This just in: the European Parliament’s rapporteur of the ACTA agreement, an agreement which is about as bad as SOPA and creates seriously repressive legislation – that rapporteur has just quit in disgust over how the whole process has been designed to keep citizens and lawmakers in the dark.
”I want to denounce in the strongest possible manner the entire process that led to the signature of this agreement: no inclusion of civil society organisations, a lack of transparency from the start of the negotiations, repeated postponing of the signature of the text without an explanation being ever given, exclusion of the EU Parliament’s demands that were expressed on several occasions in our assembly.”
“As rapporteur of this text, I have faced never-before-seen manoeuvres from the right wing of this Parliament to impose a rushed calendar before public opinion could be alerted, thus depriving the Parliament of its right to expression and of the tools at its disposal to convey citizens’ legitimate demands.”
“Everyone knows the ACTA agreement is problematic, whether it is its impact on civil liberties, the way it makes Internet access providers liable, its consequences on generic drugs manufacturing, or how little protection it gives to our geographical indications.”
“This agreement might have major consequences on citizens’ lives, and still, everything is being done to prevent the European Parliament from having its say in this matter. That is why today, as I release this report for which I was in charge, I want to send a strong signal and alert the public opinion about this unacceptable situation. I will not take part in this mascarade.”
I’ve never seen words this strong from a Member of European Parliament before. He’s essentially saying that parliament was deliberately kept in the dark – this description comes very close to describing a coup d’état.
It is important to know that today’s signing of the ACTA agreement by the EU member states accounts for absolutely nothing. It is for show. A ceremony. Theater. The legally binding action happens in votes in parliaments; the national parliaments across Europe, and notably the European Parliament. That’s the final line of defense, and that’s where we must win.
The vote in European Parliament is estimated to happen somewhere around June 10. On the road there, it needs to pass through three or four subcommittees of the European Parliament. I expect similar mechanisms to happen in the national parliaments.
The Polish minister of digitization, Michal Boni, was lying through his teeth yesterday, saying that Poland “had no option” but to sign the agreement, and that Poland would submit “an addendum clarifying Poland’s conditions”. These are blatant lies. He also claimed that all other EU countries had already signed it, which as another blatant lie.
First, if no vote in parliament was needed, you can be damn sure it wouldn’t be held in the first place. If parliament says no, any parliament, then no it is. And the Members of Parliament push exactly the button they want to – there is no “must push yes”. Nobody holds a gun to their head.
Second, there are no addendums or appendixes which may appease the public. The ACTA text is closed. There is no more adding to it. What remains is a yes or a no to the text exactly as it is written.
This is where we come in. We must take everything we learned from defeating SOPA and apply it to national parliaments in Europe in general, and the European Parliament in particular.
Activism on the streets. Flood them with phone calls and emails. (Do not overload their servers, though: that will be seen as borderline terrorism and just make them more determined that more Internet control is the right thing to do.) Citizens of Poland have been exemplary here in taking to the streets.
SOPA is dead, and nobody in the US legislature wants to touch copyright monopoly issues. If we win ACTA – and we know that we can – then that may be the beginning of the end for the copyright industry and its attempts to kill our freedom of speech. Yes, really.