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/

Video: Intellectual Property: a dilemma for Libertarians

Tom Burroughes walks us through the libertarian, and some wider, arguments for and against the institution of Intellectual Property, including copyright, patents, trademarks design rights and secrets.

For anyone without means to enjoy the video, Tom has provided the following summary:

Libertarians place great importance on the institution of private property; private property is inseparable from liberty in general – freedom and “self ownership” are one and the same. Property is important for the benefits it makes possible: an extended market order, competition, privacy, a widely dispersed form of control over the means of production, and so on. Some of the arguments for property focus on the consequences. And some defences focus on a more normative approach, as in the natural rights tradition that argues that property is, as John Locke or Ayn Rand argued, a logical consequence of the idea that humans own their lives and need to be able to own the things that enable them to survive and flourish as free people.

But despite this, the issue of intellectual property is a difficult one for libertarians. On the “pro-IP” side, if one regards property as essential for fostering creativity, then there appears a strong case for encouraging people who develop creative works, be they novels, inventions, trademarks or whatever, to be able to own these things and derive an economic benefit from them for a period of time, if not indefinitely. This argument also draws on ideas of dignity and fairness: a novelist who has worked on a novel is entitled to try and insist on the exclusive right to sell their work for money. Even once a novel or some other work has been published, it does not immediately fall into the “public domain” where people can copy it at will since many people will still not have encountered this work and it seems unfair to deny the creator the chance to sell it for money, at least until a period of time has elapsed.

But there are big criticisms. To begin with, can an idea be “owned” in any meaningful way? Physical property such as land is what economists call an excludible good – only one person can stand on a patch of land at one time, say, whereas an infinite number of people can read a passage of a book without denying the owner of it use of this work. Physical goods are, in this sense, scarce, and we have property to ensure peaceful control of these things, but in the real of ideas, there is no such scarcity. Also, IP represents, on this argument, an attack on freedom. If I own a computer, and a supplier of software bans me from using it in certain ways lest I violate IP, then I am being told how to use my own physical property. In short, IP limits freedom. Also, like any state enforced right, there are issues of rent-seeking (not to mention the phenomenon of the IP “troll”). And IP is harder to enforce in the age of downloading and the internet. Even if IP has some merits, those merits are declining in today’s world. And some anti-IP folk deny that IP even is good for invention, arguing that many ideas and works will be developed anyway even without patents and copyright.

The talk does not suggest that there is a definite “right” or “wrong” answer, although having considered many of the arguments, I am more favourable to IP than I had expected when I started to explore this issue. It is hugely relevant: patent fights, for example, are frontpage news concerning firms such as Apple. And copyright fights feature regularly in the music and movie business.

I’d like to thank Tom once again for taking the time to prepare this excellent talk and for coming out of his way to deliver it to us. In addition, Tom has provided the full-text of the talk based on his notes which has been promoted to a spot in the site’s navigation.