Thank you SOPA, thank you ACTA
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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
EDRi-member Digitale Gesellschaft: How-To build an Anti-ACTA-Campaign
(Contribution by Joe McNamee - EDRi)