Brussels Safari #1 - EP press conference and ITRE
Long story short, I have been invited by La Quadrature to Brussels in order to help performing a “lobbytomy” concerning ACTA in the Europarliament. A write-up on all the great hacktivism fun we are having will come later, now I want to document the srs bsns stuff.
There were several ACTA-related events planned for this week, hence the idea to come down here and try to influence the MEPs.
At this point we have already been to two of the events:
- the press conference by ACTA rapporteur and shadow rapporteur;
- ITRE Committee meeting, with ACTA in the agenda.
Here’s a short summary for both.
It was fairly interesting and not bad at all. The rapporteurs said that:
- there will be an “interim report” on ACTA in a few months;
- Europarliament should refer ACTA to ECJ on its own terms, not jointly with the European Commission.
The “interim report” thing, while a good sign, is not as important as it sounds and as far as I understand will not be binding in any way to the EP. It’s not a part of any procedure, it’s more of a kind of an initiative by the rapporteur.
Referring ACTA to ECJ by Europarliament separately from the European Commission is an interesting move; however, we do not know if it is actually possible for two different referrals to be presented to the ECJ – and even if in fact it is, it might be so that there is only a single question possible to ask: “is ACTA compatible with the acquis and the treaties”. Hence, if the Commission asks it already (framing it in a way favourable to ACTA), it might not be possible to ask it again by the EP.
Either way, the right question to ask seems to be:
Can ACTA be interpreted and implemented in an abusive way that would be incompatible with the acquis and the treaties?
And the answer to this question is a resounding “yes”.
ITRE Committee meeting¶
ACTA was only a single part of the agenda, but visibly it was the most important one (many people left after it has been discussed).
This meeting has been summarized very well by La Quadrature, it’s definitely worth a read. I will just add a bit to it from my perspective.
First of all, the arguments against the treaty were multiple and much stronger in their substance than arguments for. Human rights and the threat of censorship (well described by our Polish MEP, Mr Gróbarczyk, with whom I had the pleasure of talking just 2 hours before on this very topic); threat to privacy and personal data; hinderance to businesses and stiffling innovation; finally – whether the treaty is useful at all, and the non-transparent, undemocratic process of the treaty’s creation.
There were, however, two voices defending ACTA: one, obviously, from a representative of the European Commission, invited to the meeting; the other from Daniel Caspary, a German MEP and a member of the ITRA Committee itself.
And, at least to me, they actually sounded a bit desperate. Their main strategy seemed to be spreading FUD.
Calm the discussion
The very first argument that was called upon was, in fact, the need to calm the discussion down, with a strong hint that it should be gentlemen and experts talking about it, not the general populace.
This is preposterous: for years ACTA process was not transparent and undemocratic, on closed meetings and private sessions of such “gentlemen and experts” that did not even have the common decency to invite representatives of people they were trying to legislate around.
Now, suddenly, when the streets and nations spoke their minds and completely disavowed this treaty, along with the secrecy of the process, ACTA proponents call for “calming down” of the discussion. As if any dissent, any opinions against it – in fact, any opinion of The People – were fearmongering and factiousness.
As before, it has been claimed that ACTA does not change anything. This is not true – and even if it were, why sign it, then?
It’s all about access to justice
The second absolutely preposterous argument – ACTA is not about copyright, it’s about access to justice. As if huge media corporations that would be the main beneficiaries of ACTA, need better access to justice, or in fact understand what “justice” means.
Car parts and safety
Over 70% of car parts sold in one of the European countries are counterfeit, and that is a serious security concern – and ACTA is supposed to fight that.
First of all, there was no definition of a counterfeit car part. Secondly, while there was a survey on the amount of “counterfeit” parts sold cited, neither the year, country, title nor authors were given.
Not to mention that absolutely no proof on existence the supposed “security risks” associated by that (or the extent of those risks) was offered.
Yet again the argument of “balance” was brought forth:
We must strike a balance between fundamental rights: freedom of speech, freedom from censorship and intellectual property laws
Obviously, this is a sly and ill-meant purely rhetoric argument – because intellectual property laws, especially when not concerning people but business entities, are clearly and definitely not “fundamental rights”.
Finally, an attempt to counter the “China and India did not sign, so ACTA will not work anyway” argument was made, in the form of a question why didn’t people bring this argument up against the Kyoto protocol.
Fact is that ACTA and Kyoto protocol are very different things, concerning completely different areas. While the latter can actually achieve its aims even with incomplete list of signatories (because even so, the emissions will be lower), the former cannot – as any party that is not bound by its provision will undermine the whole construct.