EU's Advisor On Supporting Net Activists Previously Forced From German Government…By Net Activists

from the really-the-right-person? dept

The Vice President of the European Commission responsible for the Digital Agenda for Europe, Neelie Kroes, recently made quite a stir when she dubbed copyright “a tool to punish and withhold“. Now she’s back with two major projects: a pan-European open data stategy and the “No Disconnect Strategy“:

European Commission Vice-President Neelie Kroes has invited Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, a former Federal Minister of Defence, and of Economics and Technology, in Germany, to advise on how to provide ongoing support to Internet users, bloggers and cyber-activists living under authoritarian regimes. This appointment forms a key element of a new “No Disconnect Strategy” to uphold the EU’s commitment to ensure human rights and fundamental freedoms are respected both online and off-line, and that internet and other information and communication technology (ICT) can remain a driver of political freedom, democratic development and economic growth.

Of course, that’s rather rich coming from a region where France already allows disconnections as punishments (HADOPI), and where the UK has legislation in place that will allow it to do the same (Digital Economy Act). But it turns out that the ironies are even deeper.

The reason that Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg — once seen as a likely successor to Germany’s current Chancellor, Angela Merkel — is no longer the Federal Minister of Defence, and of Economics and Technology, is that he resigned when it emerged that he had plagiarized significant parts of his doctorate.

After initial denials, Guttenberg was forced to admit the extent of his plagiarism thanks largely to a crowdsourced wiki called GutenPlag (original German) offering “collaborative documentation of plagiarism”, which went through his thesis searching for passages taken from elsewhere without acknowledgement. In total, it claims to have found “1218 plagiarized fragments from 135 sources, on 371 out of 393 pages (94.4%), in 10421 plagiarized lines (63.8%).” There’s even an interactive, color-coded visualization of what happened where.

Certainly, Guttenberg has been punished: as well as losing his position in the German government, he was also stripped of his doctorate. But his appointment as (unpaid) advisor to the “No Disconnect Strategy” raises a question. Is somebody whose downfall was mostly brought about by a website and its crowdsourced revelations really the right person to lead a project that aims to support online activists?

There is also the issue of Guttenberg’s multiple copyright infringements. This was investigated with a view to charges being brought, but then, as Wikipedia explains:

In November 2011, the prosecution dropped the charges, having found 23 relevant copyright violations but only marginal economic damage. Guttenberg had to make a payment of 20,000 Euros to a charitable foundation, the court ruled.

In jurisdictions with extreme copyright laws, that “marginal economic damage” argument wouldn’t be enough to protect those accused of infringement from prosecution or from being disconnected. So again the question has to be: is Guttenberg really going to understand what “No Disconnect” means to human rights activists living under authoritarian regimes when he got off so lightly himself?

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Comments on “EU's Advisor On Supporting Net Activists Previously Forced From German Government…By Net Activists”

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31 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Wow, talk about a dumbass.

Pro kitchen knives? What the fuck are you getting at? Do you honestly think that kitchen knives are bought and sold only to kill people? Are you fucking whacked?

Sorry for the swearing, but it’s dubmasses like you that make it so hard to have a reasonable discussion here.

Jamie (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

The kitchen knives argument is perfectly valid.

Kitchen knife manufacturers produce tools that are designed to be used by the general public, and which have clear and intended legal purposes. However, some people choose to use the tool for something other than its intended purpose, and may cause (physical) harm to others.

Many of the tools used for online piracy are designed for use by the general public, and have clear and intended legal purposes. However, some people choose to use the tools for something other than their intended purposed, and this may cause (financial) harm to others.

What’s the difference here? In both cases you have tools with significant non-infringing uses, which are abused by some for purposes other than what was intended. In both cases the misuse can cause harm to others. Yet you say that all possible measures must be taken to stop one misuse, whereas the other can go unregulated?

TtfnJohn (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

That just follows through to the ridiculous extent of your posited argument about why we and this site MUST be pro-pirate.

It’s actually really easy to follow that logic to where he went.

The only dumbass here is one who would then equate “piracy” with alcoholism and addictions when it is clear you know less than nothing about either of them.

That’s what makes it so hard to have a reasonable discussion with you.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Oh for heaven’s sake… we are NOT pro-piracy.

Didja ever hear the political story about LBJ? The one whose punchline has LBJ saying, ?… I just want to make the son of a bitch deny it.? I’ll look it up for you if you’re too young to know who LBJ is. ( ?Hey, hey LBJ, how many babies did you kill today?? )

Anyhow, there’s some political wisdom in that story about how LBJ just wants to hear the other candidate deny some vicious political lie: Some people are going to believe the worst no matter what. And more people are going to enjoy repeating the vicious gossip even when they know it’s untrue.

The copyright monopolists are going to accuse opponents of being ?pro piracy? no matter what. Just like LBJ they want to make you deny it. Don’t play that game.

Instead, point out how the copyright deal has gone bad. Society doesn’t believe in copyright anymore. Because the greedheads have bought the politicians in order to screw the voters.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

If you support the structures, if you support the results, and if you base you business models on the action, it’s not hard to be tagged as a supporter of the actual act.

Nobody here seems to want to distance themselves from piracy. Rather, Mike and crew more often than not use piracy bound “news sources” (torrent freak, example) to make their cases. Mike will come out and say “I am against piracy”, and then tell you how to make money off of piracy.

Seems sort of obvious, no?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

“Why would anyone who supports piracy and “free and open internet” have a problem with a guy who is an admitted plagarist?”

You assume that plagiarism == piracy/copying. They’re two different things. I don’t care for copy protection laws (call it piracy or copying or what have you, doesn’t make it any more wrong). I’m more concerned about people who intentionally claim that they came up with an idea when they know that they copied the idea (which would be lying/deceitful).

At least you admit that you don’t support a free and open Internet. You support an Internet ran by big government established corporate interests, which is what broadcasting and cableco have become. Even restaurants and other venues are deterred from hosting independent performers thanks to overreaching laws that allow collection societies to easily demand ridiculous licensing fees with legal threats under the pretext that someone ‘might’ infringe. This is what you support, a government established cultural cartel.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

“You assume that plagiarism == piracy/copying. They’re two different things.”

They are the same in the end – he took something that wasn’t his and claimed rights to it he didn’t have.

Is there some sort of “scale of evil” here that makes plagiarism somehow so much worse than pirating content? Is this like prison inmates who really hate rapists? Is there some magic that makes it possible to look down at one form of criminal, and try to keep your own actions somehow above board?

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