Double Standards: EU Commissioner De Gucht Is 'Innocent Until Proven Guilty'; EU Citizens Are 'Guilty Until Proven Innocent'

from the one-law-for-the-rich,-one-law-for-the-poor dept

The Belgian EU Commissioner Karel De Gucht is the driving force behind ACTA, and is apparently really keen to combat crimes like counterfeiting and piracy. It also seems he has a slight problem with the tax authorities:

Belgium’s Tax Inspection Service has accused European Commissioner Karel De Gucht of tax fraud. The service says that Mr De Gucht and his wife failed to declare the profit that they made on the sale of shares of the Vista group on which tax was due.

“Politician accused of tax fraud” is hardly news; but what is more interesting is the European Commission’s reaction. Here’s what it said according to the Dutch language version of the story on the site quoted above:

The Commission adds to this that De Gucht “not guilty until proven to the contrary.”

Of course, you might say; after all, surely everyone is innocent until proven guilty? In fact, no:

A Party may provide, in accordance with its laws and regulations, its competent authorities with the authority to order an online service provider to disclose expeditiously to a right holder information sufficient to identify a subscriber whose account was allegedly used for infringement

Note the word “allegedly” — not much presumption of innocence there when your details must be disclosed “expeditiously.” That comes from Article 27 of ACTA, currently being pushed by the European Commission with all its might in a desperate attempt to get it ratified by the European Parliament next month.

So on the one hand, we have someone who allegedly failed to declare profits of 1.2 million euros (about $1.5 million), and who must be assumed innocent; while on the other, we have someone who allegedly infringes on someone’s copyright — perhaps by sharing a single mp3 file — and who, by contrast, is assumed guilty. Double standards much, European Commission?

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Comments on “Double Standards: EU Commissioner De Gucht Is 'Innocent Until Proven Guilty'; EU Citizens Are 'Guilty Until Proven Innocent'”

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Anonymous Coward says:

about par for the course, as they say. the EU is nothing but double standards. how can all the so-called proponents of freedom, privacy, free speech and civil liberties in general, continue to tout their support for these things whilst at the same time standing by whilst individual member states do the opposite. they are also supposed to be against website blocking and censorship but that’s happening as well. even political parties are being forced to close website access via proxies!

Anonymous Coward says:

Well, the commission has been kicked out once before for corruption and there is a number of inconsistencies through time with firing of whistleblowers and reports of widespread corruption getting burried etc.
Be aware that the commission is the definition of undemocratic when it comes to EU. They are personal friends of the prime ministers in the council getting the post only because of that. After the corruption scandal, there is a background screening of each member and the parliament have to accept or reject the commission as a whole. They have no way of pointing out the weak links and avoiding uncooperative people. The way they are elected combined with their power is the single biggest problem with EU and worst of all: Everyone knows and nobody dares to change it.

When it comes to the ACTA-provision, I am surprised that such language can fly: The presumption of innocence is a pillar in european law and the commission is actually not wrong in their defence of Karel de Gucht.
What Karel de Gucht is accused of is btw. peanuts compared to some other stories from his past.

Anonymous Coward says:

But Moody, think of the difference of the harm between the two cases!

-Not paying your taxes: You’re only doing the following ‘harm’ to others.
-Adding to the government’s debt
-Forcing government to raise taxes on everyone else who pays their taxes
-Forcing government to cut spending on assisting the needy, and investing in their own economy
-Forcing government to beg for hundreds of billions of dollars in bailouts, causing interest rates on the nations debts to skyrocket and the economy to tank as a result of merely asking for bailout money

See? No big deal. Your 1.2 million dollars wouldn’t have helped. And it’s not like getting away without paying your taxes won’t encourage others to not pay their taxes either and add to government’s budget problems!

Now compare that to the harm of someone MAYBE sharing a single MP3 song over the Internet.
-Some big corporation representing 1,000’s of music artists it barely pays anything to may have just lost a $1 sale!

So, as you can clearly see, that $1 sale to a big corporation representing music artists is clearly MUCH more harmful then robbing the government of $1,000,000 of tax revenue! It may be ok to steal $1,000,000 from the government, but steal even $1 from a big corporation! Think of all the thousands of jobs you’re killing at that big corporation!

And who cares if studies show that free sample could encourage the guy you shared the MP3 with to buy more music from that big corporation, whereas tax cheats aren’t anymore likely to come back a year later and pay all the taxes they should have paid last year plus more unless the government starts coming after them for not paying those taxes?

Anonymous Coward says:

Glyn, you try so hard, but you fail so bad.

Nobody is claiming any infringer as “guilty until proven innocent”, they are only wanting to make sure that they bring the right person to court to decide that issue.

Guilty or innocence has nothing to do with the process of identifying a given user. That would be more at a level of probably cause or reasonable levels of evidence, and not absolute, total, irrefutable proof beyond a reasonable doubt that is required to find guilt.

You are the one attempting to paint it as a guilt or innocence thing. It’s too bad this is a case where you are entirely, plainly, and completely wrong.

Anonymous Coward says:


Nobody is claiming any infringer as “guilty until proven innocent”, they are only wanting to make sure that they bring the right person to court to decide that issue.

And at the same time they want to put each and every alleged infringer through the grinder and pay for the cost of defending themselves. If they can’t do so, it’s because they’re guilty and must settle. Clearly names like Tanya Anderson, Marie Lindor and Larry Scantlebury mean absolutely nothing to you.

Cara Duckworth once said, “When you fish with a driftnet, you catch dolphins.” If there was any desire to separate the innocent from the guilty you would actually catch more people, and you wouldn’t have such a hilariously disgusting rate of error.

Anonymous Coward says:


Are you suggesting that users should never be identified, that the guilty (as well as the innocent) should just be able to hide behind their ISP and never face any risk?

It’s moronic to even think like that.

I was only pointing out the error in Glyn’s rant, which is when an ISP is asked to reveal a user, they are not being judged guilty or innocent, only that they are being charged or sued in connection with a copyright violation. They have the same rights as the EU commissioner, innocent until proven guilty.

That presumed innocence doesn’t mean that the ISP can stonewall. It creates too large of a shield where wrong-doers can hide out in safety. That’s not the way the legal system works.

btr1701 (profile) says:


> Notice how the kids in the Sandusky
> trial are being referred to as
> “victims” rather than “alleged victims”?

That’s because there’s no question they were victims of sexual assault. The trial is to determine whether Sandusky was the perpetrator or not.

Same with people who are murdered. They’re dead. No one questions that they were the victim of a murder. The only question that often remains is “Who did it?”

Anonymous Coward says:


Are you suggesting that users should never be identified, that the guilty (as well as the innocent) should just be able to hide behind their ISP and never face any risk?

I’m suggesting that if you want to go after people, do it by the book and don’t go after people that are very clearly innocent. If the RIAA was interested in doing this, they wouldn’t have:

– Sued Larry Scantlebury, found he was dead, and gave the family 60 days to grieve before filing charges.
– Sued Tanya Andersen, even though they already found someone using the username matched to her IP address and admitted to downloading the songs in question, and proceeded to masquerade as her daughter’s grandmother to call her up during kindergarten and intimidate her so she’d beg her mom into settling.

The RIAA, by doing this, have made it clear that they’re going after low-hanging fruit and have no qualms about doing so. They’ve squandered whatever goodwill they had by insisting that all consumers are thieves. If this is the sort of risk you want all ISP users to be exposed to then you’re the one who’s moronic.

Anonymous Coward says:

“Are you suggesting that users should never be identified, that the guilty (as well as the innocent) should just be able to hide behind their ISP and never
face any risk?”

An IP address does not identify a person. The “guilty” may well be someone
using another’s access point.
Just claiming that something illegal has happened originating from an IP address should never in itself be sufficient ground for unmasking the user.

If I want to unmask an unpopular speaker, I know he has a static IP address, all I need to unmask him is claiming that the IP address has been used to CP or copyright infribngement.

Anonymous Coward says:


“It’s not how the legal system works, period. In both cases, it’s innocent until proven guilty. Glyn just stupidity takes revealing a user’s information
as making him guilty, which is not the case.”

So every public figure I accuse of something should have his financial records published.
If disclosure of identifying information does not implicate the presumption of innocence or any other right, let me accuse you of defamation and have your ISP publishing the name and details associated with your IP address.

Anonymous Coward says:


You’re a joke. It’s common business practice for the RIAA to get their hands on someone’s information, realise that they have a losing case, then fight to have the case dismissed without prejudice so they can sue the same person afterwards when they’ve somehow managed to find more damning information (from out of their ass, probably). Add to the fact that the innocent defendant has no redress for what the RIAA has put them through.

That you think that this is somehow a good thing is beyond me.

Anonymous Coward says:

It gets even better: to investigate the alleged fraud (something to do with the profits of the sale of an Italian villa) the financial inspection in Belgium attempted to force De Gucht to disclose his banking records regarding to this sale in accordance with a financial transparency law De Gucht co-authored(!) and signed into law himself during his tenure in the Belgian Governement.
His response was to challenge the law at the “Raad Van State” (suppreme judicial organ which checks existing laws against the constitution) and attempt to have it removed from the judicial code.
This clearly is a case of double standards and it shows deep rooted cynism and contempt for normal judicial proceedings.

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