EU Commissioner Kroes: 'We Are Now Likely To Be In A World Without SOPA And Without ACTA'

from the she-said-what??? dept

Neelie Kroes gave a keynote speech at this year's re:publica conference in Berlin (disclosure: I spoke there too) that brought together many of the themes she has touched on recently -- the open Web, copyright licensing, the potential of open data, and the need to provide enhanced Internet safety for children. Interesting and important as all those are, they pale into insignificance beside the following comment she made:

We have recently seen how many thousands of people are willing to protest against rules which they see as constraining the openness and innovation of the Internet. This is a strong new political voice. And as a force for openness, I welcome it, even if I do not always agree with everything it says on every subject. We are now likely to be in a world without SOPA and without ACTA. Now we need to find solutions to make the Internet a place of freedom, openness, and innovation fit for all citizens, not just for the techno avant-garde.
Coming from one of the most senior members of the European Commission, which is still desperately trying to push ACTA through the European Parliament, that's an extraordinary statement; the question is: what does it really mean?

Some have suggested that this is an attempt to lull ACTA opponents into a false sense of security so as to allow the European Commission to work behind the scenes for ratification. But that seems unlikely: important though the re:publica conference is, such a statement from an EU commissioner there is hardly enough to trick many ACTA opponents into giving up.

Others would like to believe that the European Commission has finally come to its senses and recognized that the opposition to ACTA is too deep and wide to be overcome, and have accepted its inevitable defeat. Again, that is not really credible given the continuing attempts by the European Commission to persuade European politicians to support the referral of ACTA to the European Court of Justice, and to delay the vote in the European Parliament.

What it may indicate is a growing split in the European Commission between the pragmatists like Kroes, who have accepted that ACTA is doomed, even if they are not really very happy with that outcome, and the hardliners led by the commissioner handling the negotiations, Karel De Gucht, who are still fighting a rearguard action.

That fits with what we know about Neelie Kroes. For example, as Techdirt reported, she has come out in favor of copyright reform and against Internet disconnections -- two views that are probably not shared by all her European Commission colleagues. With her latest frank acknowledgement of ACTA's dwindling chances of being ratified, it would seem that, once again, Kroes is in the vanguard of accepting the reality of the digital world, rather than stubbornly fighting it to the bitter end.

Assuming that there is indeed a growing rift within the European Commission, that in itself is significant, because it represents a departure from the earlier position of presenting a unified front. Given that the European Parliament is also divided between the more realistic socialists, liberals and greens on the one hand, and the more recalcitrant conservatives on the other, it looks like a huge fault line is developing right through the European political machine. Against that background, it would seem increasingly unlikely that ACTA will now be ratified by Europe.

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Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 4th, 2012 @ 3:21pm

    That last paragraph makes me cringe...Incoming shit-storm about liberals, socialists and conservatives.

    Expect Obama to be somehow brought into this.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. icon
    Alana (profile), May 4th, 2012 @ 3:22pm

    A world without SOPA or ACTA! The shills horror, the shills horror! Hide the children, we can't protect them without harsher punishments and laws!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. icon
    TaCktiX (profile), May 4th, 2012 @ 3:24pm

    Wait, did I just see possible logic and reason out of a politician? Someone pinch me, another person doublecheck for the impending Apocalypse, and someone else assure me that this is not a late April Fool's joke.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    FuzzyDuck, May 4th, 2012 @ 3:35pm


    Kroes is one of the few rare politicians that I actually have an overall positive opinion of. In her previous role at the EC, she has tackled some big corporations for abusing their market power. I am sure Microsoft and Intel hate her.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. icon
    AzureSky (profile), May 4th, 2012 @ 3:54pm


    Obama sucks, biden is even worse, mind you, this coming from a guy who voted for obama because palin(aka crazy hockey mom) scared the shit out of him(the thought of her being near any sort of button....even one on a coffee pot....scares the hell out of me)

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Rottweiler, May 4th, 2012 @ 3:55pm

    I'm sure she just want free stuff and spit on the face of content producers because she's a pirate apologist, anti-industry, anti-IP, pro-google cultist.

    I'm curious though, it seems that Bob and other shills don't post comments when an article like this gets published, I wonder why....

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    J, May 4th, 2012 @ 3:56pm

    There are important splits in the Conservative EPP bloc too.

    It's true that the influential German MEP Klaus-Heiner Lehne, who chairs the Legal Affairs committee JURI and who is himself an IP lawyer, is as signed-up an IP maximalist as you are likely to find.

    But there are also important voices of sanity in the party, for example the Austrian MEP Paul Rübig. Rübig is chair of European Parliament's Scientific Technology
    Options Assessment Panel (STOA), and a member of the Industry committee ITRE which has already recommended non-ratification of the treaty.

    His view is that the present text now needs to be scrapped, with any new treaty needing to be renogatiated from scratch from the bottom up, focussing narrowly on product counterfeiting and nothing else, rather than the present text which he sees as overbroad and utterly vague.

    There is a battle on for each EPP vote, and it will be won individual MEP by individual MEP

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. icon
    gorehound (profile), May 4th, 2012 @ 4:21pm

    To bad we won't be seeing anything good coming out of Washington DC.They will obey their Corporate Masters and it would not matter whose Party was in charge.And do not forget the Government wants to control you and take away your Rights.It took two parties to give all of us the Patriot Act,NDAA, ETC, ETC.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. icon
    Kaden (profile), May 4th, 2012 @ 4:43pm

    Re: Re:

    You know, I don't think that was a request.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 4th, 2012 @ 5:28pm


    Correct, but the real problem is that EPP is such a huge fraction and you never know where the line is drawn. Bent Bendten from Denmark is as hardliner as you get and the danish S&D-members (at least 2 of the 3) are likely to break party-line in an effort to get ACTA through unless it is completely and utterly over by the time of the vote. There are many S&D members actually still contemplating a yes.
    I am very surprised that the danish representatives for ALDE was clear on voting no. They are known as extremely opportunist and breaking party-line to suit their own agenda. Voting no seems like a purely national fishingexpedition for votes on this issue since they were the ones representing Denmark through the negotiations...

    All in all I do not see a clear win for the pragmatist yet, but a lot of signs that in the parliament, many believe that ACTA is as dead a fish as they come.

    I would wait untill we see the recommandation from LIBE - Not because I think it will bin the expected rejection from S&D - since they have confidential and non-leaked inside information on some minutes from late rounds of the negotiations (through a lawsuit!). How that will effect the recommandation is still unknown but I would look closely at the comments in the document when it is released (most likely may 9).

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 5th, 2012 @ 3:15am

    Re: Re:

    So I guess then.... we need to point out the importance of the ""youth"" vote , of course making them ( scared of losing "power politicians" ) assume the web is an 18-35 year old thing , which to be frank , most already do.

    Want enthusiastic "young" voters like the ACTA protestors.
    The voice of the "youth" generation.
    Well stand for their beliefs then.

    "young" is a powerful word to describe your voting base. It exudes confidence , virility , activeness and a whole host of other positive visions.

    Suppose my point is.... Co-opt them with the prize of youth votes which is indeed the reality.
    If all they want is votes then all they have to do is.....

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 5th, 2012 @ 3:27am

    the biggest problem with the EU is the EU itself. it cant agree on anything. it puts out statements that dont mean squat. it makes rules which are never followed. what is the point of making the decision, at EU level, that website blocking and internet disconnections are not the EU option, then sitting back, thumb up arse and do nothing while member countries do the exact opposite? the EU seems to be getting to be more and more a complete joke, a complete waste of time!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. icon
    shawnhcorey (profile), May 5th, 2012 @ 5:35am


    Now all we have to do is get a world without copyrights and patents.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. identicon
    TDR, May 5th, 2012 @ 3:31pm

    To paraphrase Neo:

    "We know you're out there. We can feel you, now. You're afraid. You're afraid of change. We didn't come here to tell you how this is going to end. We came here to tell you how it's going to begin. We're going to seed these files, and then we're going to show everyone else what you don't want them to see—a world without you. A world without copyrights and patents, without borders or boundaries. A world where anything is possible. Where we go from there is a choice we leave to you."

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. icon
    Ninja (profile), May 7th, 2012 @ 6:09am

    I always take what ppl involved with politics say with a grain of salt. Even though it's getting increasingly harder for politicians to say something to the public and completely disregard it in the backstage they still do it. A lot. An incredibly annoying lot.

    That said, we do see pretty conflicting views inside the EU, depending which part of it you are referring to. So I do agree they are somewhat split (European countries, disagreeing on something? No way! /sarc). The message I take from this is simply that we must stay vigilant. The fight for freedom and privacy rages on and we have neither seen nor we will see any opportunity to lay down our weapons (we the people).

    Worth following VERY close.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. identicon
    Opperdienaar, May 7th, 2012 @ 11:54pm


    The controllers will control. These things take time, but the tax slaves of the elites will be brought under their control, not matter how many terrorist/pedophile/economic collapse/wmd scares it takes.
    Read "the master switch" by Tim Wu and you will see all new media started free (film, radio, cable, telephone) and eventually were all brought under state control. So will the internet, tax slaves are not to understand their enslavement.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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