US And EU Still Clueless About What The SOPA And ACTA Defeats Really Mean

from the how-can-they-not-get-it? dept

In the wake of the recent defeat of ACTA in the European Parliament, the key questions are not just what the European Commission will now do, but what lessons the EU and US will learn from it, especially in the wake of the equally dramatic derailing of SOPA earlier this year. At the annual meeting of the Transatlantic Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) Working Group in Brussels last week, both the EU and US agencies and rights holders let slip a few hints about what they are really thinking.

Here, for example, is how the EU views the post-ACTA situation, as reported by Intellectual Property Watch:

Where IP rights once was a field for experts, now it drives the masses to the streets, the European Commission said referring to recent protests against the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA). Without a much stronger commitment from rights holders, the rejection of ACTA would just be the beginning, Commission representatives said according to observers.

This is extraordinary: rather than taking on board the concerns expressed by tens of thousands of European citizens about how ACTA was negotiated, and the way it sought to preserve outdated business models by weakening online privacy and freedom, the European Commission instead wants rights holders to fight back against this wave of protests. No sense, then, that maybe the Commission and copyright industries should possibly change their position to reflect the clearly-expressed wishes of European citizens, only a worry that without some kind of concerted action, things might swing slightly in the public’s favor for once — perish the thought.

The European Commission wasn’t even prepared to consider splitting ACTA into two separate treaties — one dealing with counterfeits, the other with online copyright issues:

Jean-Luc Demarty, the director general of the Trade Directorate of the European Commission, said at the meeting with regard to question of a potential split of counterfeiting and copyright piracy, IPR could not just be for bags and t-shirts.

This betrays a woeful — or perhaps willful — lack of understanding about why physical counterfeits and digital copies are fundamentally different, and need to be addressed with different means.

The US side was not much better:

George York, deputy assistant to the US Trade Representative for IP and Innovation, and Susan Wilson, director of the Office of Intellectual Property Rights in the US Department of Commerce, confirmed during the meeting that despite ACTA’s failure in the EU, the ratification process would go on in the US, despite concerns by some experts about potential inconsistencies with US laws.

Again, no hint that maybe ACTA was the wrong solution, or that it lacked legitimacy without the support of citizens in signatory nations. Just the insistence that the US would plough ahead, regardless of any inconsistencies with those tiresome laws.

As if that weren’t enough, the meeting’s participants went on to express that they are “highly skeptical” about open access to scientific knowledge — despite the huge and growing support for it among scientists themselves. The old FUD that open access somehow undermines peer review was rolled out — even though no one who understands open access even minimally could possibly make that absurd accusation.

The US and EU administrations also both said that India’s compulsory licensing of Bayer’s anti-cancer drug rang “alarm bells”; tellingly, the EU side added that the EU-India Free Trade Agreement currently being negotiatied “still needs work” — presumably so as to limit India’s freedom to issue more such compulsory licenses.

The nearest thing to a tacit admission that the defeat of SOPA and ACTA indicated something was seriously wrong with the whole system came from William E. Kennard, the US Ambassador to the EU, who boldly suggested that legislators still have not got the balance in this area “quite right”. Such a laughable characterization of the chasm that separates what the law tries to impose and what the public now believes is reasonable shows just how little US and EU officials and rights holders have really grasped what this year’s extraordinary events mean for copyright — and for them.

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Comments on “US And EU Still Clueless About What The SOPA And ACTA Defeats Really Mean”

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Hephaestus (profile) says:

My personal hope is that they continue down the same path that they are following and continue to ignore the signs that things are changing. Right now they see the failures of ACTA and SOPA as blips and believe this is a short lived internet only thing.

They haven’t put together that the anti IP demonstrations, Arab spring, Uber vs the DC taxi and limo commission, etc are all part of the same growing trend. A trend that is now breaking out of the Geek only stereotype and going more mainstream. Looking at the Stop Monsanto movement you have farmers, tree huggers, organic food types, and techies all working together, you can see this. Slowly the number of people under the curve of this change are increasing.

I can’t wait for five years from now when groups like AARP start getting into the mix.

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: Re:

If I got your point then I think exactly the same. They should keep ignoring the people and dismissing all the uprise against the current systemic issues as some temporary internet hype. If they ignore long enough the unsatisfied ppl will reach a critical mass beyond the point that doing one thing right will make them cool down and let several other wrongs go past.

Fun times to live!

Hephaestus (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

My belief is that this will very slowly work its way into the collective consciousnesses of government and businesses. If you look at past disruptive innovations, it is always business as usual until it is to late. Mike talks about disruption quite a bit, from what I have seen he even understands it in a minor way. Most people do not get the exponential growth part, and see the trends are farther off than they actually are. I am not worried about them waking up to this threat tomorrow.

“If they ignore long enough the unsatisfied ppl will reach a critical mass beyond the point that doing one thing right will make them cool down”

The critical mass has already been reached to protect the internet. The techie, “Nerds”, and w3 crowd are the ones fighting laws that would affect the internet.

The critical mass to actually change things will not occur for a coupe years. When AARP types point their gnarled fingers at the politicians and say that’s a stupid idea stop it. We know we are there. 🙂

Kind of Ironic if you think about it. The government creates the internet, the geeks love it and protect it, the internet becomes the thing that screws business as usual politics.

“If I got your point then I think exactly the same.”

Contact me at my blog or hit me up over at Google+

Mike42 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

From what I’ve seen, you are correct. Normal people did not know the changes to copyright law which have occurred in the last 20-30 years. Hell, I have a coworker who watermarks “copyrighted material” on nearly everything he prints! They changed the laws, but didn’t bother to tell anyone. But now that people are finding out, they are not at all happy. Every person I talk to about life +75 or software patents says, “that’s not right” unless they are software project managers or software analysts. (Most of them are on par with lawyers, but too lazy to go to lawschool!)
I would say that the RIAA/MPAA “education” program has worked. More people know about copyright and are pissed off at the laws than ever.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Millions of people are leaving their end run much too late.

The noose is tightening.

Around the world the people should note, their governments are not afraid of them, but rather snooping on them, SWAT-ing their domestic homes looking for joints, molesting them at airports looking for illicit MP3s and underwear bombs, all the whilst colluding with cartels ranging from at best dubiously self entitled and anti democratic monopolists through to the outright criminals and their colluders who control our very money and happily crashed the globabl economies to keep their short sighted economy-gobbling, cocaine fueled party going.

The military industrialists at least know no recession. The lawless rogue police state now claims the “authority” of the POTUS includes summarily executing United States citizens. And this is the alleged leader of the “free world”?

What difference will “opinion” no matter how massed make against the fearful surveilance state and domestically deployable military grade force at the governments’ disposal?

There’s no one else to vote for anyway.

:Lobo Santo (profile) says:

Willful Blindness

The world faces _true_ democratization, (“mob rule”, some would say) where the people are truly in charge of their own destinies, and where everybody can directly interact in their own governance.

The old guard is willingly blind to it–as the need for despotic/fascist republics is coming to an end. Of course they don’t see it! It is the death knell of the old means of governance.

SolkeshNaranek says:

how-can-they-not-get-it? It may be you that doesn't get it.

The recording industry and their toadies have had years to maneuver the “proper” people into positions of power and influence both in the U.S.A. and other countries.

It is shocking that you are surprised that these same toadies would express the articles stated viewpoints about the public and our input into SOPA, ACTA, TPP, and etc.

Until the toadies and the recording industry are removed from any positions of influence, we are going to continue to see these same out of touch views expressed over and over.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: how-can-they-not-get-it? It may be you that doesn't get it.

I do not think it is a coincidence that we see protest blow up with every new legislation at the moment.
Newer laws have expanded openness in governance internationally and the dealings in backrooms are getting communicated to the public or is getting willfully disrupted to protect the last few bastions of “confidential” governmental dealings.
The floodgate has already opened and it is not possible for the “toadies” to stem the tide without getting slammed by their proposals “restricting fundamental human rights”. The true problem in the new system is the dealings done by people denying this reality, which is mostly oldschool conservative lawyers and politicians + whoever they can convince of the need for closedness in governance (mostly industries needing a very strong lobby to fight for unpopular laws. You mentioned some, but there are others).

I applaud this development and see it as a necessity for a more stable future. However, it is poison for the economic advantage in the western world, if the IPR-laws get too relaxed since wages are such a big chunk of doing business in the western world.
Where the line should be drawn is difficult to say. A constitution of the internet will be a necessity to have something against the “but, but… Piracy” arguments! I do not see it in the near future though and untill we see that, we will have one horrible law after another trying to push the “toadies” agenda at the cost of freedoms on the internet!

Simple Mind (profile) says:

Re: how-can-they-not-get-it? It may be you that doesn't get it.

You don’t get into the position of Drug Czar by being in favor of ending the War on (some) Drugs. You don’t get into a position of IP Czar by being an IP minimalist. The people in these positions don’t think in terms of how they can do the right thing for the people especially since it means their position may no longer need to exist. They only think in terms of enforcing that area which they preside over and hence increasing their own power and influence.

So I don’t think “removing the toadies” will ever work as the only thing you can replace them with is other amphibians. What has to happen is that the positions themselves have to be removed as being unnecessary. But that will never happen because govt bureaucracy always grows, never shrinks. Bureaucrats always add positions beneath them to increase their own power and influence. This is why large organizations always become bloated with middle managers.

Rekrul says:

You have to understand that the corporations feel it is their inalienable right to make money and that anything that interferes with that is wrong. Therefore they feel that government should do anything and everything possible to help them make money, no matter what the cost. And since they heavily line the pockets of politicians, most of them believe the same thing.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

If that’s the case, then most politicians are oblivious to their own country’s monetary controls.

Full employment is not allowed because it is deemed to cause inflation. There is an assumed level of unemployment that it is deemed undesirable to drop below. Greenspan caused everyone go nuts once when he refused to enact monetary measures to slow economic growth when employment was viewed as getting dangerously high. Nothing bad happened; inflation did not spiral out of control.

But that has not materially changed the notion that employment is a market where the government should interfere to keep prices low and to prevent the free market from doing its thing.

It’s one of the most evil hypocrisies of the free market movement; the premise that the one thing anyone can sell faces open competition for a price race to the bottom, but will be interferred with to depress prices if the competition starts to favour the sellers.

Cory of PC (profile) says:

Nuclear Option

After reading plenty of these stories over how incompetent our governments are when it comes to bills and acts like SOPA and ACTA, I’m wondering when it will come the time that we have to go with a “nuclear option.” I keep thinking in my head that we might want to declare war on the governments, especially the US, who keep pressing on to get something pass to get them in control over what we do online. Really I seriously doubt declaring war is an option, even going black again is iffy, but I really believe that we should have some “nuclear option” in case we do get close to losing the Internet.

Ima Fish (profile) says:

Without a much stronger commitment from rights holders…

Oh yeah, the movie and music industries are just so lackadaisical when it comes to pushing for stronger monopoly rights. They’ve really got to step up their game.

Seriously, what the #*$&* does that even mean?! The “rights holders” are the only people pushing for increasing monopoly rights.

Was that a subtle request for the copyright maximalists to give them more money? To use their resources to squash the dissent in the media?

I’ve often wondered whether copyright laws would become so draconian that eventually the average person would turn against it. It is my sincere hope that we’ve reached that point.

rubberpants says:

Re: Re:

Replace “stronger commitment” with “stronger financial commitment”. This is basically a nod to the industry that they need to step-up their campaign donations and cushy job offers if they want to continue to get their way because there’s too much heat from the public right now.

All legislation is essentially fundraising. -Rubberpant’s Law

ken (profile) says:

Rights-Holders, Lets Ratchet It Up Even Further

The people are taking to the streets due to the over-reach of rights-holders and governments that has shown a willingness to subornate human rights as well as freedom of speech to copyrights.

To suggest that the answer is for rights-holders to ratchet it up even further is only going to continue to inflame the public.

AC Cobra says:

Wait, ratification?

“George York, deputy assistant to the US Trade Representative for IP and Innovation, and Susan Wilson, director of the Office of Intellectual Property Rights in the US Department of Commerce, confirmed during the meeting that despite ACTA?s failure in the EU, the ratification process would go on in the US, despite concerns by some experts about potential inconsistencies with US laws.”

Hasn’t the USTR and Obama administration been claiming until now that ACTA doesn’t require ratification by Congress? Are they finally admitting it does?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Wait, ratification?

No, they are claiming some obscure pre-acceptance from congress though the documents supposed to support that claim is completely without reference to said acceptance.

“Ratification” in this case, has to do with writing a lot of papers of how the US laws are in compliance with ACTA and choosing somebody for the “IPR overlord council”.

They are saying to the EU IPR maximalists that they should not worry: The US will get it ratified and what the experts are pointing out are mere speculating (hence “potential inconsistencies”) and irrelevant for “getting it done”.

Chris Brand says:


“Where IP rights once was a field for experts, now it drives the masses to the streets”

Of course the reasons for both of these are the same – once upon a time, IP rights didn’t affect “the masses”, only corporations (and creators). The world and IP laws have changed so that now all sorts of things that we want to do in the privacy of our own homes break some IP law or other.

Surprise, surprise – when IP rights start to restrict “the masses”, “the masses” start to push back against them. The solution, of course, is to change the law so that IP rights once again only affect people making money from them, but it’s going to be a long time before they start to realize that (if the reaction doesn’t lead to no IP rights at all first).

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

This is bullshit. You attack the process instead of the product. You could make it the most transparent, inclusive totally vetted process in the history of formal government and the crazies would still demonize any reasonable attempt to protect against piracy.

Highly unlikely. Having a transparent, inclusive, totally vetted process would probably automatically weed out most if not all unreasonable attempts to protect against piracy. Hence the absolute secrecy involved in ACTA, for example, and its colossal failure once the public became involved.

Having jettisoned the unreasonable attempts to protect against piracy, we’d be left with discussions over reasonable attempts. Unfortunately, despite many good suggestions on how to deal with the issue that have been proposed on this site and others, having serious discussions about reasonable attempts to protect against piracy is the last thing the MPAA/RIAA wants to encourage, since that would require them to get much too close to 21st century reality for their comfort zone.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

There aren’t any reasonable measures that can be taken against piracy.

Each and every single measure which could work to protect against piracy would involve either the routine presumption of guilt, or the issuing of search-warrant-level governmental investigations as part of routine business; all of which is unreasonable.

The only measure which can be taken which is actually reasonable is to remove government-mandated anti-piracy measures entirely and thereby force IP-producers and consumers to engage with each other, rather than continue to escalate the current ludicrous government-granted-monopoly-vs-human-rights situation we have going at the moment.

You people cannot win this argument because you’re asking people to vote in a rod for their own back, and it’s just never going to work.

SleepyJohn (profile) says:

Worldwide public contempt will kill the MAFIAA

I think it is quite interesting what is happening already. I think the public has given up trying to fight against impenetrable, deliberately obfuscated legal jargon that they have no hope of understanding, and have taken to railing against any legislation pushed by anyone they do not trust, regardless of what may be in it. I am quite sure the vast majority of protests against ACTA came from people who actually had no idea what it said, but could nonetheless clearly detect emanating from it the stench of the MAFIAA and its political bagmen.

This trend is bound to continue, as it is the only recourse left to ordinary people against the ever-increasing destruction of their intrinsic freedoms by corporate and criminal controlled gangs. These gangsters (and there is no other name for them) must be taught that any sign of them trying to enslave the people will be spotted by someone somewhere on the internet and the whole world will be alerted. And long gone are the days when the public is prepared to listen to their convoluted, legally deceitful lies. Anything that stinks of the world-wide MAFIAA conspiracy against the people will be slung out or ignored, quite automatically. And even the MAFIAA’s political toadies cannot imprison everyone in the world for listening to a crappy pop song.

Quite simply, if copyright can only be ‘protected’ by turning the whole world into a totalitarian state controlled by the criminal MAFIAA, then copyright must go. And the only thing that will get rid of it is worldwide public contempt. Then natural evolution can replace it with something a whole lot better able to deal fairly with this rapidly changing world.

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