11.10.08

Criminal Acta

Posted in DRM, Europe at 11:38 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

CRIMINAL ACTS of secrecy and policy-making which involve no-one among the public is an outrageous thing. The following is a press release from FFII.

EU Council refuses to release secret ACTA documents

Brussels, 10th November 2008 – The EU Council of Ministers refuses to release secret Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) documents. The Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure (FFII) had requested these documents to make public and parliamentary scrutiny possible. After the Council’s refusal, the FFII sent in a confirmatory application, for the EU Council to review its position, as allowed by Article 7(2) of the regulation dealing with public access to such documents.

ACTA’s secrecy fuels concerns that the treaty may give patent trolls the means to extort companies, undermine access to low-cost generic medicines, lead to monitoring all citizens’ Internet communications and criminalize peer-to-peer electronic file sharing.

The EU Council refuses to release the secret documents stating that disclosure of this information could impede the proper conduct of the negotiations, would weaken the position of the European Union in these negotiations and might affect relations with the third parties concerned.

The FFII reaffirms its application stating that the legislative process in the EU has to be open. If the agreement will only be made public once all parties have already agreed to it, none of the EU’s national parliaments nor the European Parliament will have been able to scrutinise its contents in any meaningful way. To prevent this from happening, it may be necessary to renegotiate ACTA’s transparency.

The FFII’s confirmatory application letter questions ACTA’s secrecy in no uncertain terms: “The argument that public transparency regarding ‘trade negotiations’ can be ignored if it would weaken the EU’s negotiation position is particularly painful. At which point exactly do negotiations over trade issues become more important than democratic law making? At 200 million euro? At 500 million euro? At 1 billion euro? What is the price of our democracy?”

The Canadian government released documents under the Access to Information Act that provide additional insights into the secretive nature of the negotiations.

If the EU Council again refuses to release the secret documents, the FFII can take the case to the European Court of Justice. An earlier case on transparency of EU legislation took 6 years. By that time ACTA may long have entered into force.

Ante Wessels, FFII analyst, says: “We do not have so much time. The only solution we see is that the parliaments of Europe force the Council to publish the texts by making Parliamentary scrutiny reservations.”

Links

Note FFII’s confirmatory application letter is attached below.

Contact

Benjamin Henrion
FFII Brussels
+32-2-414 84 03
+32-484-566109
bhenrion@ffii.org

(French/English)

Ante Wessels
+31-6-100 99 063
ante@ffii.org
(Dutch/English)

FFII confirmatory application letter

Thank you for your reply informing us of the inability of the General Secretariat to grant access to the following documents:

  • Documents 12875/08, 13448/08 and 13750/08: working documents from the Commission Services concerning the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement.
  • Documents 13382/08 and 13949/08: notes from the Presidency to Delegations concerning the Plurilateral Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement.
  • Document 13637/08 (RESTREINT UE): an outcome of the consultation of the Justice and Home Affairs Counsellors on 26 September 2008 concerning the Plurilateral Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement – 3rd negotiating session 8-10 October 2008, Tokyo, Japan.

The given reason is that “Release of these documents would weaken the position of the European Union in these negotiations and might affect relations with the third parties concerned.”

Please find our confirmatory application herewith. We would appreciate if it could be made fully public in the Council’s Register of documents.

The European Union and its member states are built on the concept of a representative democracy. As the European Court of Justice ruled in the recent Turco case (joined cases C-39/05 P and C-52/05 P) on public access to legislative proposals and preparatory texts:

“Openness in that respect contributes to strengthening democracy by allowing citizens to scrutinise all the information which has formed the basis of a legislative act. The possibility for citizens to find out the considerations underpinning legislative action is a precondition for the effective exercise of their democratic rights.”

The ACTA is a so-called “trade agreement”. While technically it is therefore not a legislative proposal, its acceptance will nonetheless lead to legislative and executive obligations for the undersigning parties. Hence, indirectly it will have the same effect as a legislative proposal. Simply calling it differently and using different negotiation procedures cannot be used as an excuse in a democratic society to get around all transparency principles and requirements of said society.

If, as currently planned, the agreement will only be made public once all parties have already agreed to it, none of the EU’s national parliaments nor the European Parliament will have been able to scrutinize its contents in any meaningful way. We believe this to be a gross violation of the basic democratic principles the EU is supposed to stand for. The argument that public transparency regarding “trade negotiations” can be ignored if it would weaken the EU’s negotiation position is particularly painful. At which point exactly do negotiations over trade issues become more important than democratic law making? At 200 million euro? At 500 million euro? At 1 billion euro? What is the price of our democracy?

And when exactly do relations with third parties become more important than the relations with the EU’s own citizens? Only when there is no upcoming referendum on a Constitutional Treaty? Are we only useful as a large consumer base that can be used as trading goods during trade negotiations in other times?

Heaven forbid that these consumers turn out to be also citizens that want to have a say in what their buying power is being exchanged for. After all, they might think that criminalising themselves in case they put a home movie of their children dancing to Britney Spears’ latest song on Youtube might not be such a good idea. Paying higher subscription fees for Internet access so that Internet Service Providers can install filtering devices resulting in lower speeds and censored web access may not sound very attractive either. And neither does giving patent trolls free reign, with compliments of the various governments.

In short: which overriding trade interests justify the complete and utter disdain for direct public and parliamentary scrutiny over the negotiations at hand? And at which point exactly do trade interests start taking precedence over democratic and transparent law making?

There is no such point. The Institutions know that the legislative process in the EU has to be open. Our negotiation partners know this too, or should have been informed. If our negotiation partners are uninformed about it, if openness could impede the proper conduct of the negotiations, the negotiation mandate is fundamentally wrong. However painful, the secrecy has to be renegotiated first. It has to go out.

That should not be a problem. The Commission asserted that it would not go beyond the status quo, the content should be uncontroversial. And international intellectual property agreements have traditionally been conducted in a more open and transparent manner. A rollback of democracy is not needed nor acceptable.

Sincerely yours,

Ante Wessels
FFII IPRED2 / ACTA workgroup

About the FFII

The FFII is a not-for-profit association active in over fifty countries, dedicated to the development of information goods for the public benefit, based on copyright, free competition, and open standards. More than 850 members, 3,500 companies and 100,000 supporters have entrusted the FFII to act as their voice in public policy questions concerning exclusion rights (intellectual property) in data processing.

Share in other sites/networks: These icons link to social bookmarking sites where readers can share and discover new web pages.
  • Reddit
  • email

If you liked this post, consider subscribing to the RSS feed or join us now at the IRC channels.

Pages that cross-reference this one

What Else is New


  1. InteLeaks – Part XXI: Intel Seeking Advice From a Bunch of Clowns (Harbor 'Research')

    A firm called Harbor 'Research' is making dubious recommendations to Intel; as shown in the above video, there's also an obsession with buzzwords (typically suggestive of a lack of technical grasp/understanding)



  2. IRC Proceedings: Monday, January 18, 2021

    IRC logs for Monday, January 18, 2021



  3. The US Election Was Not Rigged, But the Nomination Process Was (Undermined to Maintain Control by Oligarchy)

    Cheating/driving the left out of the Democratic Party seems like a longstanding tradition and we know who stands to gain from it; moreover, problems remain in the voting process because it's controlled by secret code of companies like Microsoft (in spite of the openwashing)



  4. InteLeaks – Part XX: Redacted (for Names Only) Release of Intel File About Developer eXperience (DX) Meddling in GNU/Linux

    Today (or tonight) we release the first 'phase' of InteLeaks in a sensibly redacted form; coming up next is a surprise from Team Microsoft



  5. Sites in Bed With the EPO and UPC 'Covering' the 'News' Without Mentioning Any of the Overt Abuses

    It is rather sad that blogs like IP Kat have turned into proponents of abusive EPO management and Team UPC increasingly resorts to lying using pseudonyms (to avert criticism and accountability); much of the rebuttal or response that’s hinged on reality/facts can only be found in comments, which are still subjected to a face-saving moderation process (conducted by Team UPC)



  6. Suppressed Facts of the Free Software Movement and Its Community of Volunteers – Part IV: Stories From the Depths of the Free Software Foundation (FSF)

    To reduce or alleviate suspicions and a potential of mistrust the FSF needs to become more transparent and liberate information (such as the real reason Bradley Kuhn left, as noted in the previous part)



  7. Links 18/1/2021: GNU Radio 3.9, Wikipedia at 20

    Links for the day



  8. InteLeaks – Part XIX: Intel's Web 'Experts' Seen as Microsoft Champions Dealing With the Platform Microsoft is Looking to Destroy

    Things aren't rosy at Intel because the hires aren't suitable for the job of documenting and/or presenting GNU/Linux-centric products (whose target audience is Free software developers)



  9. Adding Images as Characters to the Daily Bulletins of Techrights

    Our daily bulletins now have inside them coarse graphics, depicted using characters alone, and the tool used to generate them announced a new release earlier today; we showcase some of its features (in a new video)



  10. Links 18/1/2021: Weekly Summaries and Linux 5.11 RC4

    Links for the day



  11. IRC Proceedings: Sunday, January 17, 2021

    IRC logs for Sunday, January 17, 2021



  12. The Oligarchs' Parties Will Never Choose the Side of Software Freedom Because Free Software Cannot Bribe Officials

    The tough reality is that next week's (or this coming week's, depending on what Sunday counts as) inauguration ceremony is partly symbolic as all the same and important issues remain largely untouched, for corporations control almost everything of significance



  13. COVID-19 Has Actually Helped Software Freedom Due to Financial and 'Spare Time' Factors

    Developers and users are increasingly exploring what the Free software world has to offer; this is actually measurable and it contradicts claims to the contrary



  14. Future Plans and Using Videos to Complement Text

    Remarks on recent and impending site changes; We are not replacing text with video, we're just trying to enhance the presentation a bit, especially where visuals help make a point or where browsing through Web sites (or leaks) is more suitable than static, linear presentation



  15. InteLeaks – Part XVIII: Intel Does Not Know How to Properly Do Research and It Seems Apparent Unscientific Methods Are Used to Justify Poor Documentation

    There appears to be a severe crisis at Intel; they cannot recruit scientists (or those whom they recruited are walking away) and as a result the company produces bad products with poor documentation (or highly defective chipsets that top-notch marketing cannot compensate for); in this video we walk through some examples of how studies are being conducted (as already noted in Part XVII)



  16. Suppressed Facts of the Free Software Movement and Its Community of Volunteers – Part III: The Free Software Foundation (FSF) Seems More Like a Victim of Destabilisation Campaigns

    The Free Software Foundation (FSF), which turns 36 later this year, is looking to raise money that helps support the GNU Project, soon 38 years old and likely the most important Free software project to exist (ever)



  17. Links 17/1/2021: EasyOS on Raspberry Pi and GNU libsigsegv 2.13

    Links for the day



  18. InteLeaks – Part XVII: The High Cost of Microsoft Windows Users in GNU/Linux Development Teams

    A look inside Intel explains what holds back the technical team, which bemoans the lesser technical people getting in the way and not even using the product that they are writing about



  19. IRC Proceedings: Saturday, January 16, 2021

    IRC logs for Saturday, January 16, 2021



  20. Suppressed Facts of the Free Software Movement and Its Community of Volunteers – Part II: Why Bradley Kuhn Left the Free Software Foundation (FSF)

    The founder of the FSF is still at the FSF (albeit not publicly) and the person who lobbied to oust him has basically been 'banished' by the founder



  21. Links 16/1/2021: LibreOffice 7.1 Release Candidate, Zeroshell 3.9.5, FreeBSD Report, and GhostBSD 21.01.15

    Links for the day



  22. Free Speech on the Web Not Respected by Companies That Used to Support Software Freedom

    Mozilla does not have to make its Web browser about politics; it can just make an excellent piece of software that is neutral about the Web pages that it renders, based on the user's personal preferences



  23. Suppressed Facts of the Free Software Movement and Its Community of Volunteers – Part I: We Are Under Attack by Corporations and Their Salaried Facilitators

    The corporate takeover (taking over the Commons, produced by volunteers who are motivated by altruism) is a subject we must speak about and somehow tackle; this series will highlight uncomfortable or difficult truths



  24. InteLeaks – Part XVI: Intel Cannot Do Command Line, Even When It's Vastly Simpler and More Suitable for Development

    The Developer eXperience (DX) team at Intel seems to be full of Microsoft drones instead of developers and/or mildly technical people; this has not only harmed the quality of documentation but also upset staff, alienating people who actually understand what developers need (more than buzzwords like "DX")



  25. IRC Proceedings: Friday, January 15, 2021

    IRC logs for Friday, January 15, 2021



  26. Links 15/1/2021: KaOS 2021.01, Whisker Menu 2.5.2, Istio 1.8.2

    Links for the day



  27. InteLeaks – Part XV: Intel is Blind to Blind and Colour-Blind People

    Intel does not seem to grasp very basic concepts associated with accessibility; nevertheless, Intel shamelessly tries painting itself as "woke" and a "justice warrior" (policing speech while overlooking much-needed practical work)



  28. Links 15/1/2021: GStreamer 1.18.3 and Proton 5.13-5

    Links for the day



  29. IRC Proceedings: Thursday, January 14, 2021

    IRC logs for Thursday, January 14, 2021



  30. Links 14/1/2021: Wine 6.0, Debian 11 Freeze, and Alpine Linux 3.13

    Links for the day


RSS 64x64RSS Feed: subscribe to the RSS feed for regular updates

Home iconSite Wiki: You can improve this site by helping the extension of the site's content

Home iconSite Home: Background about the site and some key features in the front page

Chat iconIRC Channel: Come and chat with us in real time

Recent Posts