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EU Council Quietly Adopts ACTA, By Hiding It In An Agriculture And Fisheries Meeting

from the hoped-we-wouldn't-notice dept

At the end of last week, the Council of the European Union ? which is where national ministers from each EU country meet to adopt laws and coordinate policies ? had a meeting. A group of some 40 ministers for agriculture and fisheries signed off on a range of important matters, including:

Total allowable catches (TACs) and quotas for 2012
Fishing opportunities for 2012 in the Black Sea
Authorisation of four genetically modified varieties
Aid for processed citrus fruit
Welfare of animals during transport
Vaccination against bluetongue
Excess CO2 emissions from new cars
Temporary reception of certain Palestinians

Actually, there was another item, but from its penultimate position on the agenda it was clearly not really regarded as very important, and was just waved through. Here’s how the official press release (pdf) reported it:

The Council adopted a decision authorising the signing of an anti-counterfeiting trade agreement (ACTA) with Australia, Canada, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Mexico, Morocco, New Zealand, Singapore, Switzerland and the United States.

ACTA is aimed at establishing an international framework to improve the enforcement of intellectual property right laws and create improved international standards for actions against large-scale infringements of intellectual property. Negotiations were concluded in November 2010.

So, continuing the tradition of denying European citizens any opportunity to offer their views on ACTA, the Council of national ministers employed the shabby trick of pushing the treaty through by adopting it without debate at a meeting whose main business had nothing to do with international trade.

Interestingly, this is not the first time European politicians have used this subterfuge. In 2002 the European Commission presented a proposal that would allow software patents in Europe (currently, the European Patent Convention forbids patenting programs for computers “as such”).

This saga was still going on in 2005 when the software patent proposal was added to the agenda of a fisheries meeting ? just like ACTA. On that occasion, the ploy failed, but the Council Presidency went on to adopt the agreement in violation of the procedural rules. The proposal was then passed to the European Parliament, where it was definitively rejected.

Similarly, ACTA will now be passed to the European Parliament for a vote. Although there have been no indications that it will be thrown out there, the same was true of the software patents session, which was expected to approve the measure. One thing is for sure: there is going to be plenty of lobbying for and against ACTA between now and whenever that final vote takes place.

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Comments on “EU Council Quietly Adopts ACTA, By Hiding It In An Agriculture And Fisheries Meeting”

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24 Comments
Tor (profile) says:

The EU and Software patents

Speaking of the EU and software patents I hope everyone interested in this matter is following the news at http://www.unitary-patent.eu/ (a site run by french free/libre software organization April).

The Committee on Legal Affairs (JURI) will vote tomorrow about how to move forward with the new unitary patent. There are some amendments that clarifies that software should not be possible to patent. Here is an overview and contact info for members of the parliament who can influence the matter.

Tor (profile) says:

Re: The EU and Software patents

Btw. I really recommend this post (in Swedish so please run it through some machine translation) by Henrik Alexandersson an assistant to MEP Christian Engstr?m.

The report on ACTA by the Parliament’s Legal Service has been classified but the committee session tomorrow (incidentally the same session as for the the unitary patent mentioned above) where it is to be discussed is open. This means that those with critical questions about the classified document will not be able to make their voices heard while the ACTA proponents can pretend that there are no objections. And they wonder why people don’t have more confidence in the EU…

John Doe says:

Consent of the governed?

It is more and more apparent in this world, that our governments do not derive their power from the people. They only present the illusion of serving the public wherein fact we are servants of the government. How we have been lulled to sleep while this happened I don’t know. It is time that people wake up to what is going on in their governments. If they were truly serving the people, we would have transparency, we would have debate, we would not have laws forged in back rooms with access granted only to corporate interests.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Consent of the governed?

actually, it is capitalism in its final state. in Capitalism the acquisition and accumulation of wealth reigns supreme and that means pure capitalism will tend to reach absolute monopolies.

What you think of is a free market economy. If we had that monopolies would not be easy to achieve, because disruptive developments could not be regulated away in favor of the old business models.

The fact that governments are now propping up companies whose business models have been rendered obsolete by new disruptive technologies to perpetuate old monopolies and the fact that the same governments are essentially backing widescale fraud in the finance industries for essentially the same reasons tells me that it is in fact Capitalism that is out of control and the governments have been degraded to servants of the corporations

Jyrki K?teinen, Helsinki says:

Re: Re: Re: Consent of the governed?

You are right in a way. I have to add that neither capitalism nor communism haven’t yet be ruled by the book. This is just a form as it exist like Soviet Russia was for the communism. In this case governments have power/duty (if the will) to protect their people.

Who do you think is lobbying these acts? 99%?

DogBreath says:

Re: Re:

Damn! You hit the nail on the head!

Nice knowing you, whoever you are/were…

http://www.mobygames.com/game/floor-13

The Floor 13 organization is not a benevolent one and players will need to do some rather unpleasant things to ensure that the democratic machine runs smoothly. Examples of activities include: searching and looting people?s homes, calling in commando units for heavy assault purposes, wire-tapping and trailing people without bothering to go through legal channels, discrediting notable people through the media and infiltrating established organizations. At times, you might even need to detain citizens and torture them (the torture bits can get rather graphic at times, though it’s doled out through a text report), or even assassinate troublesome proles (one of the few political policy games, along with Shadow President and CyberJudas, to allow for such an activity).

CN says:

A new dark age...

Any time the government has to sneak something in, hidden in something else (not to mention stuff named incorrectly to hide the truth of what it is really about), it should tell you that it should not be passed. It’s time people said “This behaviour is not acceptable.” Then do something about it.

The government is supposed to work for the people, not against the people. If it doesn’t soon lead to a modern revolution, then the people are simply accepting the return to slavery and serfdom. Corporations are the new king, and we are the peasants.

TtfnJohn (profile) says:

The EU bureaucracy and some of it’s tamed politicians has been out of control for decades.

Remember, this is the bright lot that decided to legislate the curvature of bananas.

That such a curvature can only be attained by genetic modification (fast way) instead of breeding (that form of geneitic modification takes YEARS and we just can’t wait!!!) doesn’t seem to have occured to a bunch that is death on GMO foods but now all the bananas in Europe are genetically modifified.

That this is a classic example of circular thinking leading to a circular outcome, well at least curved one, is just too ironic to contemplate. 😉

(To be honest I don’t know if that curvature thing went through but knowing Eurocrats it did.)

PJ London says:

So What

I have no problem with protecting intellectual property, but I do have a problem with the “manner” in which it is protected.

As long as it is via the courts with due judicial process then I absolutely approve.

If it allows for seizure / closure of a domain based on a complaint, or the harassment of individuals who have no knowledge of the alleged infringement then I object.

It is called the Rule of Law, you get over it.

gust duchamps says:

NO PATENTS ON SEEDS!

Een open brief aan de leden van het Europees Parlement en de Europese Commissie

Geachte,

Wij richten deze brief aan U, om U te waarschuwen voor de gevolgen van de Europese octrooiwet. We zijn vooral bezorgd over de octrooien op planten en dieren, genetisch materiaal, veredelingsprocessen voor planten en dieren, de voeding die daarvan is afgeleid en de impact ervan op boeren/tuinders, veredelaars/fokkers, consumenten, innovatie en biodiversiteit.

Het Europese Parlement keurde een ?Richtlijn voor Biotechnologische Octrooien? goed in 1998 (Dir. 98/44 EC ?Wettelijke Bescherming op Biotechnologische Uitvindingen?). De richtlijn werd in 1999 ge?ntegreerd in het ?European Patent Office? (EPO) en sindsdien werden er al 900 octrooien op dieren en 1800 octrooien op planten verleend. Duizenden octrooien zijn nog in aanvraag. Tien jaar nadat de richtlijn op planten en dieren werd goedgekeurd, is de negatieve impact van de Europese Octrooiwet overduidelijk:

Er is een negatieve impact op innovatie, aangezien fokkers de geoctrooieerde planten, dieren of genetisch materiaal niet vrij mogen gebruiken voor verdere teelt.
De octrooien zijn de motor achter de enorme marktconcentratie in de zaadsector, het vernietigt de onderlinge competitie en concurreert kleine en middelgrote organisaties uit de markt.
De octrooien zorgen voor hogere prijzen voor de boeren, minder keuze voor de consumenten en hebben een negatieve impact op agro-biodiversiteit.

Het huidige wettelijke kader volstaat niet om te komen tot een duidelijk en effectief verbod voor octrooien op planten en dieren. Dit is een groot tekort. Deze regels kunnen gemakkelijk omzeild worden, zoals blijkt uit veel beslissingen van het EPO. Zo kan de vergunning op gensequenties en teeltprocessen bijvoorbeeld makkelijk uitgebreid worden naar planten en dierensoorten.

Wij zijn vooral bezorgd dat het EPO in toenemende mate octrooien zal verlenen voor conventionele planten en dieren (zonder genetische manipulatie). Dit is een alarmerende ontwikkeling aangezien conventionele planten tot voor kort geen octrooi konden krijgen. In veel zaken dekken deze octrooien de volledige keten van landbouw en voedingsproductie. Zelfs na de beslissing in de ?Broccoli Case? die octrooien op conventionele teeltprocessen van planten en dieren uitsloot (G2/07 and G1/08), startte de EPO in januari 2011 opnieuw met het goedkeuren van octrooien op zaden, planten en voedsel afgeleid van conventionele teelten.

Zulke octrooien cre?ren een nieuwe afhankelijkheid voor boeren en tuinders, veredelaars en voedselproducenten. Dit moet worden beschouwd als het zich onrechtmatig toe-eigenen van natuurlijke hulpbronnen in de landbouw en de voedselproductie, en als een algemeen misbruik van de Octrooiwetten.

Boeren en tuinders hebben nood aan een strategie die de zaadbiodiversiteit redt. De informele zaadmarkt moet ge?ntegreerd worden in een overkoepelend legaal kader. Ook al is dit niet het onderwerp van deze brief, toch willen we er op wijzen dat de EU-reguleringen voor het beschermen van plantendiversiteit en de EU zaadcatalogus in deze zin moet worden aangepast.

We vragen U om een dringende herziening van de Europese Octrooiwet in biotechnologie en plantteelt. En om duidelijke reguleringen te ondersteunen die de mogelijkheid tot octrooieren van planten, diersoorten, genetisch materiaal en teeltprocessen voor planten en dieren uitsluit.

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