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The week started well.
It could mean war. Seriously: it could. It's been nearly 100 years since the first big one. Goodness knows what started it. Or the one after. Or all the smaller skirmishes ever since, some of which are still going on today.
The European Union was an idea for stopping Europe from being the battlefield of the 'civilised' world. By creating an economic interdependence between traditional rivals.
But geography isn't important anymore. It's not France against Germany or Britain against Spain. The world of today is Orwellian: it's controlled by the multinationals. Traditional boundaries are meaningless.
The French once stormed the Bastille. People in North American dumped tea in a harbour. Russians charged the Winter Palace. The powers that be have resisted change each and every time there's been a watershed in human history and exerted more and more power, using more and more violence, until they were finally defeated.
Maybe it's Marxian dialectic materialism after all. Or call it just plain evolution. But the power elite don't like it when commoners get uppity and start demanding things. And never before have they seen anything quite like the Internet.
They resisted the printing press so many hundreds of years ago. They hunted down and persecuted people with printed books. They're doing the same type of thing today.
But whatever: the week started out well. The question for a while was whether there'd ever been such a good week before. Or whether constituencies had ever got such bang for buck out of their elected representatives.
Norwegian ISP Telenor had been under pressure to block access to The Pirate Bay but a new court ruling came down saying they don't have to. It says it's a matter for the courts to decide what's legal and what's not - pressure from lobby organisations nonwithstanding.
The Danish Antipiratgruppen decided to close down after almost total failure in the court system for the past seven years. Their representative Maria Fredenslund said the courts were demanding convincing evidence and her people couldn't provide it. And an analysis of pending cases shows a very low probability of success unless the accused file sharers screw up and admit to their 'crimes'.
Danish solicitor Per Overbeck had cases against two more of his clients dropped. 'The Antipiratgruppen admit they can't win unless they catch people in the act or are able to coerce them into pleading guilty.'
File sharing is wildly popular in Denmark where a recent survey shows 70% in the age group 15-25 are regularly active. And a recent report from their Ministry of Culture concludes that cases against file sharers are all but doomed to fail.
The IFPI issued a comment, heralding the end of the world as a result. Of course they did.
The Swedish Pirate Party were 100% against the Lisbon Treaty which further concentrates European power in the hands of an oligarchy in Brussels. And this opposition included Amelia Andersdotter who'd been very close to winning an MEP seat in the recent election. But the implementation of Lisbon means the Swedish PP double their funding and Amelia gets to join Christian who's already down in the Belgian capital working like a trouper. One step back, one step forward.
They're known locally as the 'one issue party'. But the Swedish Pirate Party have been very clear from the get-go about what they want - and it's not to protect file sharers. They see the Internet as a watershed in human history, possibly the greatest ever, and they want to make sure Big Brother doesn't jump in the gap.
Deliberations over the telecoms package have been epic in format and Swedish Pirate MEP Christian Engström and a few others had to work and hit hard to make sure fundamental human rights were baked into the proposal. Things turned out far better than anyone expected: draconian measures such as the Bruni/Sarkozy sponsored Hadopi become essentially illegal.
But there was one comment in the generally laudatory thread Christian put up with the good news on his blog that had people puzzled. That comment mentioned something called ACTA.
It's OK if someone doesn't know what ACTA is. The powers that be have been doing their best to keep it out of the public eye. ACTA might be the reason Christian and his friends found it surprisingly easy to win their victory in Brussels.
ACTA stands for Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement. It's a worldwide proposal formally penned by the Office of the United States Trade Representative where people have almost formally been taking dictation from the Hollywood entertainment industry. ACTA is supposed to be about fighting counterfeiting; it's not supposed to have anything to do with the Internet. Nothing at all. In fact several Swedish politicians came out and declared categorically that it has nothing to do with the Internet.
But it's been hard to verify this, even as knowledge of it grew over the past half year. And then some gentle soul blew a whistle and uploaded a document to Wikileaks. And it turns out this ACTA has little to do with what politicians said. Instead it's a veritable laundry list of Hollywood demands.
Karin Pilsäter: one of a number of disgraced Swedish MPs now under attack for insisting all along that ACTA has absolutely nothing to do with the Internet.
'Instead of focusing on customs procedures and enforcement to fight large scale commercial piracy it has delved into the area of noncommercial illegal file-sharing', writes 'soulxtc' at Zeropaid.com. 'By all accounts it's bad - very bad.'
But now there's a PDF available so all can read for themselves. So they know just how bad it is.
ACTA is about penalising ISPs worldwide for the content of their traffic. Yes you read that right. It's about a 'three strikes' policy not against individual clients (surfers) but against the ISPs themselves. The idea is to make ISPs responsible for what their customers do. The idea is any IP organisation can file a complaint that an ISP is allowing traffic involved in file sharing, cite which individuals are supposedly involved, and the ISPs then have two chances to close these surfers down for up to one year. And if they do not do this then they themselves become legally liable and can suffer both fines and imprisonment.
The Zeropaid.com article explains.
First: ISPs would have to proactively filter copyrighted material from their networks and hand over the names of those accused of illegal file-sharing.
Second: ISPs, in order to benefit from safe harbour provisions, would have to disconnect the Internet connections of illegal file-sharers for up to one year. Copyright holders would be able to sue those ISPs that fail to stop customers from illegal file-sharing.
Third: it will force countries to prohibit circumventing DRM or the manufacture of devices that allow people to do so.
Fourth: it would create a 'broad' global 'notice and takedown' regime where ISPs are forced to remove copyrighted material without first weighing evidence to the contrary.
It's a worldwide DMCA. It's what did not apply to The Pirate Bay five years ago. It's an indirect admission - as in the trial of The Pirate Bay - that the powers that be cannot get at the people who are actually annoying them - and so they make other people suffer instead. It's precisely what was used to justify prosecuting The Pirate Bay and precisely what was used to put pressure on Swedish ISP Black Internet to turn off their part of the TPB Internet connection.
No one's worried if this is legal or not. Postal services worldwide don't have to deal with anything so ridiculous. But then again they don't have Hollywood on their backs.
And worst of all: it's all being done in secret. They just got finished with a big meeting in Seoul. Only the entertainment industry people have access to the secret negotiations. No one else.
'This is not about free trade at all', wrote Michael Masnick of TechDirt. 'This is an entertainment industry bill designed to recreate the Internet as a broadcasting platform rather than as one used for user-generated content and communication.'
And that's about as bad as it can get.
'ACTA seems to have very little to do with 'anti-counterfeiting' and everything to do with protecting the deep-pocketed US-based entertainment industry', says the Zeropaid.com article. 'It does nothing to address the heart of the matter, which is their refusal to adapt to the realties of a digital distribution world.'
'Also troubling is the secretive nature of a treaty with such broad legal implications being conducted in private under the pretext of trade negotiations. Since when did we begin allowing laws to be debated behind closed doors?'
People are starting to write about ACTA now that some of the dirty details are available. Swedish Pirate Party founder Rick Falkvinge, Swedish MEP Christian Engström, and others are helping out to assemble as much information as possible on ACTA. All the while the powers that be continue to do all they can to keep the details secret.
The third world war need not be nuclear in nature. It need not be a total upheaval of destruction as heretofore predicted and feared. Even if there may very well be bloodshed and inexcusable loss of life.
But bad things often happen when greedy powers aren't willing to secede and continue to cling intensely to what they know they're destined to lose. Evolution is good; the Internet is very good; neither evolution nor the Internet are at fault.
Only greed is at fault. It's always the same story. And those fools who are unwilling to learn from history are doomed to make us all repeat it.
The only thing needed for evil to prosper is for good men to do nothing.
- Edmund Burke
All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent.
- Thomas Jefferson
Rixstep FTP: ACTA negotiations Brussels 2009-09-30 Ref 588/09
Wikileaks: European Commission 'advance warning' summary on ACTA 30 Sep 2009 (released 6 November 2009)
Zeropaid.com: Anti-Piracy Treaty: Global DMCA, 'Three-Strikes'
MiNimaliteter: ACTA-dokument på Wikileaks, nu är det allvar!
ACTA Demands Three Strikes (English Translation by Christian Engström MEP)
Internetdagarna: Är det OK att Black Internet tvingades stänga av The Pirate Bay?
Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada: 6th round of ACTA negotiations in Seoul, Korea
Michael Geist: The Leaked ACTA Document
Ottawa Citizen: Internet talks to create copyright police
Washington Post: Secret Internet copyright talks raise concerns
NZ Herald News: Sneaky meetings - global copyright scrap far from over
Atlantic Wire: Secret Copyright Treaty Will Ruin the Internet
Wired Threat Level: Copyright Treaty Is Policy Laundering at Its Finest
Boing-Boing: Secret copyright treaty leaks It's bad very bad.
Rick Falkvinge: ACTA: skarpt läge, USA kräver nätavstängningar
Swedish EU Presidency: 6th Round of Negotiations on Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement
Christian Engström: Telecoms Package Conciliation Photo Gallery
Christian Engström: Landmarks in the Telecoms Text
Christian Engström: Telecom package: Final Agreed Text
VG Nett: Telenor vant i Pirate Bay-saken
Politiken DK: Pirater på internet får frit spil