Tech: ACTA About To Pass As CETA, SOPA To Pass In Chunks

ACTA had been defeated, 478 to 39, in the European Parliament. This was an astounding victory for internet freedom. As I warned at the time, this was but a single battle in what promises to be a long, drawn out conflict, made necessary by the hands of the entertainment industry. However, over the next few days ACTA’s prospects of being passed anywhere outside of the United States fell further as the Mexican and Australian governments support began to seriously waiver, followed by a number of other countries. At this time, I am now willing to say ACTA is dead, regardless of the decision made by the European Union’s Court Of Justice. But like any idea that grants government more power, dead isn’t quite dead. To be clear, this is not the TPP. Nor is it the UN’s ITU. Gentlemen, I introduce CETA!

ACTA About To Pass As CETA

Literally copying and pasting segments from ACTA, the Canadian European Trade Agreement is approaching the final stages of negotiation. Unlike ACTA, where we were well aware of the threat beforehand, CETA has effectively popped up overnight following the leak of documents from February, detailing the intention of EU negotiators to use CETA as a backup should ACTA fail to pass the European Parliament.

Since this hit the internet, the European Commission immediately went into spin mode, first declining to comment, but then as pressure mounted, declared that ACTA’s sections concerning ISP’s had not been committed to CETA. So, if all you cared about was the sections concerning ISP’s, as the European Commission seems to be hoping, you can go back to sleep. If on the other hand you recognise ACTA for the horrendous piece of work that it is and that its problems are not simply limited to a single section, CETA is something you will want to ensure your MEP is voting against when the time comes. Describing this as ACTA II should sufficiently get the point across to even the most uninformed among them.

SOPA To Pass In Chunks

You may remember SOPA, the bill that caused an alliance of website operators to black out in protest. You may also remember that it was successfully defeated. If I’ve not yet demonstrated in this article however, dead isn’t dead when it comes to expanding government powers.

Lamar Smith, the man who introduced SOPA, is back and trying to pass SOPA again. This time, he has broken it into chunks with the first piece going under the Intellectual Property Attache Act. In short, IP attache’s are international Hollywood lobbyists, paid for by and representing the US government, who go around the world trying to get other countries to enact IP laws in Hollywood’s interest. The IPAA proposes to significantly expand the size of the attache’s division within the commerce department.

Whilst this does not seem a significant issue and was considered a relatively minor problem with what was SOPA, this is likely a move by Smith to see if he could pass further chunks of the original bill without anyone noticing. Fortunately, the IPAA has already been delivered a swift blow with co sponsors now changing their mind. This could however prove to be just a minor delay as Lamarr may seek support elsewhere and will probably find it.

MoD GPS Patent Gives Finger To US

The Ministry Of Defence has begun the process of patenting it’s GPS technology through one of it’s IP management firms, Ploughshare Innovations. This technology is being used in as part of the Galileo project, an attempt by the EU to build an alternative to reliance on American satellites for GPS. The research for the project was a collaboration between EU and US scientists and has managed to launch 2 satellite’s successfully. The original plan was for both Galileo and the original American systems to begin using this new signal. However, the MoD’s latest move has put this plan into jeopardy.

Since contributing to it’s development, the Americans have been outraged by the MoD’s actions which has resulted in a number of discussions by diplomats. Failure to come to an agreement will have international consequences and will severely affect the interoperability of future GPS technology.

China & Russia Advance Censorship Regime

In scenes reminiscent of the action against SOPA, parts of the Russian Internet have gone into blackout mode today, protesting a bill currently in the Duma. At the moment, the bill focuses solely on site’s using the top level domain, .ru which contain content that could be considered pornographic, advocating the use of drugs or suicide. The Human Rights council took the opportunity to show it’s grand conviction, not by complaining about the censorship, but instead that it was ineffective by being limited to .ru domains. Meanwhile in China, the State Internet Information Office and the State Administration of Radio, Film & Television, took the time to declare its intention to follow a similar path.

References:
1. ACTA About To Pass As CETA: http://www.michaelgeist.ca/content/view/6580/408/
2. SOPA To Pass In Chunks: http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20120709/12574819634/lamar-smith-looking-to-sneak-through-sopa-bits-pieces-starting-with-expanding-hollywoods-global-police-force.shtml
3. MoD GPS Patent : http://insidegnss.com/node/3074
4. Russian Censorship Protests : https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2012/07/russian-websites-go-dark-protest-internet-blacklist-bill
5. Chinese Commitment Statement : http://www.theregister.co.uk/2012/07/11/china_video_censorship/
Image: http://www.flickr.com/photos/alfmelin/6857972883/

ACTA Dealt Heavy Blow In EU Parliament

In case you haven’t heard, the Anti Counterfeiting Trade Agreement has been rejected by the European Parliament in a vote of 478 to 39 with 165 abstaining, with the only UK MEP voting in favour being Liberal Democrat, Bill Newton Dunn. Considering this is the party of Graham Watson, the MEP who boasts about his involvement with the horrendous European Arrest Warrant, this isn’t surprising.

Whilst this is certainly a good day for the internet and liberty, it will come as no surprise that the European Commission just isn’t going to give up. Now awaiting the ruling of the European Court Of Justice, should they declare ACTA compatible with EU law, it is likely the commission will put the agreement before parliament again. This battle is not over.

ACTA is also not the only international threat to the security of the internet. The Trans Pacific Partnership, TPP, is currently being written by the US Trade Representative’s Office and US Patent And Trademark Office, USTR and USPTO respectively, with Hollywood having an even heavier hand than with ACTA. The common phrase, “behind closed doors” simply does not do this new threat justice with even members of the senate and the house unable to gain access to the negotiations.

Last but not least on the forefront of threatening an open internet is the United Nation’s International Telecommunication Union, which with the support of the European Telecommunications Network Operators Association, is also proposing to levy a tax on all internet service providers and content delivery networks with the aim of raising revenue to keep afloat state run monopoly providers who are being squeezed by the competing private sector.

Whilst these threats lurk in the background, this day should still be celebrated by freedom lovers everywhere but nobody should believe we have secured the internet from the clutches of the state.

Note, in the interest of tonight’s Libertarian Home meeting concerning UKIP, you will be glad to know that not a single MEP from the party voted in favour of the agreement, with only Godfrey Bloom and Trevor Colman abstaining.

References:
1. Data obtained from: votewatch.eu.

ACTA protest plans

I am gathering expressions of interest in attending, and leafletting, the ACTA demo on 9th June. The intention will be to reach out to other protestors as much as members of the public. Both audiences will not have normally dealt with or heard from Libertarians.

It will be an opportunity to meet and socialise with naturally libertarian people but in a purposeful setting. They will be active on the issue of protecting the open internet and will enjoy hearing from people who agree with them, and curious about their very different reasons for opposing ACTA.

The public will consist of random folk going about their business curious enough to pause and take a leaflet. They will appreciate a well written explaination of the issues, and getting a leaflet from a libertarian sub-group will give them a second perspective and add weight to the anti-ACTA focus of the march.

We went to Occupy LSX to let them know they are dead wrong and expected a bit of confrontation. I was very pleased that we didn’t get any confrontation, but actually benefited from an interesting debate. The result was a fun day out in the sun. Because we agree to such an extent that ACTA and DEA are wrong, the set-up is much more of a win-win for everyone attending so I hope to join in common cause and expect the day to be a great deal of fun.

To ensure we meet the longer term objective I will be preparing a leaflet that plugs this website and social media addresses so that anyone finding themselves sympathetic can follow what we’re doing. The leaflet is about 30% done and is focused on the fact that an open Internet is a huge economic asset to people and I will attempt to explain why a closed Internet is not good enough. To help bolster the economic focus, I am also mentioning the cookie directive and net neutrality.

If you would like to help out please RSVP via email to info@libertarianhome.co.uk or Facebook.

Video: ACTA and Libertarianism

Last weekend we found ourselves in Amsterdam’s Leidesplein just as the Europe-wide ACTA protest rolled into the square. We found a volunteer for a spur-of-the-moment on-the-spot interview. One week later, I collected my own thoughts on ACTA and committed them to video, posted above. This is what I had to say:

First I’d like to clarify the moral dimension. As an libertarian objectivist I do believe there is such a thing as a best moral code to live by. Other libertarians believe morality is entirely personal, but what we all agree on is that politics and morality should be considered one at a time. It takes some of the emotion out of the debate if you can agree that piracy is morally questionable, certainly controversial, and then start with a fresh mind to consider the political and legal consequences of piracy

ACTA primarily targets internet service providers and the owners of online communities. If you believe that morality is about making choices, then it’s difficult to get upset with these groups. They are not choosing to pirate videos, nor are they making and selling them. They are third parties to the piracy.

Film makers on the other hand are doing a bad job of selling films online legally. An Open Rights Group report showed that compared to physical DVDs online movies are overpriced and many good movies aren’t even available yet. No wonder then that people pirate movies: piracy is a better way of getting movies. It seems to me that movie makers would prefer to impose themselves onto ISPs by commissioning the force of law. They want the ISPs to help get rid of a competitor that they could try to outsell in the marketplace.

If ISPs were to break this law, then the ultimate sanction is that they go to jail. This seems uncivilised at best. Afterall, putting people in jail is a form of violence, and remember these are third parties.

Governments should be in place to protect liberty. Not make slaves out of business owners, just because their customers might be acting immorally. The one moral principle libertarians agree should be part of politics forbids that kind of thing. That’s the “non-aggression principle”. Political institutions should uphold that principle, without transgressing it themselves – as ACTA does.

Protest ACTA in London Tomorrow

Just like the pre-internet economy the fabric of the internet is not owned by any single party. It is an emergment property of the actions and choice of many different people who hold individual rights separately. Such is how society works in general.

So, it is not without a little thought that I post in support of this protest against ACTA taking place in London tomorrow and co-ordinated with protests around the world. Having come to libertarianism and then to Objectivism largely due to concern over how intellectual property is enforced (oh…that and 9/11) I’ve been on quite a journey with regards to this issue and have not, I think, fully made up my mind. Talk from digital rights activists about “our internet” are clearly junk science, but it is true that IP enforcement in practice justifies authoritarian measures. This is often way out of proportion to any harm or moral dilemma that arises form the abuse of IP. Banning creative forms of expression, locking people up and fining them are all clearly an infringement of physical liberty. It also get’s in the way of an individuals access to their own rational faculty and the expression of it’s content. In other words, IP enforcement in practice fails two of my basic tests of what is right and what is wrong politically*.

The real kicker though, when it comes to ACTA is that in trying to prevent counterfitting it is pushing unchosen burdens and non-objective laws onto a large part of the population. Clearly wrong. So, I only had to read the following sentences to be persuaded to support the protest:

The broad definitions of criminal liability will push private companies to police the Internet

This infringes the rights of shareholders who may not wish to direct their employees to police the internet at their expense.

The vague threshold for criminal measures, including liability for ‘aiding and abetting’ infringement

All law should be clear and predicatable, otherwise it just becomes a way to make everyone guilty of something.

The Open Rights Group, of which I was a founder member, is giving support for the protest, and gives the following logistical information:

People will be meeting in central London at 2pm. We’ll help supply what can only be described as brilliant leaflets and fabulous t-shirts. Then the idea is to split up into small teams and head off to spread the word.

 

 

 

* philosophy nerds may be interested to know these tests are both derived from Ayn Rand’s work. Rand herself gave a weakly justified endorsement of the British system of IP law, but I doubt she would approve of ACTA.