Kroes and "the world without ACTA"

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05/05/2012. EU Commissionner Neelie Kroes has recently stated at the Re:publica conference in a speech on Internet freedoms that :

"We are now likely to be in a world without SOPA and without ACTA."

According to many observers and journalists, like people over at the Wall Street Journal, this statement means that:

"ACTA is effectively dead, the European Commissioner for the Digital Agenda admitted Friday. An official spokesman said the “political reality” was the fight was over."

But ACTA is not dead. Not yet anyway. And even if ACTA is eventually rejected by the EU Parliament this summer, it will likely be born again under a new name, under a new form.

Kroes is a defender of ACTA

First, one shoud recall that Neelie Kroes, as Vice-President of the EU Commission, is responsible for negotiating ACTA in the name of the EU and introducing it before EU lawmakers. Neelie Kroes has been a fierce defender of ACTA. In January, she was still pretending that ACTA does not affect fundamental rights. KroesForACTA.png

Kroes and the "battle against piracy"

In the minutes of a EU Commission college meeting in March, she is also reported to have stated the following:

"Ms KROES emphasised her battle against Internet piracy and recalled her wish, expressed during the preparation of ACTA and reflected in the final text, that the Community acquis in this area should not be affected in any way by the new agreement, so as to retain as much leeway as possible for a debate within the EU on the revision of the Directive on intellectual property rights.
While she was in favour of referring the matter to the Court of Justice, she stressed that, given the time taken for it to respond, the Commission should already decide on the best course of action for the interim. She was in favour of Commission action demonstrating clearly that it was committed to enforcing intellectual property rights, but that it also supported legal distribution, which was the most effective way to combat piracy.(...)
As regards the planned revision of the 2004 Directive on enforcement of intellectual property rights, the Commission needed to adopt a prudent and balanced approach to this politically delicate exercise, and take account of existing texts on the protection of data and privacy in the areas of telecoms and fundamental rights.
She concluded by stressing the need for appropriate communication on the agreement, without waiting for the Court’s opinion, targeted particularly at the various stakeholders involved and social networks. The Commission urgently needed to table the expected legislative proposals on intellectual property and copyright." (our emphasis)

Kroes still a far cry from breaking away from copyright repression

Mrs. Kroes might hold more balanced views than her colleague directly responsible for ACTA, Karel De Gucht (Trade Commissioner), but she is by no means proposing a sweeping reform of copyright that would adapt in to new technical and social realities:

  • She has yet to recognise the legitimacy and importance of culture sharing.
  • Like all other Commissioners, she has failed to acknowledge the growing number of studies that make clear that the not-for-profit sharing is not detrimental to the cultural economy, which should call for a new approach to online copyright policy.
  • Although she alludes to the IPRED directive in the above-mentioned minutes, she fails to call for limiting repressive enforcement policies to commercial, for-profit infringements.

Only a sustained mobilization will lead to a meaningful copyright reform

More importantly, the comments surrounding Mrs. Kroes' speech tend to suggest that the fight against ACTA, or a a new incarnation of the decade-long war on sharing, is over. It is not the case. Not until lawmakers engage in a meaningful reform of copyright and stop introducing, one after the other, bills increasing Net censorship, in the name of enforcing an outdated legal regime and protecting incumbent media industries.

These comments risk demobilizing citizens who have protesting against ACTA, when only the sustained democratic participation of all will eventually exert enough pressure on "representative institutions" and make them understand what the Internet and culture sharing is about, and what needs to be done on the legislative side to solve copyright's legitimacy crisis and protect freedoms online.

Don't let them fool ya!