends citizens' rights. This vote represents true democracy in action and the coming of age of the European Parliament.
In other words, the rejection of ACTA by the EU is not just a victory for the activists who took to the streets of Europe earlier this year, and the huge numbers of people who contacted their politicians to express their concern: this is also a victory for the European Parliament, which hitherto has been little more than a rubber stamp for the European Commission's proposals.
That has important consequences for the future, since it means that the Commission will need to be more circumspect when dealing with the Parliament. That, in its turn, is likely to lead to more transparency and participation by European citizens in the process of crafting new laws and treaties. In particular, it means that whatever the European Commission comes up with as a response to this major defeat over ACTA, it will not be able to assume that it can always get what it wants. Today's subtle but important shift in power within European politics will also be felt at the international level, since the Commission's negotiators will no longer be able to conduct meetings behind closed doors that fail to take into account what the European Parliament -- and ultimately the people of Europe -- are willing to accept.
by Mike Masnick
Tue, Jul 3rd 2012 1:37pm
from the who-are-you-and-what-have-you-done-with-ron-kirk? dept
In a somewhat surprising turnaround, the USTR has now admitted that it is actively embracing limitations and exceptions in its latest proposal around IP for TPP:
For the first time in any U.S. trade agreement, the United States is proposing a new provision, consistent with the internationally-recognized “3-step test," that will obligate Parties to seek to achieve an appropriate balance in their copyright systems in providing copyright exceptions and limitations for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. These principles are critical aspects of the U.S. copyright system, and appear in both our law and jurisprudence. The balance sought by the U.S. TPP proposal recognizes and promotes respect for the important interests of individuals, businesses, and institutions who rely on appropriate exceptions and limitations in the TPP region.Given the USTR's general lack of transparency and intellectually insulting attitude towards anyone who questions TPP and ACTA transparency, I don't trust the USTR on its commitment to this... but I have been hearing from multiple sources that the protests against SOPA and ACTA have had a big impact on the administration's thinking on intellectual property issues... and that the MPAA/RIAA folks are not at all happy about the latest version of the USTR's IP chapter. There have also been multiple assurances that the USTR will fight strongly to make sure that this language on exceptions remains in the agreement, even if some of its "advisers" from the legacy content industry don't like it. That suggests that maybe, just maybe, some voices of reason have gotten through to the USTR.
All that said, this requires very close scrutiny. And, of course, there's all sorts of things that can be hidden in the language -- which, of course, the USTR still has not revealed. In the interest of openness and making sure that these provisions actually are in the best interest of the public, it would be nice to actually have the USTR live up to its transparency commitments and publish the specific text that relates to these limitations and exceptions. On top of that, the so-called "3-step test" that the USTR mentions is somewhat limited (and a bit antiquated) in these modern times with an internet where things like mashups and remixing occur on a daily basis. It would obviously be a lot nicer if we actually moved forward with our limitations and exceptions to copyright law to bring them into the 21st century -- but having the USTR actually acknowledge such limitations and exceptions as an important part of the IP chapter on TPP is a huge (almost monumental) step forward.
Either way -- and I know that some people will never trust anything from the USTR considering how many bridges it has burned -- the USTR deserves at least some kudos for taking this surprising step, and hopefully it continues to recognize that this is an important issue. With further exploration, and further acknowledgement that the MPAA/RIAA's view of thew world is not the only one, perhaps the USTR can recognize that setting up a maximalist/protectionist plan does not help the US, the economy or creativity. Enabling a more functional system, including knocking down the barriers that copyright sometimes sets up, is a much more effective path.
by Mike Masnick
Tue, Jul 3rd 2012 11:29am
from the public-will-be-damned dept
Not yet, it seems.
The UK Home Office is apparently ignoring the petition and sticking with the party (i.e., Hollywood lobbyist) line. The site V3 (linked in the last sentence) reached out to the Home Office who said that they were aware of the petition, but didn't seem to care:
"Richard O'Dwyer is wanted in the US for offences related to copyright infringement," a Home Office spokesman told V3.That said, Jimmy Wales insists that the "low level" spokesperson "is wrong" and he fully expects that the Home Office will, in fact, respond after meeting with him about this issue. Let's hope that's true. Given the large public outcries about other related copyright issues (SOPA, ACTA...) you would think that the UK government would at least be paying attention when a rather large group of the public speaks out on an issue related to copyright. Hopefully, the answer given to V3 was just a spokesperson stalling until the Home Office is ready to officially address the matter.
"The UK courts found there were no statutory bars to his surrender under the Extradition Act 2003 and on 9 March the Home Secretary, having carefully considered all relevant matters, signed an order for his extradition to the US."
by Glyn Moody
Mon, Jul 2nd 2012 7:29pm
from the what-a-cliffhanger dept
As Techdirt has reported over the last few months, the passage of ACTA through the European Union's approval process has been little short of extraordinary. At the end of last year, ACTA seemed almost certain to be approved without difficulty. Then, inspired by the Internet community's success in stopping SOPA, European citizens woke up to ACTA's problems and took to the streets in huge numbers.
The first ACTA rapporteur resigned, and the second later came out firmly against ACTA. The main European political parties announced their opposition to ACTA, except for the largest, the EPP Group. More recently, five out of five European Parliament committees recommended that the European Parliament should reject ACTA in the plenary vote on ratification.
That final vote is scheduled to take place this Wednesday, and the surprises keep on coming. First, we had a rumour that the right-of-centre EPP Group would ask for a secret vote, but that never happened. Then today we heard that the EPP Group would be asking for a postponement of the ACTA vote until after the European Court of Justice has given its verdict on the compatibility of ACTA with the European Union's treaties. That decision probably won't be handed down for a year or two, so this was plainly a delaying tactic. It was believed that the call for postponement would come at the meeting setting the agenda for the coming week, but once more nothing happened.
And then, unexpectedly, the the EPP Group posted the following message on its Twitter account:
#EPP will ask during tomorrow's debate on #ACTA for a postponement of the vote until we have ECJ's ruling.
It's not entirely clearly under what procedure the EPP Group will do this, although Jérémie Zimmermann from La Quadrature du Net suggested it might be under Rule 177 : Adjournment of a debate and vote, of the Rules of Procedure of the European Parliament.
However, there are also some rumors that the EPP Group is divided over whether it should attempt to postpone the vote – understandably, since it would be a huge slap in the face of the European electorate if this procedural trick were used to put off a decision on ACTA for a year or two. So, it's still not really clear what will happen tomorrow once the plenary session of the European Parliament begins. Or rather, one thing is clear: that the ACTA battle is by no means over, and that the EPP Group is fighting desperately to stave off defeat in the final vote on Wednesday.