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Archive for January, 2012

The Internet hits the streets of Paris, on January 28, 2012 (photo: Alexander JE Bradley)

Well, it looks like some serious opposition to ACTA is starting to emerge in Europe. There are now dozens of street protests being planned in the following weeks in several countries:

http://pad.telecomix.org/acta-protests (the pad only takes a maximum of 16 simultaneous users, so don’t leave its window open!)

Here’s another pad:
http://piratenpad.de/p/ACTA+International+Protests

Here’s a map of the events:
http://maps.google.com/maps/ms?msid=212120558776447282985.0004b7b33e16f13c710c7&msa=0

In Brussels and in a total of 36 cities in France people marched already last Saturday. Repeat protests are planned also in these locations.

The remarkable difference between these protests and the SOPA/PIPA protests a while ago is that this time the main action seems to be happening on the streets rather than on the Internet. In fact, we may be witnessing here the first time that major street protests have erupted over issues concerning freedom of the Internet, surely another milestone in the history of the global Internet community. In their way, these protests are also a logical follow-up to the Occupy movement where the distinction between political activity on the Internet and direct action on the streets was already being blurred with livestreams and Twitter feeds broadcasting the events on the streets to the Internet in real time.

La Quadrature du Net has posted a great infographic on ACTA here:
http://www.laquadrature.net/en/infographic-remix-acta-lethal-weapon-against-your-rights

See also this debunking of the EU Commission’s pro-ACTA propaganda:
http://www.laquadrature.net/node/5147

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ACTA update

Polish parliamentarians protesting against ACTA

The dreaded Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) nudged forward on Thursday as the governments of 22 EU nations, along with the EU itself, signed on the dotted line in a ceremony in Tokyo (I posted an introductory video about the agreement earlier here). The remaining governments are expected to sign in the near future, after which all the major negotiation parties have signed the treaty.

This does not, however, yet mean that the agreement will take effect, as it still needs to be ratified in both the national parliaments and the European parliament. The vote in the European parliament is expected to be held in June, and a “no” in Brussels would apparently moot any decisions made in national parliaments. So, this gives us still some time to rally against the agreement. In Poland, tens of thousands of people have already taken to the streets earlier this week to protest against the signing of the treaty (this, of course, did not stop the Polish representative from going ahead and signing anyway).

In other interesting news, a French MEP in charge of investigating the agreement for the European parliament has resigned from his position, denouncing the non-transparency of the negotiation process, calling the whole process a “charade”. It looks like significant opposition to the agreement is finally rising in Europe. What we need now is relentless campaigning to push ACTA into the mainstream political discourse. The copyright industry and their stooges have done their utmost to slip the agreement through without anybody noticing, but we can make sure this is not going to happen. We won the SOPA/PIPA battle and we can win this one too.

As Rick Falkvinge points out, the promoters of the agreement have shown to be perfectly willing to lie through their teeth to push it through, so we need to counter this by distributing correct information in the media and also straight to the relevant parliamentarians. Here are some useful sources on ACTA:

EDRI has also put together a good howto for campaigning against ACTA with contact information for MEPs:
http://www.edri.org/stopacta

For those who are on Twitter, here’s an easy tool for tweeting MEPs:
http://www.tweetyourmep.eu/home/en

La Quadrature du Net also has a howto:
https://www.laquadrature.net/wiki/How_to_act_against_ACTA

Stopacta.info offers an infobox on ACTA for your website:
http://www.stopacta.info/

Then there’s this site set up by Polish activists:
http://whovotesforacta.eu/en/

Finally, there’s this petition that you can sign:
https://secure.avaaz.org/en/eu_save_the_internet_spread/

And another petition:
https://www.accessnow.org/page/s/just-say-no-to-acta

And yet another petition for the British:
http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/20685

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I blogged earlier about the connection between free market ideology and religion here. Now I present an excerpt from an unfinished essay, Capitalism as Religion by Walter Benjamin, written in 1921 and published in the Volume VI of his Collected Writings (in German). Here, Benjamin characterises capitalism not as something that resembles a religion, but as an actual religious cult as such. The translation is by Chad Kautzer. You can read the complete text here. A useful commentary by Benjamin Noys can be found here.

“One can behold in capitalism a religion, that is to say, capitalism essentially serves to satisfy the same worries, anguish, and disquiet formerly answered by so-called religion. The proof of capitalism’s religious structure – as not only a religiously conditioned construction, as Weber thought, but as an essentially religious phenomenon – still today misleads one to a boundless, universal polemic. We cannot draw close the net in which we stand. A commanding view will, however, later become possible.

Three characteristics of the religious structure of capitalism are, however, recognizable at present. First, capitalism is a pure religious cult, perhaps the most extreme there ever was. Within it everything only has a meaning in direct relation to the cult: it knows no special dogma, no theology. From this standpoint, utilitarianism gains its religious coloring. The concretization of the cult connects with a second characteristic of capitalism: the permanent duration of the cult. Capitalism is the celebration of the cult sans rêve et sans merci.¹ Here there is no “weekday”, no day that would not be a holiday in the awful sense of exhibiting all sacred pomp – the extreme exertion of worship. Third, this is a cult that engenders blame. Capitalism is presumably the first case of a blaming, rather than repenting cult. Herein stands this religious system in the fall of a tremendous movement. An enormous feeling of guilt not itself knowing how to repent, grasps at the cult, not in order to repent for this guilt, but to make it universal, to hammer it into consciousness and finally and above all to include God himself in this guilt, in order to finally interest him in repentance. This [repentance] is thus not to be expected in the cult itself, nor in the reformation of this religion – which must hold on to something certain within it – nor yet in the denial of it. In the essence of this religious movement that is capitalism lies – bearing until the end, until the finally complete infusion of blame into God – the attainment of a world of despair still only hoped for. Therein lies the historical enormity of capitalism: religion is no longer the reform of being, but rather its obliteration. From this expansion of despair in the religious state of the world, healing is expected. God’s transcendence has fallen, but he is not dead. He is drawn into the fate of man. This passage of “planetary man” [Planeten Mensch] through the house of despair is, in the absolute loneliness of his path, the ethos Nietzsche describes. This man is the Übermensch, the first who knowingly begins to realize the capitalist religion. The fourth characteristic [of the religious structure of capitalism] is that its God must become concealed and may only be spoken of in the zenith of his culpability. The cult becomes celebrated before an immature deity, [while] every image, every idea of it injures the secret of its maturity.

Freudean theory also belongs to the priestly rule of this cult. It is thoroughly capitalistic in thought. The repressed, the sinful imagination, is, at bottom, still an illuminating analogy to capital – to which the hell of the unconscious pays interest.

This type of capitalist, religious thinking magnificently reconciles itself in Nietzsche’s philosophy. The thought of the Übermensch loses the apocalyptic “leap” not by changing its ways, atonement, purification, [or] penitence, but in the apparently continuous, but in the end, rupturing, discontinuous intensification. That is why intensification and evolution are incompatible in the sense of “non facit saltum.” The Übermensch is the one who without changing, arrived, who streaked through the heavens – historical man.

[…]

Capitalism is a purely cultic religion, without dogma. Capitalism itself developed parasitically on Christianity in the West – not in Calvinism alone, but also, as must be shown, in the remaining orthodox Christian movements – in such a way that, in the end, its history is essentially the history of its parasites, of capitalism. Compare the holy iconography of various religions on the one hand with the banknotes of various countries on the other: The spirit that speaks from the ornamentation of banknotes.

[…]

Christianity in the time of the Reformation did not encourage the emergence of capitalism, but rather changed itself into capitalism.”

¹ The translator suggests this should actually read “sans trêve et sans merci”

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Last Wednesday’s blackout protest against SOPA/PIPA can be seen as something of a coming of age for Internet activism. Unlike traditional forms political action on the Internet, sometimes derisively called clicktivism, blacking out major services for 24 hours represents a genuinely disruptive form of protest more akin to a general strike. There’s little question of which kind of action is more effective in spreading a message: according to the Wikimedia Foundation, a total of 162 million users saw the blacked out front-page of Wikipedia during the day, and some 7 million signed the petition set up by Google. What’s even more remarkable is that the protest seems to have actually had an effect on the legislators with support for PIPA collapsing in the Senate. There now seems to be a good chance that the laws actually won’t pass. That would truly be a landmark in the history of the global Internet community, showing that with collective action battles can be won even within the legislative sphere.

In less encouraging news, US federal prosecutors shut down the popular cyberlocker service MegaUpload on Thursday, arresting seven of its employees, none of which are US citizens. Charges include racketeering and money laundering, as well as copyright infringement. This comes just days after a UK court allowed the extradition of UK citizen Richard O’Dwyer, former administrator of TVShack, to the US to face copyright infringement charges (I blogged about O’Dwyer earlier here). These cases show how even in its current form the copyright legislation of the US combined with its military-political clout can be used to terrorise people anywhere in the world.

This is why the fight against the copyright regime cannot be limited to opposing specific laws, but needs to attack the regime as a whole. As long as copyright exists, the copyright industry will find ways, legal or quasi-legal, to extend its reach to gain total control over how people create and share information. Copyright is like cancer: unless completely destroyed, it will keep spreading by metastasis, with new tumors emerging in unexpected parts of the body (politic). As Dan Gillmor points out:

“The lawmakers and Murdochs and Hollywood types and others who are trying to lock down this emerging ecosystem are fully aware of how things work. They have what they consider good reasons for their efforts. But if they succeed, they will destroy most of what I and many others have been working toward. They will create an information monoculture where regimes work with corporations to control more than what we can read, hear and watch, because they will control how we can speak beyond the room we’re in at the moment.”

This is what is ultimately at stake. And the war has only just begun.

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A number of high-profile websites, including Wikipedia, Reddit and BoingBoing, are going to black out on Wednesday, January 18 to protest against the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) bill that is currently in the US House of Representatives (and its Senate version). If you want to join in the protest, here’s a code that will allow you to easily black out your WordPress.com-blog. Simply add a Text-widget anywhere in the blog and paste the code below as its body text. This will place a black bar on top of the blog content with a link to americancensorship.org. You can adjust the size and the position of the bar to cover the area you want covered. If you want to black out your whole blog, put “100%” as the width and the height.


<a style="width:400px;height:100px;vertical-align:middle;text-align:center;background-color:#000;position:absolute;z-index:5555;top:0;left:0;background-image:url('http://americancensorship.org/images/stop-censorship-small.png');background-position:center center;background-repeat:no-repeat;" href="http://americancensorship.org"></a>

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As Wired recently reported, a group of software developers from the Occupy movement are currently working on a new social networking platform for occupiers around the world. Such a platform will be extremely important in the future as privately owned networks face more and more pressure to hand over their data to the authorities. The new platform should be based on open technologies and be distributed so that each local occupation is in control of their own data. Furthermore, privacy concerns should at the top of the agenda so that sensitive information won’t under any circumstances leak into the hands of the authorities or other malevolent parties.

The development of the new platform has so far been conducted behind closed doors which is not necessarily the best way to engender trust. Hopefully the developers will eventually open up the project to everyone. Hopefully they’re also looking at existing solutions such as the N-1 network used by the indignants in Europe. There are also various other attempts going on to stimulate communication between local groups of occupiers around the globe. Now, having many parallel networks is not something that needs to be seen as a problem. On the contrary, diversity often leads to more robustness and better fault-tolerance and tolerance against interference. What needs to be solved, however, is the question of how to facilitate the flow of information between the various networks in order to avoid the creation of disconnected pockets of information.

Here’s a list of existing networks of the Occupy and indignant movements and their meeting places, copied from the People’s Assemblies website:

1. TTS Take The Square International
– English Language Global Mailing-List: http://lists.takethesquare.net/mailman/listinfo/squares (all welcome)
– TTS Global English Language Virtual Meeting ( chat room ) EVERY FRIDAY EVENING 6pm UK time at
http://takethesquare.net/chat/

2. Occupii Round Table
– Ning Social Network and Public Face Site http://www.occupii.org
– English Language Weekly Voice Based (Mumble) Round Table Meetings Every Thursday 7pm UK time
Meeting Info: http://occupii.org/events/occupy-internet-round-table
Mumble Download Info: http://occupii.org/page/tech-mumble

3. Interoccupy
US-based
– Main Site: http://interoccupy.org
– Upcoming Calls’ Calendar: http://interoccupy.org/calendar/
– Sign up for announcements: info@interoccupy.org
Also: https://groups.google.com/group/occupyusa?hl=en
https://groups.google.com/group/occupyus?hl=en

And about weekly US-wide co-ordination webinars contact voiceoftheoccupation@gmail.com

4.  Public Assemblies-Only Posting – New Email List
A simple new list to provide noise-free info from assemblies worldwide. Anyone can subscribe and observe but only assemblies can post here. Full info in English, Spanish and French at: http://www.peoplesassemblies.org/2011/11/eng-esp-fr-important-new-assembly-email-platform/

Post at: assemblies@lists.takethesquare.net
Subscribe at https://lists.takethesquare.net/mailman/listinfo/assemblies

5. PAN People’s Assemblies Network
Subscribe at: https://groups.google.com/group/peoplesassemblies?hl=en

6. DRY International
DRY “Democracia Real Ya!” / Real Democracy Now! International Group
– Facebook Work Group at http://www.facebook.com/groups/international.15m/
– Virtual weekly meetings on an irregular basis ( Voice Based ) 6pm UK time on Mumble 15M Server (instructions and download the program here: http://mumble.noc4net.com/ )

7. General Assemblies
– Regular US based Mumble Meetings with a view to creating international platform. Contact Jay for more info at ga@wc.tc
http://generalassemblies.info/

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This is an interesting talk by Cathrine Kramer and Zack Denfeld from the recently held 28th Chaos Communication Congress that looks at biotechnology and its role in the global food system from a hacker perspective. Applying the principles of hacker ethic on the ways we produce and consume food sounds like an intriguing possibility for the resistance against big agro.

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