German Gov't Uses Anger Over Lack Of ACTA Transparency To Justify Further Lack Of Transparency

from the missing-the-point dept

Even though the ACTA text is now finalized, getting details from national governments about what exactly happened during the negotiations is proving extremely difficult, with information still trickling out slowly.

For example, as the Netzpolitik blog explains (German original), the European Commission tried to counter accusations that the negotiations were lacking in transparency by pointing out that the German government had a representative present during all the sessions (that’s transparency?). This was news to people, since the German government had somehow omitted to mention this fact.

A natural question was therefore: who exactly took part? A German freedom of information request was put in to find out, and refused on rather remarkable grounds: that it might place the German officials who had been present during the negotiations at risk, because of the “emotional discussions” about ACTA that have taken place recently. The German government even claimed that threats of physical violence had been made against those who had taken part in ACTA, and so it couldn’t endanger the persons involved by naming them.

This all seems pretty far fetched. I don’t recall hearing about anyone threatening ACTA officials with physical violence, but I suppose it’s possible that someone, somewhere in Germany, say, wrote something to this effect. However, the Germany government is really missing the point here.

The fact that such “emotional discussions” have taken place demonstrates how deeply frustrated people are at the continuing lack of transparency surrounding the ACTA negotiations. Using that previous failure to provide information to justify further withholding of details is only likely to exacerbate things. It’s time for the German government, and the other signatories, to stop playing these bureaucratic games and to start engaging with their citizens through the release of more details about what exactly happened behind ACTA’s closed doors.

As well as details of who took part, there is one other category of information whose release is vital: the preparatory documents used during the negotiations. That’s because much of ACTA is worded in an extremely vague way, making precise interpretation difficult. In these circumstances, Article 32 of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties presumably comes into play (pdf):

Recourse may be had to supplementary means of interpretation, including the preparatory work of the treaty and the circumstances of its conclusion, in order to confirm the meaning resulting from the application of article 31 [General rule of interpretation], or to determine the meaning when the interpretation according to article 31:

(a) leaves the meaning ambiguous or obscure; or
(b) leads to a result which is manifestly absurd or unreasonable.

Without those preparatory materials the true effect of ACTA is difficult to gauge, and those “emotional discussions” that are apparently so problematic are likely to become even more heated. And we wouldn’t want that, would we?

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Comments on “German Gov't Uses Anger Over Lack Of ACTA Transparency To Justify Further Lack Of Transparency”

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30 Comments
awbMaven (profile) says:

Tried a FOI request in the UK, and failed

“Even though the ACTA text is now finalized, getting details from national governments about what exactly happened during the negotiations is proving extremely difficult, with information still trickling out slowly.”

Tell me about it, I put the following FOI request in to the UK regarding ACTA negotiation documents:

http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/anti_counterfeiting_trade_agreem_4#incoming-259997

I had put the request in as earlier request sited the fact that ACTA was still under negotiation and so the negotiating documents could not be released. I figured that since negotiations had finished, they could not use that excuse again. I was right, they used a different excuse and still refused to be transparent.

Cowardly Anonymous says:

Re: Suzanne Collins' "The Hunger Games" Illustrates the Horrors of Big Government

In a pretty poor manner, or at least the synopsis suggests as such. In what way does a random tribute do anything to hold the districts in check? In reality it would just make people more willing to rebel.

If you want the horrors of big government, 1984 does a great job, and is actually highly relevant to the way such governments behave in reality.

So, go peddle your adverts elsewhere.

Mason Wheeler (profile) says:

Re: Re: Suzanne Collins' "The Hunger Games" Illustrates the Horrors of Big Government

If you want the horrors of big government, 1984 does a great job, and is actually highly relevant to the way such governments behave in reality.

Yes, except that everything you wrote there is completely wrong. People keep saying crap like that about 1984, and it makes me wonder if they’ve even read it, and if they’ve ever read anything about Orwell and his background.

Here’s the part most people don’t know: Orwell never wrote an anti-Communist tract in his life, because Orwell was a Communist. He was a fervent believer in Marxism, in fact, and he saw in World War II and the immediate aftermath a societal upheaval that would inevitably lead to the workers of Britain throwing off the oppression of capitalism. In his own words, “The war is inseparable from the revolution.”

What he wrote about elsewhere was how essential it was to get the transition to “English Socialism” right, so as not to end up in the Socialist-in-name-only totalitarian mess that the Russians ended up with. 1984 was a cautionary tale about what would happen if they failed to heed his advice.

Of course, that never actually happened, and there’s no better way to reach a bad conclusion than beginning with a false premise. And since then, 1984 has done more harm than good by giving actual oppressors such a useful strawman to scare people and distract them with. If you look at what’s been going on in the last few years, you see a lot of Big Brother behavior, and it’s not coming from the government at all; it’s coming from data mining, by large companies who do everything in their power, including raising the specter of Big Brother at the drop of a hat, to keep government from reining their abuses in.

You want a realistic dystopia, you ought to read Jennifer Government. Have a look at stuff like SOPA and ACTA, whose primary goal is to reduce government protections of the judicial rights of ordinary consumers (due process, the presumption of innocence, etc) so that they can enforce their own rules upon us. That’s a real-life example of “small government” in action!

Niall (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Suzanne Collins' "The Hunger Games" Illustrates the Horrors of Big Government

1984 works for any sort of totalitarian society, whether communist, fascist or corporate-controlled. So from that point of view, it’s a useful lesson nonetheless. Add to that the other glimpse of human nature, Animal Farm, and you have a pair of very good case studies into how we render others into ‘them’ tribes and then oppress them, and how we oppress them.

Anonymous Coward says:

Tragically, the account is typical of innumerable stories of ACTA evils, deciet, treachery and vile ongoings world-wide.

Minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day it becomes more clear that ACTA is the first volley in what could lead to a long and bloody war between the Dying Old White Men of the Fascist ?bergreedy (the “soon to be dead” self-appointed aristocracy) and the Good Citizens of the World (the “hope and inspiration of the future”).

The time has come for society to expel and destroy these evil poisonsers, their commanders and their progenitors. It must to be done to avoid bloody revolution. Hang all the scum involved the ACTA coup from the tallest trees by the neck until dead. Leave the corpses hanging in place (and let nature take its course) as serious warning to any who DARE think ever again that humans can behave as they did.

Fascism must die. There is no other solution.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

‘the “soon to be dead” self-appointed aristocracy’

Yea….sorry to break this to you, but it ain’t going nowhere. It might morph a little bit in how it looks and presents itself, but as long as leadership is a single person/small group of people leading/controlling the masses, there is going to be large-scale corruption and bullying, as we have here.

So….unless you’re dumb enough to think that we’re going to, as a world, do away with governments altogether, this is the world we live in, and unless you want to find an uncontrolled, remote island somewhere, you just have to deal with it.

Anonymous Coward says:

@#6:

Thanks. Now try posting a working link (hint: use preview, asshole).

I’ll be god-damned if I’m going to traipse all through that putrid piece of right-wing masturbatory fantasy shit rag looking for the actual article. Or are you just a right-wing shill trying to pervert (convert) people into money-grubbing pigshit* ?

*My apologies to pigshit everywhere for any perceived slight

Bugs says:

Re: Re:

Gee, wonder what this joker’s problem is? How do ya get by with so much anger ‘n hate boilin’ over all the time, AC 11? Doesn’t really speak much for yer credibility, ya know. If ya can’t be civil, then nobody’s gonna take anythin’ ya say seriously. Or are ya physically unable to post without spewin’ bile all over the place?

Anonymous Coward says:

Nonsense, of course anger over lack of transparency justifies taking more transparency away!

The British had the right idea a few centuries ago with debtor’s prison. If you couldn’t afford to pay your bills then they lock you up in jail until you paid your bills! So what if you aren’t able to work and earn some money while in jail? And so what if a lot of employers are hesitant to hire convicted felons, especially people currently in jail! You still must sitting on a lot of money you aren’t willing to pay your debtors, since… only rich people borrow money in the first place!

Hephaestus (profile) says:

“The fact that such “emotional discussions” have taken place demonstrates how deeply frustrated people are at the continuing lack of transparency surrounding the ACTA negotiations.”

This is a trend, everyone is getting frustrated at pretty much everything governments around the world are doing. Hence the tea party, the arab spring, SOPA-PIPA-ACTA rebellion, etc.

SpittonDM says:

ACTA is a trade agreement and trade agreements are negotiated in secrecy to preserve the negotiating powers of the countries involved. Accordingly it would not be in the interest of Germany, or any of the other countries involved, to make the text public at this point. The interests of those involved are being represented and dutifully considered. Listen to the testimony of USTR ambassador Ron Kirk to allay any fears you might have.

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