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Archive for the ‘acta’ Category

Well, it sure didn’t take long, did it? Just a few days after the rejection of ACTA by the European parliament, Michael Geist reported on a leak of a trade agreement currently being negotiated between the EU and Canada (see also his follow-up post). The treaty, dubbed the Canada – EU Trade Agreement (CETA), contains a near word-for-word copy of ACTA in its chapter on intellectual property rights. CETA is a much more extensive treaty than ACTA was, so if it ever actually comes up for vote in the parliaments, it’ll be more difficult to reject, since it would also mean rejecting a wide variety of completely unrelated points. This is typical of the current mode of legislation in the EU: private interests are being smuggled into the process as part of these all-encompassing packages that are presented on a take-it-or-leave-it-basis, so that all discussion of individual issues therein gets mooted.

This is also indicative of a more general way “democracy” works here in the West: you get the freedom to choose (whether it’s by proxy in a parliament, or by a referendum), but only as long as you make the right choice (as determined by the money elite). In case you fail to realise what’s good for you and make the wrong choice, you can be sure that the same proposition will be presented to you again and again (with slight variations to deceive you) until it goes through. This is how it will continue to be as long as the political agenda is set by the corporate lobbyists and not us, the people.

This is why we need to take a proactive stance and start setting a whole new agenda from the ground up ourselves. We can no longer trust the politicians to do this for us. Parliaments should only be voting on legislation initiated by us, the people, not legislation drafted by corporate lobbyists. Treaties should be negotiated by us, the people, via an open process, not by faceless bureaucrats behind closed doors. The case of Iceland shows that this is not a pipe dream, there are ways to at least take steps in this direction. But those steps need to be taken by us. This thing cannot be done by proxy. If we’re not prepared to do this now, all we can expect from the future are more defensive battles over ever more oppressive legislation and treaties, many of which we are bound to lose.

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Europarliamentarians celebrating the death of ACTA.

 

We did it! The European parliament today voted against ACTA by a whopping 478 votes to 39. With the EU countries out, the treaty is now as good as dead. After the death of SOPA, this is another confirmation for the fact that collective action by the Internet community can have genuine consequences for policymaking. However, ACTA and SOPA were just two battles in an ongoing war. Simply blocking legislation won’t be enough in the future. The intellectual property lobby will no doubt be back with new propositions that are bound to be even more detrimental to the freedom of information than the ones we’ve blocked (see the TPP-treaty currently under negotiation, for example). It’s now time for us to go on the offensive and turn the tide of the expanding IP regime around.

Says La Quadrature du Net:

“Strasbourg, July 4th 2012 – The European Parliament rejected ACTA by a huge majority, killing it for good. This is a major victory for the multitude of connected citizens and organizations who worked hard for years, but also a great hope on a global scale for a better democracy. On the ruins of ACTA, we must now build a positive copyright reform, taking into account our rights instead of attacking them. The ACTA victory must resonate as a wake up call for lawmakers: Fundamental freedoms as well as the free and open Internet must prevail over private interests.

Citizens from the Internet and all around the world have won! By 478 to 039 during the final vote, Members of the EU Parliament killed ACTA once and for all. Together –connected through a decentralized communication architecture– we defeated this evil treaty negotiated in secret by a club of private interests and dogmatic civil servants. The ACTA battle demonstrates how crucial our networked public sphere is to the future of our societies and democracies.

Philippe Aigrain, co-founder and strategy adviser for La Quadrature du Net declared: “European institutions must now recognize that the alliance between citizens, civil society organizations and the EU Parliament is at the core of a new democratic era in Europe. European copyright policy must now be built with the participation of citizens.”

La Quadrature du Net warmly thanks and deeply congratulates every citizen, organization, cluster and network who collectively achieved this major victory! Let’s all celebrate and learn from this success, so as to be even stronger for the next battles!

“Beyond ACTA, we must stop this repressive trend which keeps imposing measures that harm the Internet and fundamental freedoms. Citizens must demand a reform of copyright which will foster online cultural practices such as sharing and remixing, instead of endlessly repressing them. The ACTA victory must be the beginning of a new era, in which policy-makers put freedoms and the open Internet –our common good– ahead of private interests.” concluded Jérémie Zimmermann, spokesperson for the citizen advocacy group.

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Rick Falkvinge goes on to say:

“Six months ago, the situation looked very dark. It was all but certain that ACTA would pass unnoticed in silence. The forces fighting for citizens’ rights tried to have it referred to the European Court of Justice, in order to test its legality and to buy some time. Then, something happened.

A monster by the name of SOPA appeared in the United States. Thousands of websites went dark on January 18, and millions of voices cried out, leaving Congress shellshocked over the fact that citizens can get that level of pissed off at corporate special interests. SOPA was killed.

In the wake of this, as citizens had realized that they didn’t need to take that kind of corporate abuse lying down and asking for more, the community floodlights centered on ACTA. The activism carried over beautifully to defeat this monster. Early February, there were rallies all over Europe, leaving the European Parliament equally shellshocked.

The party groups turned on a cent and declared their opposition to ACTA in solidarity with the citizen rallies all over the continent, after having realized what a piece of shameless mail-order legislation it really was, to the horrors of the corporate shills who thought this was a done deal. Those shills tried, tried hard, tried right up until today, to postpone the vote on ACTA past the attention of the public and the activists.

Alas, they don’t understand the net. And there’s one key thing right there: the net doesn’t forget.

But the key takeaway here is that it was we, the activists, that made this happen. Everybody in the European Parliament takes turn praising all the activists across Europe and the world that called their attention to what utter garbage this really was, that it wasn’t some run-of-the-mill rubberstamp paper but actually was a really dangerous piece of proposed legislation. Everybody thanks the activists for that. Yes, that’s you. You should lean back, smile, and pat yourself on the back here. Each and every one of us has every reason to feel proud today.

[…]

Many of the bad things in ACTA will return under other names. For the lobbyists, this is a nine-to-five job of jabbing against the legislation until it gives way. Just another day at work. We need to remain vigilant against special interests who will return again, again, and again, until we make sure that the legislative road for them is completely blocked. We must remain watchful.”

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The final ACTA vote in the European parliament has been scheduled for Wednesday next week. Despite recommendations from all the parliamentary committees to reject the treaty, the pro-ACTA lobby is still hard at work to convince the parliamentarians to vote “yes” anyway. They’ve now even decided to play the terrorist card. La Quadrature du Net writes:

“This Wednesday July 4th, the European Parliament will have an opportunity to reject ACTA as a whole, in plenary, and destroy it forever. After four years of citizens’ hard work, such a rejection would create a tremendous political symbol of global scale. La Quadrature du Net calls on all citizens to contact Members of the EU Parliament to urge them to reject ACTA, and beyond, to start a process to positively reform copyright law. A strong victory would set the ground for future reforms.

Last week’s adoption by the “International Trade” (INTA) committee of a voting recommendation against ACTA is extremely encouraging, but the final step ahead is indeed the most important: all the Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) will cast their vote in plenary on July 4th, 12:00PM, in favour or against ACTA. Citizens of the Internet must unite forces for this unique and historic occasion!

If chances of winning are now high, nothing is won yet. Last week, industry lobbies and the European Commission (responsible for negotiating on behalf of the EU) attempted to influence the Members of the INTA committee, and are already trying very hard to save face. We must therefore win this vote by a strong majority, to make it impossible for the Parliament to go back and stick to blind repression once ACTA is rejected.

As a citizen platform, La Quadrature du Net provides the PiPhone, a web tool allowing to call free of charge MEPs who are still not clearly against ACTA, along with some guidelines and key arguments against ACTA. Personnalized contacts should always be favoured over copy-paste of templates!

While engaging with the MEPs and their assistants, citizens are encouraged to start an open discussion about the need, beyond ACTA, to reform the EU copyright framework. Our online cultural practices must be encouraged rather than repressed. The voice of citizens, the free and open Internet, as well as our cultural practices matter more than a few industry lobbies’ interests!

“The ACTA debate could mark the beginning of a new era, where citizens organized online have the power to counter the influence of powerful industrial lobbies and short-sighted policy-makers keen on sacrificing our rights, along with the free Internet. By engaging with our representatives ahead of next week’s vote, we can not only achieve a huge victory of tremendous political significance against ACTA, but also help lawmakers understand how Internet and online culture work. Let’s win big on ACTA!” concludes Jeremie Zimmermann, spokeperson of the citizen group La Quadrature du Net.”

Rick Falkvinge has posted some email templates and even provides an email alias that resolves to all the addresses of the parliamentarians.

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We’re now only two weeks away from the final vote on ACTA in the European parliament and the pro-ACTA lobby is stepping up its efforts to push the treaty through. For the first time the lobby has now decided to make its campaign public by setting up a website. This is a clear indication that the anti-ACTA campaign has had an effect on public opinion and, what’s more frightening to the lobbyists, on the opinion of the political representatives. La Quadrature du Net writes:

“This Thursday, June 21st, the “International Trade” (INTA) committee will recommend the rest of the Parliament to either accept or reject ACTA.

For months, many NGOs and public institutions produced analysis and commentaries, showing that ACTA is dangerous for innovation, freedom of speech and privacy online. Hundreds of thousands of citizens took the streets this past winter against ACTA, urging for a reform of today’s outdated copyright regime. This has led to an intense political debate within the EU Parliament. The different opinion reports recently adopted by several committees of the Parliament urged for the rejection of ACTA.

But as the final vote of the EU Parliament gets closer (scheduled for July 3rd-5th), all these efforts could be smashed.

Whereas the draft report of INTA rapporteur David Martin (UK, S&D) recommends the rejection of ACTA, other INTA members have tabled amendments asking either for the adoption of ACTA or for postponing the vote for years, pending an opinion of the EU Court of Justice on the legality of the agreement. Postponing the vote would ruin all chances to have ACTA rejected any time soon, and would pave the way to more repressive policies in the meantime. Citizens must remind Members of the INTA committee that postponing ACTA vote is a tactic of both the EU Commission and copyright lobbies to save face. If the final vote is postponed, the EU Parliament would be seen as playing into the hands of ACTA supporters, renouncing to its political power and its mission to defend citizens.

“Confirmed rumours in the corridors of the Parliament suggest that Thursday’s vote could be held in secret. Such a trick would allow Members of political groups who are officially against ACTA to escape their political responsibility. Important progress has been made in the last months as policy-makers increasingly understand the need to break away from repression and to reform copyright. We cannot allow powerful lobbies and the EU Commission to erase it all”, says Jérémie Zimmermann, spokesperson for La Quadrature du Net.

Every citizen can participate in this final push against ACTA. Our PiPhone can be used to call Members of the INTA committee for free, and tell them to vote against ACTA!”

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Rick Falkvinge writes:

“Three heavyweight committees in the European Parliament gave their voting recommendations on ACTA today. All three gave the same recommendation: reject ACTA. This means that today, the European Parliament issued three very hard strikes against ACTA.

What happened today was the first steps in a long chain that ends with the final vote in all of the European Parliament, which is the vote where ACTA ultimately lives or dies. If it is defeated on the floor of the European Parliament, then it’s a permakill. Boom, headshot.. But on the way to that vote, a number of specialized committees will say what they think from their perspective.

The committee that “owns” the issue of ACTA, the so-called INTA committee (International Trade), is the committee giving the final recommendation to the European Parliament as a whole. But as input to the INTA recommendation, four other committees will say what they think. Three of those – ITRE (Industry, Research, Energy), JURI (Legal affairs), and LIBE (Civil Liberties) – voted today.

They all voted to recommend rejection of ACTA, and therefore, effectively recommend that the European Parliament kill it dead. But this all happened with very narrow margins, defying an onslaught of procedural tricks and attempts of delaying, so the game is far from over.

Still, it is a sign of changing times. Rather than reciting amendments, political detailed minutiae and vote counts, I’d like to look at the bigger picture.

Perhaps the strongest indication of just how much times are changing is the fact that the monopoly maximalists – those politicians who are firmly planted in corporativist rule – have always had their way, especially in the committee of Legal Affairs which is full of lawyerspeak. At the same time, Pirate has been a dirty word, almost synonymous with criminal. Compare the first two votes today, in the Industry and Legal Affairs committees, and the Members of the European Parliament who were responsible for drafting the opinions of those committees:

Marielle Gallo. Born in the 1940s.
Classic and infamous copyright maximalist.
Opinion Defeated.

Amelia Andersdotter. Born in the 1980s.
Representative for the Pirate Party.
Opinion Carried.

To see a Pirate Representative get her opinion (“reject ACTA”) voted through to the next step, whereas the copyright maximalist gets her opinion (“accept, embrace, and love ACTA”) shot down in the Legal Affairs committee, is a complete breach of a crucial tipping point.

The ACTA battle as a whole is far from over, though. The majorities were narrow. And the overall net liberty war, beyond ACTA, is definitely far from over. I just wanted to highlight how symbolic it is that leglislative text written by pirates is now carried.

Today, we had three important victories in individual skirmishes.

Next, the DEVE committee – (Third World) Development – votes on ACTA on June 4. The INTA committee’s vote, the final step before the main vote, happens on June 21. Then, the European Parliament as a whole votes early July – presumably 2nd, 3rd, 4th, or 5th. That’s the end-of-level boss fight.

We’re winning, but only because we’re fighting hard to win. This is not over.

See also La Quadrature du Net’s comments.

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La Quadrature du Net writes:

“The final phase of the ACTA’s process in the European Parliament begins: “Industry” (ITRE), “Legal Affairs” (JURI) and “Civil Liberties” (LIBE) committees are about to vote on their reports, which will recommend to the European Parliament to adopt or to reject ACTA. These reports will have a strong political weight, and will influence the definitive decision. Until the Thursday’s votes, we still can make heard our voices and convince these committes’ members to express themself in favour of a firm and definitive rejection of ACTA.

The drafts of the reports of LIBE and ITRE committees, positive for the moment, still could be neutralized by the amendments deposited by pro-ACTA MEPs. We can act and defend these reports by calling the LIBE and ITRE members to vote against all these amendments. (read also: each amendments voted in ITRE and LIBE: http://www.laquadrature.net/wiki/ITRE_ACTA_report_amendments and http://www.laquadrature.net/wiki/LIBE_ACTA_report_amendments)

Within the JURI committee, the last public version of the Marielle Gallo’s report was completely favorable to ACTA. The voted one on Thursday will very probably be similar, even MEPs cannot propose those amendments. We cannot let this new procedural tricks become a success: it is still time to convince the JURI members to reject the Marielle Gallo’s report!

More than ever, to win during the final vote of July, we have to stay mobilized and to make our voice heard. Whether it is by relaying this information or by calling (free of charge) MEPs thanks to the PiPhone (https://piphone.lqdn.fr), each of us can act for the ACTA’s rejection.”

Remember also the 3rd international day of action against ACTA, IPRED & Co on June 9.  A map of the planned events can be found here. See the Stopp ACTA -wiki for more information.

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So, the opposition against ACTA seems to have now reached a majority in the European parliament. Here’s a blog post from today by Rick Falkvinge:

“Recently at a press conference, another party group in the European Parliament came out in rejection of ACTA. This time, it marked a significant milestone, as a majority of the party groups in parliament has now said they will reject it.

It was the liberal group ALDE who declared their intent to reject, yesterday afternoon, European time. According to MEP Christian Engström, who can do the game theory of Parliament in his sleep, this means that there is now a declared majority against ACTA! This majority consists of the Greens (where the Swedish Pirate Party resides), the Left, the Social Democrats, the eurocritical EFD, and the newly-declared liberal group ALDE.

This is tremendously good news, as ACTA as a whole stands or falls in the European Parliament. If the Europarliament rejects ACTA, then it’s a permakill. Boom, headshot. The other side of the coin is that if parliament accepts it, then it is going to shut the doors for very necessary reform for at least a decade, barring a cataclysmic event.

However, this majority against ACTA is not like other majorities, which are predictable and stable. The European Parliament is fairly unique among parliaments, in that the MEPs are neither required (or indeed expected) to toe the party line, and while the party whip exists, it is mostly of the fun kind. A recommendation, if you like. Deviations from the declared party line is not only common but expected in pretty much every vote. So even though the party groups have declared their party lines, this has no effective binding force on the people doing the actual button-pressing, and it’s the tally of them that counts in the end.

This mechanism works both ways, of course. The largest party group, the conservative EPP, is still weakly in favor of ACTA – but even there, many Members of the European Parliament are expected to go against the party line and vote against it.

A draft opinion was introduced in ITRE, the Industry Committee, this Tuesday. Monopoly hawks are trying to frame ACTA as being about the right to property or not (which is hogwash). We need to reinforce that the people of Europe will not stand for this mail-order legislation from monopolists that erode our freedoms of speech and fundamental liberties,

The current committees working on ACTA are JURI, INTA, DEVE, ITRE, and LIBE (those four-letter words are committe names). The time is now to mail the members of these committees and express your feelings about why this piece of bullshit mail-order corporate favor needs to be soundly rejected by a parliament elected by the people. You can use this web page (in Swedish, but understandable) to quickly get the e-mail addresses of the members of the respective committees. Do so now. Right now and over the following weeks. All several million of us. To make sure that all several million really do that, make sure that your friends of those several million are aware of the situation.

It won’t hurt if you tailor your criticism of ACTA to reflect why you’re mailing the respective committee, of course. So JURI is Legal Affairs, INTA is International Trade, DEVE is (third world) Development, ITRE is Industry, and LIBE is Civil Liberties. A message that has an early indication that shows that the message is tailored to its recipient is taken much, much more seriously. Feel free to replace just that particular tailoring between committees and keep the rest of the mail identical.

And in breaking news, I’m just informed that JURI has postponed its vote for a month – the Greens and Social Democrats were against postponing and wanted to kill ACTA outright, but this did not happen. A very very important reminder that it ain’t over until the fat lady sings.

We’re balancing on a very thin line here. And the safety net has been taken out. It’s up to us to guarantee the survival of our own civil liberties, but the good news is that it only takes a small piece of action from several tens of thousands each to make a huge difference. I’m informed from the inside of the European Parliament that the citizens’ pressure on Parliament to reject ACTA has weakened noticeably. Now, exactly now, is the time to ramp it back up.

So mail those committee members now. Today. Right Effing Now.”

Another place to find those committee members and their contact info is here.

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