The Closing of the Net  "original and valuable"  Times Higher Education

EU Trade Commissioner Karel deGucht  today counter-attacked the Anonymous citizens’ protests. Speaking at a meeting of  the European Parliament  Trade Committee that precedes a workshop on ACTA (Anti-counterfeiting trade agreement), he accused the citizens’ protests of being full of misapprehension and lacking factual accuracy. He also  attempted to reposition the official line on ACTA.

Mr DeGucht used robust language, to counter the citizens:   “It is our responsibility to a politicians to clarify misunderstandings and not to bo along with the crowd. I know the nightmare vision of this agreement presented by some is not founded in reality” He said that “ACTA is not an attack on liberty”  and “ ACTA is not about big brother” . And, using  language  remarkably reminiscent of the rights-holders’  (as revealed by iptegrity IFPI accuses: "protests silence democratic process" ), he called for a ‘calm, reasoned discussion’.

 The  new line from DG Trade appears to be   that ACTA is  a core component in  solving Europe’s wider economic problems. “ it is a defence of your livelihoods. […]   it is about solving economic problems in 2012 and beyond. In 2012 we have economic problems that we must take action to solve. ACTA is part of the solution”  said Mr DeGucht.

 He also said that ‘ACTA will extend the benefits of our system beyond borders’ and it ‘spreads our legislation into the wider sphere’.

 Thus, if I understand him correctly, no longer is  ACTA just intended to  address the relatively narrow problem of  Internet ‘piracy’ and counterfeiting,  but it is will address much larger spread of  economic problems. At the same time, it is intended to  export  the benefits of EU systems beyond our borders.

 If one pauses to consider those two claims, they  themselves create  a contradiction. How will Europe’s economic problems be solved by a treaty designed to export our legal systems to other countries?

 Indeed, DeGucht’s statement was arguably full of its own misapprehensions and confusions.

 Commissioner DeGucht used Nokia and its Smartphone  as an example of where ACTA is needed to save European jobs:  ‘the Nokia Smartphone will be produced in China but more than 50% of the production value will have been created in the EU by designers and engineers” he said, adding that those jobs are dependent on the protection of  patents and industrial design rights.

 If one analyses that statement, one would first of all observe (unkindly perhaps) that the Nokia Smartphone was not the most shining example to choose. Nokia was late to market with its Smartphone, being an also-ran beside the Blackberry, i-Phone and Android. If only 50% of the value is in the EU, then where has the other 50% gone, and  why does he not  (as EU Trade Commissioner) question the decisions of companies like Nokia to take manufacturing away from Europe, losing us jobs?  

 And anyway, the Smartphone is based on GSM technology, which is an open standard that Nokia itself helped to develop. Only the implementation accrues IPRs, not the core technology. Market leadership means more than IPR protection. Indeed, GSM was a European technology success, and if we are now losing out, it is due to  corporate complacency  and failure to see the market for mobile Internet, which was already visible as long ago as 1997.

Moreover, industrial rights, and their protection, which will have to be done through the courts, is not what the citizens are protesting about.

 Finally, Nokia was  not a key lobbyist for  ACTA and Mr De Gucht is deluding himself with this example. The lobbying for ACTA came from the American entertainment industries and ACTA is about protecting American jobs, not European ones.

Mr DeGucht is but a mere puppet of the USTR. He should understand that before he puts more of his foot in his mouth.

We eagerly await his responses in the European Parliament’s ACTA workshop tomorrow.

 NB DeGucht will appear on the BBC tomorrow morning, together with the European Parliament rapporteur David Martin. Don’t expect too much. The BBC lobbies with the copyright industries on this issue.

  You may re-publish my article under a Creative Commons licence, but you should cite my name and provide a link back to iptegrity.com. Media and Academics – please cite as Monica Horten, ACTA protests set DeGucht on counter-attack  www.iptegrity.com 29 February  2012 . Commercial users - please contact me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Iptegrity.com is the website of Dr Monica Horten, European expert on Internet policy and Visiting Fellow at the London School of Economics & Political Science. She is an independent expert on the Council of Europe Committee on Cross-border flow of Internet traffic and Internet freedom (MSI-INT). She was shortlisted for The Guardian Open Internet Poll 2012. Iptegrity  offers expert insights into Internet policy. Iptegrity has a core readership in the Brussels policy community, and has been cited in the media. Please acknowledge Iptegrity when you cite or link.  For more, see IP politics with integrity

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