EU Parliament rejects ACTA anti-piracy treaty

Jul 04, 2012 by DON MELVIN
Green Party members of the European parliament demonstrate against the ACTA project (Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement) during the vote Wednesday, July 4, 2012 at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, eastern France. The European Parliament has overwhelmingly defeated the international ACTA anti-piracy agreement, after fears that it would limit Internet freedom. A "no" vote in the Parliament on Wednesday would kill the treaty as far as the European Union is concerned. Supporters say that ACTA — the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement — is needed to harmonize international standards to protect the rights of those who produce music, movies, pharmaceuticals, fashion goods and other products that often fall victim to piracy and intellectual property theft. Opponents say it would stifle free access to information. (AP Photo/Christian Lutz)

The European Parliament overwhelmingly defeated an international anti-piracy trade agreement Wednesday after concern that it would limit Internet freedom sparked street protests in cities across Europe.

The vote — 39 in favor, 478 against, with 165 abstentions — appeared to deal the death blow to the European Union's participation in a treaty it helped negotiate, though other countries may still participate without the EU.

Supporters had maintained that ACTA, the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, was needed to standardize the different national laws that protect the rights of those who produce music, movies, pharmaceuticals, fashion goods and other products that often fall victim to piracy and intellectual property theft. EU officials said, too, that protecting European ideas was essential to the economic growth the continent so badly needs.

But opponents feared the treaty would lead to censorship and snooping on the Internet activities of ordinary citizens. Alex Wilks, who directed the anti-ACTA campaign for the advocacy group Avaaz, said the agreement would have permitted private companies to spy on the activities of Internet users and would have allowed users to be disconnected without due process.

Wilks said the agreement did not properly balance the rights of private citizens and those of copyright holders, whom he described as companies, though their ranks also include individual authors and musicians of modest means.

Beyond the EU and 22 of its member countries, eight other countries also signed the agreement — the U.S., Australia, Canada, Japan, Morocco, New Zealand, Singapore, and South Korea — though none has yet ratified it. The EU vote will not affect them.

David Martin, a member of the European Parliament from Scotland, pronounced the agreement dead.

"No emergency surgery, no transplant, no long period of recuperation is going to save ACTA," Martin said. "It's time to give it its last rites. It's time to allow its friends to mourn and for the rest of us to get on with our lives."

But EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht did not sound ready to give up altogether. He said in a statement that he would push ahead with his plan to have Europe's highest court determine whether the agreement, as currently written, would curtail any fundamental European rights, and would consider his next move in light of that opinion.

"It's clear that the question of protecting intellectual property does need to be addressed on a global scale — for business, the creative industries, whether in Europe or our partner countries," De Gucht said. "With the rejection of ACTA, the need to protect the backbone of Europe's economy across the globe: our innovation, our creativity, our ideas — our intellectual property — does not disappear."

But the overwhelming vote Wednesday seemed to indicate that the agreement in its current form has no chance to be approved.

The treaty was unanimously approved by the 27 EU heads of government in December. But EU efforts to ratify it ran into trouble almost immediately. For the EU to become a party to the treaty, all 27 member countries would have to formally approve it.

Protests erupted on the streets of several European cities. A petition by Avaaz in opposition to ACTA garnered 2.8 million signatures and played an important role in influencing the debate.

It began to look increasingly unlikely that all 27 countries would ratify the agreement, so much so that in February the European Commission, the EU's executive branch, suspended ratification efforts and instead asked the European Court of Justice to render its opinion. The hope clearly was to stall for time and try to resume ratification efforts, armed with a favorable court opinion, in a calmer atmosphere.

As if to underscore the difficulty in getting the agreement ratified by all 27 EU countries — even had the Parliament given its approval — France's governing Socialist Party issued a statement Wednesday crowing about the parliamentary rejection of the treaty.

"Today, the European Parliament has buried once and for all the ACTA treaty," the statement said. "For the French Socialists, the vote marks the first and foremost a new inter-institutional balance of power, with the active participation of citizens in the European debate."

But copyright holders were, as Martin said, mourning the treaty's demise. A release on behalf of Europe's "creative industries," saying it represented 130 trade federations representing sectors employing over 120 million workers, bemoaned Wednesday's vote, saying it would damage Europe's economy.

"The decision on ACTA is a missed opportunity for the EU to protect its creative and innovation-based industries in the international market place," the statement said. "Intellectual property rights remain the engine for Europe's global competitiveness and a driver of economic growth and jobs. In the current economic climate, it is particularly crucial to protect these beyond the EU itself."

Alan C. Drewsen, executive director of the International Trademark Association, was particularly critical.

"Europe could have seized the chance to support an important treaty that improved intellectual property standards internationally," Drewsen said. "We expect that ACTA will move ahead without the EU, which is a significant loss for the 27 member states."

The failure to ratify the treaty is a humiliation for the European Union, which was one of the prime movers in the multi-year effort to negotiate the agreement. EU officials had maintained that ACTA would change nothing in European law, but would be simply an instance of the EU leading by example and exporting its strong copyright protection laws to other countries where safeguards are weaker.

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User comments : 18

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Lurker2358
3.8 / 5 (8) Jul 04, 2012
It would do more than curtail internet freedom.

It would give mega-corporations permanent, multi-generational control of all knowledge and technology, and what people do with it, to an ever greater degree, far greater than the existing patent systems already do.

No nation should ratify this. It makes individuals both now and for all time the slaves of corporations who buy up all patents...

Constitutional U.S. patents are technically supposed to expire when the original inventor dies, if you actually read the constitution, but instead, they are owned for generations, even centuries, by a corporation, or the next one who buys it from them...

Patents are supposed to expire and become public domain at some time, after the original discoverer or inventor has had a fair time to make reasonable profits and living from it, or has died.

Computer technology, and even software code, SHOULD become like shovels and screws and stuff, standard, common, public knowledge and rights.
SatanLover
3 / 5 (3) Jul 04, 2012
If they would be to pass it they would commit European suicide on so many levels.
Ophelia
1.6 / 5 (7) Jul 04, 2012
@Lurker2358: It seems that you get your knowledge of the law or the US Constitution from some comic book or conspiracy theorist's handbook.

The US constitutional provision grants Congress power to "secure for limited times" patents and copyrights to inventors and authors. Nowhere does it provide for termination upon death. The primary textual documents used to interpret what the Constituion means are Madison's Notes on the Constitutional Convention and the Federalist Papers, neither of which supports your "termination upon death" interpretation.

US patents (as well as those issued by other authorities) last for 20 years from the filing date - not centuries. Not even "generations". (with a couple of narrow exceptions. In the US, some extra time for the patent term can be granted because of bureaucratic delays in getting a patent through the US Patent Office. Drug patents can get similar, short extensions.)

You should know what you're writing about if you are going to bother to post
Ophelia
1 / 5 (3) Jul 04, 2012
There is one case where a US patent might seem to have a "generations" long term: where the US Government slaps a secrecy order on it, burying it in the Patent Office to not see the light of day - in which case the inventor can't do a thing with it. Sometimes those orders will be lifted after a decade or three and the patent that issues will get a 20 year term - of course, that often if not always means the technology is outdated and the patent will never generate a dime of revenue any way.
Lurker2358
3.9 / 5 (7) Jul 04, 2012
Ophelia:

You quoted, and then mis-interpreted, the very passage I had in mind:

"To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries."

Notice some key terms:

"LIMITED times" - not indefinite, multigenerational, etc.

"Authors and Inventors" - Not corporations.

"right to THEIR writing or discovery" - Not someone else's which they have purchased from one another and handed down for generations.

Man, iphone has a patent on "flat electronic device with rounded corners" with regards to its iPhone and iPad lines, yet the exact concept of this "discovery," appeared in Star Trek and Ninja Turtles at least two decades earlier, re: portable video phone/omni-electronic device in one.

If anything, the authors of Star Trek and Ninja Turtles should own the patent to smartphones.

Apple stole the idea...

Anyway, you see the point
Anda
not rated yet Jul 04, 2012
"the agreement would have permitted private companies to spy on the activities of Internet users and would have allowed users to be disconnected without due process."
Internet free, no censorship.
Makes me proud of being european.
Astoria
3 / 5 (1) Jul 04, 2012
Whereas I do agree with this rejection, I still think nothing special about deputies, who rejected ACTA. They rejected it just after they attempted to approve it repeatedly in quiet. The deputies changed their opinion in coward populist way just after when they faced the wave of public outrage after leaking the memo about it at WikiLeaks. The dismissal of ACTA is therefore a great victory of public opinion and Julian Assange, who is ostracized right now - we should thank just to him for it.
Ophelia
3.7 / 5 (3) Jul 04, 2012
@Lurker2358:

FYI, I've worked in the intellectual property area for law firms and your interpretation of the constitutional provision is contrary to every single Supreme Court decision on the every issue you have sought to "argue".

Explain how a 20 year patent term is either "indefinite" or "multi-generational". I really can't wait to see how you torture the dictionary.

Explain why patents are not "property" that owners can buy and sell. I'm sure the Supreme Court from 1787 on would be amused by your legal analysis.

Explain why someone who invents something but can't afford to bring it to market should just have to "give it away for free" rather than sell the patent and be repaid for what may be years of work and great financial sacrifice.

You don't have the slightest idea of what you are talking about. Go get the simplest patent law book you can find and read it.

You are simply wrong.
Ophelia
3 / 5 (2) Jul 04, 2012
@Lurker2358:
I could spend 10 years of my life and every spare dime of family's resources to invent the greatest thing since sliced bread on January 1, 2013.

Now, assume one of two situation: I die on January 2, 2013 or I die on January 2, 2043

Under your "interpretation" of the constitutional provision, my family gets squat due to my untimely death and in the second they end up billionaires.

One of the great principles of English law, which is the US tradition, is that property, both real and personal, can be bought and sold and restrictions can generally be applied only sparingly. You would abolish the principle for patents in its entirety. You have nothing to support such a proposition and in fact it can't be found in American jurisprudence or tradition.

I'd have to look at the Apple patent to know what you are talking about. Claims are what matters, after all. If you know anything about patents, that is.

I'd agree with you that terms for copyrights are too long now.
Ophelia
3 / 5 (2) Jul 04, 2012
@Lurker2358:
Your complaint about "corporate" ownership versus individuals of patents and copyrights is also non-sensical. Even if the Constitution were interpreted as you suggest, individuals could still license their patents to corporations, retaining legal title to them. The net effect is the same: corporations exploit the patent.

You really need to find something you know about to post about.
Ophelia
3 / 5 (2) Jul 04, 2012
Oh, and lurker, patents in the US are NEVER issued to corporations, only to individuals, who have the right to sell or license their patent property just like every single other piece of property they own. And I doubt you can find a single case decided anywhere in the US that says patents aren't property that can be bought and sold.

And again, they only last 20 years. Their terms aren't "indefinite" or "multi-generational", no matter how much you insist to the contrary.
Lurker2358
3 / 5 (2) Jul 04, 2012
Oh, and lurker, patents in the US are NEVER issued to corporations, only to individuals, who have the right to sell or license their patent property just like every single other piece of property they own. And I doubt you can find a single case decided anywhere in the US that says patents aren't property that can be bought and sold.

And again, they only last 20 years. Their terms aren't "indefinite" or "multi-generational", no matter how much you insist to the contrary.


1, Then explain how people still hold monopolies on 100 years old technology and products.

2, Explain how Blizzard/Activision SUED the inventor of the MOPAQ data archive compression format, and WON. Apparently an individual did not get rights to the invention, and the company certainly did. See below...

3, Many employers now have a clause in their application, or in their actual hiring documentation, claiming exclusive ownership of any intellectual property you invent while under their employment.
Lurker2358
3 / 5 (2) Jul 04, 2012
And continuing on 3 above, for example, if you being an average joe employee spot a solution to a problem at work, and it is a technical solution worthy of a patent, and it's value is let's say a million dollars per branch/plant per year. If you actually inform your employer of your idea and it gets implemented, you get SQUAT and they fire you the next day and use your idea, because you signed a contract as terms of employment (typically having little or no other options anyway for most people).

Doesn't THAT seem unfair?

Oh, but you are quite wrong.

The company demands exclusive rights of all intellectual property you develop, whether or not it is job related, and whether or not is patentable or copyrigtable material.

Forfeiture of your intellectual property rights is now an absolute requirement to get hired at many employers.

I guess you didn't know that was going on, did yah?
Lurker2358
1 / 5 (1) Jul 04, 2012
continued...

And that is "probably" what happened in the MOPAQ case, but honestly it's been quite some time since I encountered that, so I'm not sure any more, but I suppose you could google it and find an old reference to it somewhere.

But he wasn't allowed to patent that or make money off it. The court ruled in Blizzard's favor and took the technology, the algorithm, and the code from him, along with all rights to it's profits and applications.

Although admittedly, the modding community reverse engineered the technology and invented their own algorithms for conversion to and from that format anyway, but that's another issue entirely...just "stealing" back what the corporation stole from the "Joe".
stanly_simpson
3 / 5 (1) Jul 05, 2012
It seems the problem the EU parliament has with ACTA is the fact that is will allow for censorship and snooping on the Internet activities of ordinary citizens. I read some parts of the ACTA pdf and can see why they are worried. Although all that means is that "ordinary citizens" will now have to buy faster computers to handle the full encryption of their activities. Everyone gains except the ordinary citizens because yeah they end up picking up the final bill as usual. I for one am a little disgusted that my government allowed themselves to sign that without demanding some well justified rectifications.
frajo
not rated yet Jul 05, 2012
FYI, I've worked in the intellectual property area for law firms and your interpretation of the constitutional provision is contrary to every single Supreme Court decision on the every issue you have sought to "argue".

I don't know whether you are allowed to, but read the discussion on
http://www.osnews...ts/26149 .
It's about European interests, you know, not about US interests.
DaFranker
1 / 5 (1) Jul 05, 2012
Ophelia, you seem to grossly generalize Lurker's initial comments and then equate "Practical Law" / Case Law with "Intended Purpose of [Law/Rule/Regulation/Code/Etc.]"

Initially, I interpreted Lurker's first comment as being geared towards the whole original point of what patents were made for, on an international and conceptual level. You then sniped that comment by saying that no, that's not its point, because that's not how it was used by the Supreme Court historically in X, Y and Z cases. Also notice that Lurker called you on this in his first reply, and yet you came back to charge. Also notice that Lurker has always used "should" in statements where the Supreme Court or other US legislative bodies have ruled otherwise, never "is" or "must". The one exception to this is his appeal over the relinquish-rights-to-intellectual-property employment clause, where the play on words and sarcasm seems quite obvious.
slayerwulfe
not rated yet Jul 06, 2012
it's the ppl that never do anything that want everything for free. invest some R&D money your intelligence, time and effort. see how you feel then about thieves.