[governance] FW: [A2k] G. Moody: Euro Commission Blames Social Networks For ACTAFailure

michael gurstein gurstein at gmail.com
Fri Mar 30 11:55:49 EDT 2012

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From: a2k-bounces at lists.keionline.org
[mailto:a2k-bounces at lists.keionline.org] On Behalf Of Manon Ress
Sent: Tuesday, March 13, 2012 5:09 PM
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Subject: [A2k] G. Moody: Euro Commission Blames Social Networks For

In Techdirt

by Glyn Moody

Tue, Mar 13th 2012 4:12am

European Commission Blames Social Networks For ACTA Failure; Worried About
Its Imminent Directive On Copyright Enforcement from the still-not-listening

Now that the EU's ratification of ACTA has departed from the original script
of everyone just waving it through, the European Commission is clearly
trying to come up with Plan B. Some insights into its thinking can be gained
from the minutes (pdf) of a recent Commission meeting, pointed out to us by
André Rebentisch.

Here's what the President of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso,
said about ACTA:

    The President introduced the topic, commenting on the intensity and
scale of the public debate and the organised campaign against the
Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA). There were those in particular
who felt that the agreement would lead specifically to an unwarranted
restriction on freedom of expression and democracy on the Internet, and
would distort the reasonable balance between intellectual property rights
and other fundamental rights.

    He therefore felt that the Court of Justice of the European Union should
be asked to confirm the Commission’s position in this matter, namely that
ACTA was consistent and compatible with the Treaties and with the Charter of
Fundamental Rights of the European Union. He suggested that that day’s
discussion should consider that point, but also the question of when would
be an appropriate time to refer the matter to the Court, and the possibility
of consulting Parliament and the Council with a view to adopting a common
approach in this matter.

The suggestion that the anger over ACTA was somehow part of an "organised
campaign" looks like a continuing failure to grasp that the protests were
about all Internet users across Europe coming together to defend their
online community. As for the "common approach" with the European Parliament,
it's easy to see why the European Commission would want this: it would allow
the referral of ACTA to the European Court of Justice to be framed in such a
way as to increase the likelihood of a positive response from the court. It
will be interesting to see whether the European Parliament acquiesces in
this, or continues to take a hard line on the need for more searching
questions to be asked.

Barroso's comments were followed by some observations from Karel De Gucht,
the European Commissioner with direct responsibility for ACTA, who made some
revealing remarks:

    He noted that opposition had increased in the run-up to January’s
planned vote in the US Congress on two legislative initiatives -- the Stop
Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA) --
aimed at increasing the protection of intellectual property rights on the
Internet; in the end the vote had not been held, following a hostile
campaign by social networks and the loss of White House support.

It's interesting to see De Gucht linking the growing hostility to ACTA with
the storm generated by SOPA/PIPA, and giving the credit for stopping those
US bills to a "hostile campaign" waged by social networks. You can tell this
really worries him, because he says something similar about social networks
and ACTA immediately

    Despite the signature of ACTA in January by the Commission, the Union
Presidency and twenty-one other Member States, the intense media campaign
which was unleashed in Europe, instigated largely by the social networks,
had since led a number of Union Heads of State or Government to decide to
delay signature or ratification of the agreement by their national
parliaments. He added that the campaign had also had a considerable
influence on Members of the European Parliament and, following recent
contacts with various political groups, he now felt it would be difficult to
muster a majority in favour of ACTA within the EP.

What's extraordinary is that no less than three other commissioners also
spoke at the meeting about the importance of social networks, and the need
to grapple with them.

Viviane Reding:

    She concluded by highlighting the rising influence of social networks on
the Internet and the need for the Commission to take account of this in its
communication policy and in dealing with various dossiers. Instructions had
already been given to the communication units in the Directorates-General.

Neelie Kroes:

    She concluded by stressing the need for appropriate communication on the
agreement, without waiting for the Court’s opinion, targeted particularly at
the various stakeholders involved and social networks.

Michel Barnier:

    was also of the opinion that the key role of social networks in public
debate in Europe forced the Commission to think carefully about adapting
some of its means of communication and that Members should discuss the
matter as soon possible.

What emerges very clearly from this is that the most senior politicians in
the European Union are completely nonplussed by the power of social networks
to mobilize not just Net activists but ordinary Internet users, and are
struggling to deal with it. I think we can expect to see attempts to
neutralize that new force by "reaching out" to social networks in a variety
of ways in the coming months. One area where that will clearly happen is for
the forthcoming update on the EU's "IPR Enforcement Directive", generally
known as IPRED. The Commission meeting referred to it explicitly:

    As regards the planned revision of the 2004 Directive on enforcement of
intellectual property rights, the Commission needed to adopt a prudent and
balanced approach to this politically delicate exercise, and take account of
existing texts on the protection of data and privacy in the areas of
telecoms and fundamental rights.

The EC knows that it must be very careful here, because the measures already
mooted for the next version of IPRED are very close to some of SOPA's bad
ideas -- for example, turning ISPs into copyright cops. The European
Commission has observed what happened in the US, and is clearly very
concerned that the IPRED update will meet the same opposition from those
mysterious, uncontrollable social networks as SOPA/PIPA did and ACTA is now

Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or identi.ca, and on Google+

Manon Anne Ress
Knowledge Ecology International
1621 Connecticut Ave, NW, Suite 500
Washington, DC 20009 USA
manon.ress at keionline.org

A2k mailing list
A2k at lists.keionline.org

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