Thank you SOPA, thank you ACTA

By EDRi · July 4, 2012

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Deutsch: [Danke SOPA, danke ACTA |]

The digital rights world can be grateful that the intellectual property
lobby employs too many lobbyists and too few strategists. Lobbyists are
salespeople, the sell potential clients or employers amazing things,
international agreements, Directives, the ability to stop time and enjoy
old business models with no need for innovation or creativity, they sell
smoke and mirrors. It was this approach that led to the proposal of SOPA
in the United States and ACTA in Europe and beyond. It is this
short-sightedness that has helped inspire the massive digital rights
movement that brought untold thousands of citizens onto the streets of
Europe on the cold February day that will be seen, we hope, as the day
that helped preserve our digital heritage.

From the European content industry, ACTA was all cost and no potential
benefit. However, as always, it was dragged along by multinational,
mainly US lobbies that promise the world but could never deliver. The
component parts of ACTA were coming, the content industry just needed to
stay silent and wait. The European Commission was about to launch a
criminal sanctions Directive. The EU was planning to review the
profoundly broken IPR Enforcement Directive (IPRED), which many
rightsholders were targeting as a means of further strengthening
European repressive policies in the internet environment. There was no
sign of the Commission strengthening data protection legislation to
prevent abuse of personal data by intermediaries carrying out arbitrary
policing of their networks. The Commission had a whole queue of
privatised enforcement measures in the style of ACTA’s Article 27.3
either already in place or planned. All that the European copyright
industry needed was to avoid public attention for these plans. And
then came ACTA.

Thanks to SOPA, European citizens better understood the dangers of ACTA.
Thanks to the anti-ACTA campaign, it would be politically crazy for the
Commission to launch the criminal sanctions Directive. Thanks to ACTA,
there is broad understanding in the European Parliament of just how bad
IPRED really is and any review now, if the Commission has the courage to
re-open it, is more likely to improve the Directive rather than increase
its repressive measures. Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmström
reportedly demanded an improvement of the ePrivacy Directive to avoid
data retention by Member States.

One by one, the Commission’s “self-regulation” projects have failed,
with the Commission now relying on terrorism and child protection as a
means of pushing privatised enforcement. Even here they are in trouble,
as the Commission-funded CleanIT project is becoming more effective as a
case study in incompetence than as a tool for fighting terrorism.

And it is not only in specific policy proposals that ACTA has had an
effect. The Commission President, Manuel Barroso was reportedly furious
(and justifiably so), not just that ACTA has made the Commission look so
out of touch, undemocratic and hamfisted, but that Commissioner De
Gucht’s services were so drunk on their own importance that they were
not able to warn of the impending storm. Digital rights, as a political
issue, has moved from the periphery to the centre of the concerns of
European policy makers.

Like all overnight successes, it has taken years of work. From the
software patents campaign, to data retention, to Amendment 138,
activists with vision, energy and commitment have spent years hoping
when there was no sane reason to hope, fighting where the prospect of
winning seemed absurd and working when the work seemed pointless.

ACTA is not the end. ACTA is the beginning.

Thank you ACTA. Thank you activists. And thank you pro-ACTA lobbyists,
without you, none of this would have been possible.


Malmström interview: “We were very patient with Germany” (only in
German, 3.07.2012)

EDRi-member Digitale Gesellschaft: How-To build an Anti-ACTA-Campaign

How-To build an Anti-ACTA-Campaign

(Contribution by Joe McNamee – EDRi)