ACTA Not Dead Yet: Supporters Make Final Push For EU Approval, May Seek Secret Ballot

from the but-of-course dept

Even as key committees and a bunch of elected officials in the EU Parliament have come out against ACTA, all that really matters is the final vote. And the pro-ACTA forces are making a very big push to get it approved. Some are making arguments on its importance (and pretending that the concerns are overblown). Others are suggesting delays in the vote, in hopes of having more time to build support. Finally, some others have suggested “amendments” to ACTA that would remove some of the more controversial bits. Of course, that’s a much more difficult move than you might think, since we’re talking about an agreement that has already been in this “final” form for well over a year, and was the result of years of negotiation with a bunch of other countries, many of whom have already signed off on the document. Re-opening the negotiations at this stage would open up a huge can of worms (and would piss off the US negotiators). I just don’t see it happening.

However, much more concerning is a rumor, passed along by MEP Marietje Schaake, that there will be a request for a secret ballot. In other words, elected officials know that their constituency, the European public, is vehemently against ACTA, but they don’t want to be held accountable for their votes. A secret ballot on proposals like this only serve to support corruption and positions that go against the will of the people. Hopefully, enough in the EU Parliament realize just how bad it will look to the public (not just in Europe, but around the globe) should they agree to a secret ballot concerning ACTA.

One of the major complaints about ACTA all along was the lack of transparency in the negotiations. Concluding that with a lack of transparency in the voting isn’t exactly a way to inspire confidence. It’s almost guaranteed to backfire and alienate the public even more.

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Comments on “ACTA Not Dead Yet: Supporters Make Final Push For EU Approval, May Seek Secret Ballot”

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Anonymous Coward says:

As citizens in a democracy you have the right to know what we’re doing in your name in office!

Except when we don’t think you should know.

Except when big bags of money from foreign billionaires and giant multinational corporations/trade groups are at stake.

Except when we decide we really don’t like this whole democracy thing now that we’re actually elected.

Except when it’s just easier for us to pass bad legislation and use it to throw people in jail who we don’t like or who might vote against us.

Except when we’re hoping to incite enough anger and mass protests to justify declaring a national emergency, which suspends our constitution indefinitely and lets us be absolute dictators.

(ok the last one’s not really true, I’m pretty sure Europe learned it’s lessons about emergency clauses after WW2)

Anonymous Coward says:

i wouldn’t be surprised if this actually happened but i wouldn’t want to be in the shoes of the politicians who go along with it, particularly when it is eventually revealed who voted for ACTA. what is really concerning is that this ‘big push’ by those in favour of the ‘treaty’, if you can call it that, is being allowed to influence the actual vote. from what i have read, no one from the public representative side is allowed to do this, but proponents like de Gught and Fjellner are still able to continue lobbying. that practice in itself should trigger an investigation and result in anyone betraying the rights of the people in favour of ‘big business’ being sacked!!

Tor (profile) says:

Secret ballot

Regarding secret ballots there’s some info about this on the FFII blog. According to the rules a fifth of the members (not clear if this refers to committee members or members of parliament) can request a secret ballot before the voting begins.

Frankly I find it somewhat hard to believe that members of the European Parliament would dare to go the secret route at this stage, but if that were to happen I wonder if it’s public information who made those requests for a secret ballot. In any case, one could probably found out roughly how people voted anyway by simply asking who supported a rejection of ACTA (the position most easily defendable in public). The ACTA supporters would then be the rest.

Rick Falkvinge has a helpful post about how to make ones voice heard.

Rikuo (profile) says:

Re: Secret ballot

I’m both surprised and not surprised at the same time, that there is even an option for a secret ballot in the EU Parliament rulebook. I’m surprised, as this is supposed to be a democracy and surely the founders of the EU wouldn’t have been so batshit insane as to say “Ya know what a democracy needs? Secret votes!”
I’m not surprised in that the EU has become extremely large and unwieldy, and absolutely dominated by bureaucrats. The last thing a bureaucrat wants is to lose his job, and not having to be held accountable for his votes is the best way of doing that.

Violated (profile) says:


I would prefer to take a more positive view.

The members of the European Commission are elected representatives and they do answer to the people who voted for them. Most are reasonable people but there are of course exceptions.

They have already well heard the protest of the citizens. This is not some trade unions in action but simple Internet folk who have been so concerned with what has been happening that thousands upon thousands have unified in protest.

The fact is that the Internet is the greatest creation of our generation spreading knowledge, understanding, happiness and peace in a global community of connected friends.

We can well see that many large organizations and Government department are attempting power grabs from information tracking to direct control and regulation.

So now we do need to fight back at people who want to attack our community with virtual sledgehammers until the Internet lies shattered and broken. We simply say to take a gentle, gentle, softly, softly approach and not to let control slip into the hands of people who do not understand the Internet and have other commercial objectives.

There is no doubt that ACTA is a bad trade agreement that has long tried hard to avoid all public accountability. ACTA certainly is about giving the copyright cartels their own personal club to regulate the Internet on a global scale with bypassing the WTO.

Bad ideas do happen like the secret ballot but then ACTA does have a few paid supporters. I am sure most MEPs though have heard enough to kick ACTA into the rubbish bin of history with a “thanks but no thanks”

TtfnJohn (profile) says:

Re: Falling

You may be right in that the MEPs don’t want their various paymasters to know they helped sink ACTA.

If they pass it they don’t want their constituents to know about it either.

Either way the vote will be leaked, who voted what way, when and, maybe, why. Even the names of those who ducked into the washroom when the vote was called and stayed there till it was all over.

The only secret that is broken more quickly than a military one is who voted which way behind closed doors.

Androgynous Cowherd says:

And what, pray tell, is the justification for there even being such a concept as a “secret ballot” in a nominally-democratic legislature? The sole use for such a thing would seem to be to shield legislators from accountability to the voting public for what they do in the name of said public, and that use is not one that is supportable on democratic principles. Therefore, a legislature even having the option of conducting a “secret ballot” seems to be a severe failure to set things up properly to begin with.

Brent (profile) says:

If it passes by secret ballot now, perhaps when that fact is inevitably discovered, those who were involved will be exposed and, in an attempt to save face, will expose all secret documents and “funding parties” relating to the negotiations. Maybe the ‘scandal effect’ would wake up the world to the corruption being wrought globally by the MPAA/RIAA and lead to serious reform throughout.

I’d prefer things not have to go to that extreme but it seems pretty obvious that even if ACTA dies, there will be continuous attempts to get similar legislation passed until they succeed.

Coyote says:

Y’know, I hate repeating comments from past articles, but one that comes to mind here:

I can’t follow a trade agreement I not only had no part in, but know nothing about. So if I’m put in jail under this ‘agreement’ wouldn’t that actually be violating some sort of law about this sort of thing? I’m sure there are laws against wrongful imprisonment.

If there aren’t, well shit. Guess I’ll get well-acquainted with my new buddy for the next ten years of my life. All for what? Copying and sharing a lolcat photo that may or may not have mentioned Kanye West’s ‘power’ song.

Oh well, better get used to this new pretty dress. I’m going to be wearing it for a few years.

Anonymous Coward says:

Any democratically elected official who has to conduct business via secret ballot do not deserve to be an elected official and should immediately be removed from office.

Conversely, any citizen who doesn’t immediately demand the resignation/removal of elected officials who would conduct business via secret ballot do not deserve a democratic government.

Anonymous Coward says:

and there could be a vote on 21/06. but knowing what lying arse holes politicians are, even if this vote goes against ACTA, doesn’t mean the final, crucial vote will go the same way. seen it all before!! lul people into a false sense of security then kick them fairly and squarely right in the nuts. hurts like hell anyway but always hurts more when least expecting it!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

If they stick to the timetable 21/06 will carry the INTA-vote.

I still expect mr. Martin to have his finger enough on the pulse to be trustworthy. He is still expecting about 2 of 3 parliamentarians to vote against ACTA.
I see some very worrying traiter-trends within some no-groups (mostly specific countries MEPs in ALDE and S&D) and if EPP can keep it together they could end up pushing something through. Most likely a direct yes is unthinkable so they will try to delay the final vote untill the court has reviewed ACTA, if they avoid a no.
There is no way the trustworthyness of EU will remain mediocre as it is now and given the EURO etcetera I would say it is becoming a big deal especially in Germany and Italy…

Anonymous Coward says:

There’s simply no way this goes to a secret ballot vote. Another sky-is-falling fantasy courtesy of Chicken Little Masnick. All of this is designed to whip up a readership whose sole understanding of ACTA is filtered by Chicken Little himself. How many of the 22 commenters have read the treaty? Any? What specific provisions do you object to?

You’re certainly entitled to your own opinion, but maybe you should consider developing your opinion yourself.

arcan (profile) says:

Re: Re:

dude the specific provisions i object to is the entire damn thing. if this was a properly negotiated treaty with transparency through the entire process i might cut them a little slack. but not with the constant attempts of screwing the public out of their right to know what the government THEY elected is doing to international law. not only that but then the president sidesteps the senate to sign a document that is unconstitutional for him to sign. that is my problem with it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

I have read it and it is pretty clear that talking about specific provisions means you understand even less than the headless critiques.

The terms used are more confusing than previous terms and some terms and meanings could easily have been reused from other treaties.

“Commercial scale” is defined completely different from what TRIPS use.

“Damages” is a civil court action besides, not having common EU laws to back it. In Scandinavia some courts opinions will have to change and even then their argument against damages = wholesaleprice are based on fundamental legislative pillars of the constitution. It is a case where a change of law is very likely to be needed and thus the primary argument for accepting the agreement is gone!

“fair process” is used instead of universally recognised “due process”.
“fundamental principles” is hard to pinpoint since “fundamental rights” clearly is not the same and that should ring the obfuscation-alarm…

Apart from that there are no internal references in the document, which makes it almost impossible to pinpoint the internal conflicts and how they are intended to be solved.
The treaty is starting out with a lot of fine promises, but in what provisions they count and how they count is impossible to say. My guess is that they rushed the last part of ACTA and did not use due dilligence in completing it.
All in all there may be everything needed for it to be a good treaty. However: Too many obscure terms, too little help in terms of how it should be read and bad combinations of rights – Trademark and copyright, digital and analogue + Substantial requirements and tradeterms in the same package.
I would say the arguments for flipping ACTA are very convincing. If for no other reason, then to force these trade-delegations to actually make the treaty consistent and non-vague.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Isn’t the whole point of the treaty to keep any terms relating to copyright, IP and public safeguards as vague as possible ?
This way they could have the courts “make” the treaty into law for them by establishing precedents in any lawsuit they bring (this includes expanding its scope and provisions by court precedent, as happened with several of these copyright and IP laws in the US). I would think the organisations behind this treaty would actually prefer the vagueness of this text as compared to a strictly defined legal framework with clearly defined legal terms.

Chilly8 says:

With one report in Business Insider about secessionist movemments in Britain and France, ACTA may not be dead, even if the EU rejects it as a whole.

Could Scotland, Cornwall, Wales, Isle of Man, Brittany, Normandy, or Occitania decide to ratify ACTA, if they break away? It they avoid joining the EU, they could certainly do it.

An EU vote against ACTA will stop it for now, but those potential countries I just named could well be pressured by the USA to adopt ACTA.

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