Neelie says ACTA is doomed

June 2012


Neelie Kroes, the European Commissioner for the Digital Agenda has said that the Anti Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) , signed by almost all EU member states – but not all – is likely to follow the US’s SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) into the dustbin of failed legislation saying “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” adding “there is a strong new political  voice, and as a voice 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 ACTA”. ACTA is currently awaiting review by the Court of Justice and EU Trade Commissioner Karel de Gucht had urged the EU Parliament to delay any formal ratification of ACTA until that happened, but it now looks like the whole process has stalled as member states (even those who had previously signed up) lose the political will to move the Agreement forward.

In the USA, critics of the U.S. government’s antipiracy efforts have new ammunition to support claims that authorities are too eager to do the bidding of copyright owners. The Immigration and Customs Enforcement Bureau (ICE) seized, a music blog, in November 2010 and then held onto it for more than a year before returning the domain to the owners having repeatedly failed to produce evidence that the site had violated copyright laws. Now the EFF has picked up on the story blogging “The whole story is, in a word, appalling …. U.S. taxpayers and their representatives have an object lesson, if one were needed, in why the government should not be granted new IP enforcement powers and why we need to reconsider the inclusion of copyright infringement as a basis for civil seizure and forfeiture.”

The EFF says the popular blog dedicated to hip hop music and culture remained censored because the government obtained three secret extensions of time by claiming that it was waiting for “rights holders” and later, the Recording Industry Association of America, to evaluate a “sampling of allegedly infringing content” obtained from the website and respond to other “outstanding questions.”

The EFF say “In other words, having goaded the government into an outrageous and very public seizure of the blog, the RIAA members refused to follow up and answer the government’s questions. In turn, the government acted shamefully, not returning the blog or apologizing for its apparent mistake, but instead secretly asking the court to extend the seizure and deny Dajaz1 the right to seek return of its property or otherwise get due process. The government also refused to answer Congressional questions about the case. ICE finally released the domain name in December of 2011, again with no explanation.”

The next battle front for the EFF appears to be the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement, a “secret international trade negotiation that includes provisions to regulate intellectual property and the Internet”. In Dallas culture-jamming activist group The Yes Men presented U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk with the fictitious “2012 Corporate Power Tool Award.” Over 18,000 Internet users have used the EFF action center to speak out against the TPP.

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