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June 19, 2012 | Peter Bradwell

Help us win another crucial ACTA vote: call your MEP!

UPDATE: Thursday 21st June. MEPs in the INTA committee voted 19-12 in favour of David Martin MEP's opinion that ACTA be rejected! This also means you can stop emailing the MEPs in the trade committee about this vote...and get ready to email your MEP about the plenary vote on 4th July! More information on our new blog post

 

There's *another* crucial vote about ACTA this week in the European Parliament. This time, the lead committee, the international trade committee (INTA) will have to vote on its recommendation on Thursday (21 June) at 10am. You can help by calling your MEP before the vote!

Once again this is a really big vote. Once again it will really help if you contacted your MEP. Once again, it really will make a difference. The INTA committee is basically in charge of the 'dossier' - meaning they're leading on examining ACTA and recommending to the whole European Parliament whether it should give its consetn to or reject ACTA. They are supposed to take into account the other committee's opinions - which as you may remember, all voted to recommend ACTA is rejected

Those decisions were influenced hugely by the many people across Europe who got in touch with their MEPs to tell them why they think the European Parliament should reject the treaty. It's now to time to get back behind the wheel and get in touch with the members of the INTA committee to make sure they understand the problems, and why you care about it. 

There are seven UK MEPs in the INTA Committee. They're listed below, with contact details.

What's happening in this committee?

David Martin MEP is the lead member of the committee. His draft opinion recommends that ACTA is rejected. That's great! But some pro-ACTA amendments have been tabled - two calling for the adoption of ACTA, and one recommending that the final European Parliament vote be delayed until the decision of the European Court of Justice (the European Commission decided to refer ACTA to the ECJ earlier this year). That's not so great! They will vote on this on Thursday morning (21st) at 10am.

We would like MEPs in the committee to vote in favour of David Martin's opinion - that is to say, to recommend ACTA is rejected. And we believe that the plenary vote should happen as scheduled (this is the vote by the whole of the European Parliament on the ultimate decision, which is due to happen in early July). That means that we think the amendment recommending a delay to the plenary vote should be rejected. This amendment was proposed by MEP Syed Kamall, who represents London,

For all of the MEPs, we need to make sure they understand the reasons that we think ACTA is so flawed that it must be rejected. We believe that ACTA is such an imbalanced treaty that it unnecessarily puts innovation and freedom of expression at risk.

It tries to deal with hugely different issues (counterfeting of physical goods and digital infringements) under one treaty. And it promotes and incentivises the private 'policing' of online content, through for example its broad thresholds for its criminal measures. It exacerbates such problems by failing to provide adequate and robust safeguards for fundamental freedoms. We set out some key points in our briefing paper

Why shouldn't the vote be delayed? 

Syed Kamall MEP has proposed an amendment recommending a delay to the vote, arguing that the Parliament should wait for the decision of the European Court of Justice. It seems to us like this is merely an effort to undermine the momentum behind the effort to reject ACTA, and to take that polticial decision out of the hands of elected representatives. A decision from the ECJ could take years. 

We do not believe, for a number of reasons, that the Commission or the European Court of Justice can provide meaningful guarantees about the implementation of ACTA, and that a delay will simply deny citizens and their representatives the chance to make a meaningful political decision about this treaty.

For example, assurances given by the Commission about its own implementation of ACTA wouldn't be legally binding and would therefore not resolve the problems of the lack of clarity in the Agreement. For more on this, see EDRi's outline of the key remaining arguments.

Please tell your MEP if you disagree with this amendment - especially if you are in London and represented by Syed Kamall himself.

This is a test of how democratic and independent the European Parliament can be

Throughout the ACTA process the European Commission has consistently shown a disregard for democratic principles. They have effectively sought to move decisions about ACTA further away from people and their elected representatives. We have seen large numbers of people engaging with difficult debates and complex institutional processes through the passage of ACTA.

There has been a renewed interest in the workings of European democratic institutions, as the European Parliament has considered the treaty and responded to citizens' concerns.

A delay in the vote now will both legitimise this approach and severely undermine the growing democratic maturity of the European Parliament, especially following the recent votes in other committees (all four votes recommended the European Parliament reject ACTA). EDRi have also noted that this could be a watershed moment for the Parliament.

There's a slightly odd quirk to this as well. In tabling an amendment proposing that the committee votes to delay the crucial - and timely - plenary vote on ACTA, Syed Kamall is effectively supporting the European Commissions' efforts to take away this opportunity for elected reperesentatives to make their political decision about the treaty.  So if you are a constituent of Syed Kamall, you should certainly mention if you agree that the plenary vote should happen now, rather than being delayed until the opinion from the ECJ.

For more on why we think ACTA is so flawed, see our short briefing paper.  EDRI also have a run down of some of the key arguments, and have produced a sample script if you want some advice about what to say.

 

OK, OK, I get it. What do I need to do? 

Please call your MEPs! Explain why you care, and set out what you think they should do on Thursday morning. It will be a huge boost to the effort to defeat ACTA. Here's a list of which MEPs from which constituencies are involved. We have included notes relevant just to Syed Kamall and David Martin MEPs. Remeber, be polite - they're considering ACTA, not responsible for it!!

Get calling! And let us know how you get on.

London

  • MEP: Syed Kamall
  • Note: Tell Syed Kamall if you believe the plenary vote should not be delayed. The Commission nor the European Court of Justice cannot provide meaningful guarantees about the implementation of ACTA, and a delay will simply deny citizens and their representatives the chance they have now to make a meaningful decision about this treaty. You could ask him to withdraw his amendment if you agree with us. 
    • Contact: Tel.: +322 28 45792
    • E-mail: syed.kamall@europarl.europa.eu

Scotland

  • MEP: David Martin
  • Note: David Martin MEP is the rapporteur for ACTA and has recommended the Parliament reject ACTA in his draft opinion. You could tell David Martin MEP that you welcome his draft opinion and express your support for his position, emphasising you hope that the committee votes to support his position.
    • Contact: Tel.: +322 28 45539
    • E-mail: david.martin@europarl.europa.eu

East Midlands

  • MEP: Emma McClarkin
    • Contact Tel.: +322 28 45684
    • E-mail: emma.mcclarkin@europarl.europa.eu

South East England

  • MEP: Catherine Bearder
    • Contact: Tel.: +322 28 45632
    • E-mail: catherine.bearder@europarl.europa.eu

East of England

  • MEP: David Campbell Bannerman
    • Contact: Tel.: +322 28 45733
    • E-mail: david.campbellbannerman@europarl.europa.eu
  • MEP: Robert Sturdy
    • Contact: Tel.: +322 28 45294 
    • E-mail: robert.sturdy@europarl.europa.eu

South West of England

  • MEP: William (the Earl of ) Dartmouth
    • Contact: Tel.: +322 28 45735
    • E-mail: william.dartmouth@europarl.europa.eu

 .

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Comments (5)

  1. Paul Evans:
    Jun 19, 2012 at 01:11 PM

    My guess is that most of the people taking ORG's guidance on this are actually against all practical means of enforcing copyright in principle. If so, it would be only decent for them to mention this when lobbying against ACTA.

    MEPs need to know what you're in favour of as well as what you're against.

  2. Peter Bradwell:
    Jun 19, 2012 at 01:51 PM

    Hi Paul. Welcome back. Surprised it took you so long!

    "actually against all practical means of enforcing copyright in principle".

    Are you against all objections to the enforcement of copyright in principle? And if so, why? When might the enforcement of copyright be disproportionate? Have you ever seen an objection to copyright that you didn't think was ultimately an objection to copyright in principle?

    I can't speak for everyone else who responds to our calls such as this. We've set out pretty clearly why we think ACTA is bad news, and been open about our thinking, and guided people to make their own decisions. We treat people as grown ups, capable of making their own minds up about what we're saying and to read up around the arguments.

    You seem obsessed not by the arguments, but by the organisation making them. What makes it particularly boring is that you haven't done us or anybody reading this, or any MEP, the service of explaining what you mean - either by saying what you think about ACTA itself, or expanding on your slightly bizarre allegation that we have a 'cloaked agenda'. I thought *we* were the conspiracy theorists?! (http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/news/politics/4371932/May-blast-for-critics-of-email-tracking.html). I'd rather spend my time talking about substantive issues.

    And on that note, I'm off to choose what sandwich to eat for lunch.

    (That said, at the fringes of what you say is a decent point about what we could spend our limited resources on - I'm sure we can do more to help contribute to the development of better solutions to the problems around copyright and the Internet, and thus help articulate more solutions, which perhaps we don't do enough. I'm sure you could help us with that and I'd love to meet up to discuss it. You could also join Open Rights Group, which will not only help you frame our agenda and work but also provide us with more resources to challenge egregious laws such as the Communications Data Bill as well as disproportionate, poorly framed international treaties like ACTA! You can sign up here: http://www.openrightsgroup.org/join/)

  3. Paul Evans:
    Jun 19, 2012 at 09:56 PM

    There are many forms of copyright enforcement that I think are disproportionate and illiberal. As far as I know, ORG are prepared to countenance only ones that are completely ineffectual - they were so piddling I'm not even sure I made a note of them.

    The cloaked agenda point is an important one, and hardly a conspiracy theory. You say you are, in some unspecified way, prepared to respect copyright. I don't believe you on fairly good grounds. I know a number of ORG members and I know they have no respect for copyright because they've told me they don't. Claiming to respect copyright while objecting to every effective form of enforcement - it's 'concern trollery'.

    When you care about a sustainable funding base for high value content, this is a matter of 'Newtonian Politics' and a false-flag organisation co-ordinating campaigns in the way you are doing here damages our economy and our culture.

    I repeat, you should either spell out the forms of enforcement you favour or urge your members and supporters to campaign honestly.

  4. Peter Bradwell:
    Jun 20, 2012 at 07:06 AM

    You had me at 'false-flag organisation'. You make my life sound so much more interesting than it is.

    I know there's a good and useful point, amongst what is a conspiracy, about our work and what we can do more of. Again, I do think we could do more in future on positive solutions to this. But the fact that we have focused much of our resources to date on proposals we consider to be flawed in very important ways - which we have always tried to be quite clear and specific about - doesn't logically or practically mean we (a) oppose all copyright enforcement and (b) are secretly trying to destroy copyright.

    "There are many forms of copyright enforcement that I think are disproportionate and illiberal." I couldn't agree more! Which ones do you, or BECTU, think are so? I'm interested in common ground, red lines, etc.

    Thanks again.

  5. Paul Evans:
    Jun 21, 2012 at 12:23 PM

    I don't post here as any kind of spokesman for BECTU - I work there part time and my views on this pre-dated my joining them.

    Here are some of the disproportionate forms of enforcement that I would oppose.

    I think that prosecuting private copying would be disproportionate even though the British government is almost unique in not formally legalising it by applying a private copying levy (as they do everywhere else in the EU). I don't suppose ORG would ever be in favour of private copy levies in the first place, would you? No?

    I'd oppose disconnection of web services to individuals unless they'd ignored many requests to desist from the sharing of copyrighted material. I'd oppose link-blocking of sites unless the site admins had similarly ignored requests to stop linking to sites that share copyrighted material.

    In fact, with a more realistic regime in place that stopped monopolistic companies from driving down prices and monetising people's intellectual property without their consent or without compensation, I'd be happy to take a much more relaxed view on all of this.

    I think that this post spells it all out quite nicely: http://thetrichordist.wordpress.com/2012/06/18/letter-to-emily-white-at-npr-all-songs-considered/

    And, really, I'm not that keen on getting into a conversation about how other forms of funding can be promoted by apologists for piracy because that gets us into 'Newtonian politics' where the mid-point of reasonable discussion is somewhere between a total opposition to all forms of copyright enforcement and the basic human right that we all have to protect our IP. You guys could come out as advocates of a better Public Service Broadcasting settlement perhaps, or maybe look at industrial policies to support content creation (support for better State Aid rules, rules about content quotas or must-carry obligations etc), or for a break-up of Google and Facebook - it'd all be a gesture because your rallying cry continues to be the pretence that this is some kind of free-speech issue.

    When Jim posted this... http://www.openrightsgroup.org/blog/2012/we-dont-have-to-choose-between-freedom-and-copyright

    ... you guys nailed your colours firmly to the mast: An utterly spurious free-speech argument opposing the mildest of mild measures (the product of tortuous and expensive legal action) against an organisation who have a declared intent of stealing intellectual property and profiting from it.

    As long as you take this line, anything you say about addressing other issues is always going to be throat-clearing.

    I repeat, it is dishonest of you not to advise your supporters - when contacting MEPs - to be clear that they oppose all practical forms of copyright enforcement (unless the individuals concerned take a different view from ORG). You've not given me a reason why you don't proffer this advice.



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