Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Netherlands against ACTA in all its forms

In response to an open letter sent by Bits of Freedom (BoF), the Dutch government has confirmed that it opposes any controversial ACTA-provisions in whatever form.

This confirmation was provoked by the news, only six days after ACTA was rejected by the European Parliament, that a draft text of the Canada – EU Trade Agreement contained provisions that were virtually identical to provisions from ACTA. As the Netherlands set an important example by rejecting ACTA long before the vote in the European Parliament, Bits of Freedom requested the government to do the same with CETA or any agreement alike. And it did.

More specifically in its letter of 17 September 2012, the government – upon BoF request – confirmed that it would not agree to the ACTA-provisions in CETA or any other treaty in which such provisions may appear. It stated:

The European Commission rightly agreed to respect the vote of the European Parliament against ACTA and to observe this vote concerning CETA. ACTA-provisions 27(3) and 27(4) regarding the liability of Internet Service Providers are no longer part of the current draft of CETA. Other provisions relating to the enforcement of intellectual property rights are currently being studied with the aforementioned vote in mind. If provisions do not correspond thereto, they will be changed or deleted.


In light of resolution 288 of the House of Representatives [2], this government will not agree – in whatever agreement this may be – to any ACTA-provisions it voted against. Examples are provisions on the strict enforcement of intellectual property on the internet and provisions that stand in the way of future intellectual property reforms.

The Dutch government further noted that currently there were no other treaties similar to ACTA being negotiated.

This confirmation by the Dutch government is of course very good news. However, due to recent elections, a note of caution is in place: the new government that is currently being formed may decide differently. Seeing the latest positions of the two major parties there is not too much reason for concern: in their election campaign, the liberal party (VVD) took a position against ACTA and similar treaties; the labour party (PvdA) took position only against ACTA but did support resolution 288 (also mentioned above) by which the government was requested to vote against treaties similar to ACTA.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Facebook gives up its face recognition feature in EU

Facebook has decided to give up the controversial face recognition feature in EU. The feature used by Facebook was taking information given by users when tagging friends' faces in photos.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Friday, September 14, 2012

EU continues to try and sneak ACTA back in through the backdoor

Towards the end of July 2012, a rather strange and surprising e-mail was sent from the General Secretariat of the Council of the European Union to the Member States and the European Commission. The e-mail explained that the criminal sanctions provisions of the draft EU/Canada trade agreement are modeled on those in ACTA. This, the General Secretariat of the Council worries, presents a problem as, on the one hand, the conclusion and implementation of CETA are a declared priority of the Union while, on the other, the European Parliament will need to be asked to approve the final text of the Agreement.

Member States told EDRi they were baffled by the e-mail. On the one hand, after all the controversy surrounding ACTA, they could not understand why such a blunt e-mail was sent in the first place. After all of the leaks surrounding ACTA, a more subtle message would have been logical. Secondly, after the adoption of the Lisbon Treaty, the task of coordinating such policies is now the responsibility of the Commission, so it was not clear why the Council took it upon itself to even ask the question.

Member States are not the only ones that are somewhat surprised by the Council's e-mail – the European Commission told the press only two weeks previously "that language being negotiated on CETA regarding Internet is now totally different from ACTA." Has the Council been given the wrong draft of CETA? This seems like the only possible explanation. After everything that happened with ACTA, it hardly seems possible that the Commission would be seeking to mislead the public.

Many Member States still do not understand the political problems that surrounded ACTA and are therefore generally not opposed to provisions from ACTA being put into CETA. However, only two Member States clicked on "reply all" when responding to the Council's e-mail – one was a well-known supporter of ACTA from western Europe and, surprisingly, the other was one of the "new" Member States from South-East Europe.

The response from the South-East European member state also raised opposition to the inclusion of camcording in the draft Agreement. Camcording is such a non-issue that it was abandoned by the negotiating parties in ACTA, so it is bizarre that even stronger wording has now made its way into CETA. Even more strange is that a policy has found its way into the draft EU/Canada trade deal that is neither an EU policy nor a Canadian policy, but a US one. Michael Geist points in a blog post to a Wikileaks cable where the US described as "disingenuous" a Canadian claim that their anti-camcording legislation was an independent policy change that was not the result of lobbying pressure from the US.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Belarusian authorities harass online opposition groups

As elections in Belarus approach, independent or pro-opposition journalists and Internet users are harassed by the Belarusian authorities, pressured and even put to jail. The mobile phone company BelCel blocked access to the pro-opposition news websites Charter97 and BelPartizan.

Reporters Without Borders:

"The call for an election boycott by some opposition figures has joined the long list of subjects that are off limits. Those who mention the boycott, such as opposition groups on social networks, are immediately sanctioned. It is illusory to talk of free elections in such a media environment."