It takes 14 minutes for the signals from the NASA Mars rover Curiosity to find their way to Earth. Given the mental distance between Brussels and EU citizens, we must see it as an extraordinary feat of openness that the Council of the European Union needed less than four and a half years to make public the negotiating mandate for ACTA.
The negotiations came and went, and the 'anti-counterfeiting' treaty aiming at plurilateral policing of intellectual property rights, especially copyright, was robustly defeated by the European Parliament, so we see a sudden burst of generosity from the Council.
Here it is:
Recommendation from the Commission to the Council to authorise the Commission to open negotiations of a plurilateral anti-counterfeiting trade agreement; Brussels, 6 August 2012 (document 7095/1/08) (Essence here: declassification) (Use the document number to find the language version of your choice.)
In substance it contains the original document - Brussels, 29 February 2008 7095/08 - with the mandate for the ACTA negotiations, now in the public domain.
If you read the reasoning, enforcement of intellectual property rights (IPR) is centre stage, not counterfeit products, so why was the treaty stubbornly misnamed?
While the Commission wanted free reign to serve the copyright industry, being ”at the forefront of efforts to improve IPR enforcement and to work with other partners to make them as effective as possible” and promoting ”technical assistance and partnerships with industry”, the rights of citizens and consumers are nowhere to be seen.
Talk about legislative processes being hijacked by corporate interests. One can hardly admit it more clearly than this in an official document.
Effective and possibly new criminal sanctions and provisions on penal procedural law needed action from the governments of the EU member states during the negotiations (and perhaps later for new criminal sanctions in national law).
Nothing dramatic in the negotiating mandate, except rock-solid confirmation of the sell-out mentality.
However, the other side of the coin is worth a look as well. The Pirate MEP (Green group) Christian Engström yesterday recapitulated the ACTA process from the viewpoint of the European Parliament and civil society actors, who brought down the treaty (in Swedish): Hur vi vann ACTA (How we won ACTA).
Ensgström remarks that ACTA may have been killed, but its proponents are going to return under other acronyms. He also links to an analysis of the EP ACTA vote, which contains some useful pointers regarding copyright and net freedom issues for the future.
If you want to know more about Pirate Party and Green Party views on copyright, you can read the book by Christian Engström and Rick Falkvinge: The case for copyright reform (2012; 102 pages; different formats, here the pdf version).
Now that we have been allowed a glimpse of the start, how is the battle for netizens' freedoms going to end? It can depend on you and the rest of civil society.
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Among the euroblogs on Bloggingportal.eu we have the active and influential FT Alphaville blog, with several daily contributions by professionals. More generally, the Financial Times and its Europe homepage are followed by economic, administrative and political elites and other quality conscious readers (although a limited number of articles can be read by anyone for free each month, without a subscription).
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