March 13, 2012
European Commission Would Rather You Keep Your Opinions To Yourself
Techdirt has a story highlighting the minutes of the most recent meeting of the European Commission as it applies to the discussion of ACTA. Specifically the President and various members of the Commission were surprised by the “intensity and scale of the public debate and the organised campaign against the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA).” The President said the Commission should plan to deal with social media in future actions given how this played out. The minutes add:
Although the Commission had provided the necessary technical assistance and information throughout the negotiations and the conclusion of ACTA – thus ensuring that the process was completely transparent – it now found itself the focus of criticism for every possible negative aspect of the agreement.
I found that statement particularly ironic given the high security to the negotiating process. Leaks via members of the European Parliament, among others, managed to get the text into the public view. The process was anything but transparent until the final text was presented as a take it or leave it proposition. The Commission additionally stated it felt hung out to dry (not exactly those words) when no one from the IP industries spoke out in favor of the treaty. If any did, it was not loud enough to give the Commission political cover over adopting ACTA.
There were statements about the fate of SOPA and PIPA in the United States to the effect that votes had not taken place “following a hostile campaign by social networks and the loss of White House support.” Note those words “organised campaign” and “hostile campaign.” I don’t understand this attitude. Lobbyists working in favor of ACTA in most any part of the world are organized, self-interested, and unhesitatingly in favor of stronger IP protections. Anyone who organizes and makes contrary views known in a public and legal manner is hostile? To what? The Commission? The proposed treaty? Or maybe it’s a wake-up call that the established way of doing things can’t be controlled completely.
One of the best and worst things about the Internet is that there is no single editorial control over how information is presented. That includes opinions on legislation. French President Nicolas Sarkozy famously said that the Internet needs to be civilized. There is civility and there is diverse opinion. Both are good. The Commission should welcome organized public opinion, not be wary of it. The Minutes are here, with the ACTA discussion appearing on pages 17-22. [MG]