Dear Prime Minister of Estonia,
Dear Members of Parliament of Estonia,
I am calling on Estonian politicians to “take back control” over its nationalposition over the adoption of controversal Copyright Directive (“internetupload filters”) that is scheduled to be “formally” adopted on Mondayby the Romanian Presidency of the Council of the European Union. Estonia has made the following statement  yesterday regarding the adoption of the directive:
“Estonia has always supported the objective of the Directive, namely better access to content online, the functioning of key exceptions in the digital and cross-border environment and the better and balanced functioning of thecopyright marketplace.However, Estonia considers that the final text of the Directive does notstrike a sufficient balance between different interests in all aspects.Furthermore, Estonia has recently had parliamentary elections and our new government and parliament have not been able to give their position on the final compromise text.” I have personally contacted the permanent representation of Estonia (COREPER) in Brussels, which has confirmed that, despite the newly formed government and parliament, it is not the intention of the Estonian delegation in Council to ask for a removal of the dossier from the A-items list on Monday. I am therefore calling on your Government and your newly elected Parliament  to ask for a formal delay, and to assess properly the negative economic consequences of this ill-conceived directive, notably for the burgeoning internet economy. Best regards,
PRESS RELEASE — [ Europe / Democracy / Censorship / Economy / Copyright ]
Brussels, 01 April 2019 – Github has installed upload filters over the week-end to comply with the new european copyright directive on ‘upload filters’. Microsoft lawyers have been busy interpreting the new exception for “open source code sharing platforms” that the directive provides. They came to the conclusion that Github was not covered by the exception, since it also hosts many code repositories without a proper open source LICENSE file. Jürgen Voss, open source developer for Bosch, says: “This Sunday I tried to push some changes via Github, some commits were refused because Github installed some copyright filters. The pre-git-commit-hook message was complaining about “citation too long”, as I was quoting an article from IAMBIASED IP magazine.
Brussels, 29 March 2019 – FFII is calling on angry protesters against internet upload filters to reverse the position of their country by calling for a vote in their national parliament. Council of the Ministers is an undemocratic institution where decisions on this particular subject are made by officials of the Member States’s ministries of culture. FFII call on national parliaments to ‘take back control’. The adoption of internet upload filters is a strategic mistake that will fuel the eurosceptics game at the coming elections. Boris Johnson’s reaction to european parliament vote yesterday left no doubt about it.
The case that article 13 EU copyright reform proposal will not lead to internet upload filters, has crumbled, now that the German government acknowledges that article 13 would lead to such filters. Proponents of article 13 have claimed that alternatives to upload filters exist which will ensure that copyright protected works are not available on internet platforms. However, in discussions proponents have only mentioned manual filtering as an alternative. This didn’t convince, due to the massive amounts of uploads to filter. In an article major German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) reports, under the title Bundesregierung rechnet mit ‘Uploadfiltern’ that the German government admits upload filters are likely to be needed. The newspaper mentions that Christian Lange, Parliamentary State Secretary to the German Federal Minister of Justice and Consumer Protection, wrote in answer to a parliamentary question:
“In the [German] federal government’s view it appears likely that algorithmic measures will have to be taken in connection with large volumes of data for practical reasons alone.” (Translation Florian Mueller, see his blog.)
The German government acknowledges what everyone sees as unavoidable in case of large volumes of uploads.
One member of the European Parliament Green group, Helga Trüpel, responded to the blog “Nine Green MEPs voted in favour of upload filters”. She argues that her vote in favour of article 13 copyright reform proposal is not a vote for upload filters. I am grateful for her reaction, which clarifies some issues. I will highlight some of her arguments. The discussion below reveals that Trüpel misrepresents article 13 as notice and take down, often disregards that rights holders do not have to grant a licence, and sees filtering by humans as an alternative to automatic filtering.
The European Parliament has voted in favour of article 13 of the copyright reform proposal. The text of article 13, as adopted by the Parliament, makes internet platforms liable for users’ uploads, but does not mention upload filters. However, as explained by many, including academics, if platforms are liable, they will have to filter to avoid liability. General mandatory upload filters are not allowed in the EU; they interfere too much with our freedom of expression. With its vote, the Parliament voted in favour of upload filters without mentioning them.
About a year ago I requested documents regarding the negotiations on the EU – South Korea trade agreement, provisionally applied since July 2011 and formally ratified in December 2015. I was especially interested in documents regarding the negotiations on intellectual property rights, specifically the documents regarding criminal enforcement. On 24 November 2017 the European Commission provided a link to the partially declassified “Recommendation from the Commission to the Council”. The commission did not declassify the interesting part, the directives for the negotiations. I recently received a list of 15 documents (Annex 1); eight documents are withheld; I received seven partially disclosed documents (zip).
European politicians want more algorithmic transparency. However, they also want to sign the EU-Japan trade agreement, which restricts audits of software and algorithms. 1
For regulatory supervision we need access to source code. The Volkswagen emissions scandal has shown that devices can be programmed to mislead researchers. 2 In addition, audits can reveal whether decision making software contains biases. And Facebook’s role in elections and referendums shows that the use of personal data is not only a civil rights issue, but may compromise the integrity of our institutions.
The Netherlands has published a new model bilateral investment treaty (BIT). It gives multinationals far reaching rights to challenge government decisions and it places its enforcement mechanism (investor-to-state dispute settlement or ISDS) under U.S. and Dutch influence. Enforcement mechanism
The most remarkable change is that all members of ISDS tribunals would be appointed by an appointing authority, the secretary-general of ICSID or the secretary-general of the Permanent Court of Arbitration (article 20). Both are not judges. The International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) is part of the World Bank.
The secretly negotiated EU-Japan trade agreement’s intellectual property (IP) chapter limits possibilities for copyright and patent reform. With the agreement, the EU exports part of its IP system. Local rules become binding international rules. Societies need policy space for reform. 1 The exclusive nature of copyrights, patents and other so called intellectual property rights impedes access to medicine and cultural goods, and harms independent and follow up innovation; copyright isn’t fit for the digital age.
On 31 January, the European Commission agreed on new plans for cross-border data flows and personal data protection in trade negotiations. Cross-border data flows are a difficult issue. Companies want them. The EU wants to open foreign markets for its strong services industry. But data protection is a fundamental right in the EU; it has to be protected also in cross-border data flows.
The EU and Japan have concluded the legal scrub of the EU-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA). The council may already decide on ratification on 22 May 2018. No EU member state ratification is needed. Regarding cross-border data flows and data protection, a European Commission’s press release states that recent reforms of their respective privacy legislation offers new opportunities to facilitate data exchanges, including through a simultaneous finding of an adequate level of protection by both sides. But this is not the full story.
The EU Court of Justice declared that proactive filtering by internet access providers and internet hosting providers is illegal. 1 Yet, the EU copyright proposal includes such upload filtering. Over 80 organisations warn:
“The signatories warn the Member states that the discussion around the Copyright Directive are on the verge of causing irreparable damage to our fundamental rights and freedoms, our economy and competitiveness, our education and research, our innovation and competition, our creativity and our culture.”
To show the substance behind that sentence, the letter refers in an annex to 29 letters and analyses sent previously by various European stakeholders and experts for more details. A call to action
The European Parliament’s legal affairs committee will vote on the proposal on 25 January. Unfortunately, in this lead committee a significant majority is in favor of upload filters.
The European Commission has asked the EU council a mandate to open negotiations on a multilateral investment court. However, the accompanying impact assessment obscures environmental and social impacts. The council should refuse to provide the mandate. The European Commission published an impact assessment of a multilateral reform of investment dispute resolution. The current supranational system is known as investor-to-state dispute settlement or ISDS.
EU Court of Justice’s Advocate General (AG) Melchior Wathelet finds that investor-to-state dispute settlement (ISDS) agreements between EU countries are compatible with the EU treaties. (Opinion in the Achmea v. Slovak republic, the ruling of the Court will follow later.) ISDS gives private parties access to the supranational level to challenge government decisions. The AG sees the ISDS tribunal in question as a court or tribunal common to two EU Member States. Unfortunately, as I will explain below, in his Opinion the AG disregards known issues and options. I will argue that if the AG wouldn’t have disregarded these issues and options, he couldn’t have reached his conclusion.
London, 9th March 2017 – Companies across UK have expressed their opposition to an attempt to ratify the Unitary Patent treaty which is neither desirable for British software companies nor compatible with Brexit. They call for an urgent debate in the House of Lords and in the Scottish Parliament. After years of intense lobbying by large corporations, as well as their patent lawyers, progress was made towards a Unitary Patent Court (UPC) that would not only facilitate expansion of patent scope to software but also usher in so-called ‘patent trolls’. The Unitary Patent Court will have pan-european authority to impose injunctions, royalties for supposed damages from British companies. This represents an existential threat to many British companies, which foreign companies are hoping to thwart or cripple using patents.
This position paper is the attachment to the FFII submission to the public consultation on a multilateral reform of investment dispute resolution. (blog, pdf)
A multilateral investment court (MIC) would strengthen investments vis-à-vis democracy and fundamental rights. This undermines our values, ability to reform, and ability to respond to crises, including climate change. Investor-to-state dispute settlement (ISDS) gives private parties access to the supranational level. This discriminates against companies operating locally and comes with systemic issues which create a high risk of expansive interpretations of investors’ rights.
“The acrimonious debate over the proposed directive on computer-implemented inventions might never have arisen if the patent litigation system in Europe had been unified, thereby eliminating the possibility of disparate national rulings on the same patent matter.” — David Sant, former EPO lobbyist in Brussels
“The volunteer activists drifted away, thinking the battle won, but the corporate lobbyists for software patents were paid to stay on the job. Now they have contrived another sneaky method: the “unitary patent” system proposed for the EU.” — Richard Stallman, Europe’s “unitary patent” could mean unlimited software patents
“We must moreover continue to attempt to harmonise the practise of granting patents for computer-implemented inventions at the European level. This is to be attempted by a common European patent court system in which the member states can voluntarily participate.
The European Commission has launched a consultation on an investor-to-state dispute settlement (ISDS) variant: a multilateral investment court. 1 The consultation is flawed; it is so narrow that social and environmental impacts may not show up in the consultation results. This is irresponsible, as the system as a whole will strengthen investments vis-à-vis democracy and fundamental rights. This undermines our values, ability to reform, and ability to respond to crises, including climate change. Mankind faces an existential threat and the commission buries its head in the sand.
Update: The European Parliament gave consent to CETA. It failed to defend democracy. Now national parliaments will have to decide on CETA. There may also be referendums and court cases. See also EDRi’s press release; procedure file; INTA report; roll call vote (point 1, A8-0009/2017).
This FFII position paper provides feedback on the inception impact assessment “Convention to establish a multilateral court on investment” (IIA). See below or the pdf. For the related consultation see here. The IIA’s baseline scenario – what will happen without policy changes – is just one sentence long and does not expect a multilateral investment court (MIC) to have social or environmental impacts. The paper presents more comprehensive baseline and multilateral investment court scenarios.
The European Commission has launched a consultation on an investor-to-state dispute settlement (ISDS) variant: a multilateral investment court. 1 In an email the commission confirms the consultation has a narrow scope. The commission does not want feedback on the system as a whole. This way the system’s social and environmental impacts may go unmentioned in the consultation results. This is irresponsible, as the system as a whole will strengthen investments vis-à-vis democracy and fundamental rights This undermines our values and ability to respond to crises, including climate change.
The EU commission has launched a consultation on a multilateral investment court (MIC), an investor-to-state dispute settlement (ISDS) variant. 1 The commission does not expect a multilateral investment court to cause social or environmental impacts. 2 This is remarkable as the current ISDS system causes serious impacts. And even worse, the consultation seems designed to obscure the social and environmental impacts. In an email to the commission I explained the issues and asked to publish a more meaningful Inception Impact Assessment and consultation.
The European Commission has launched a consultation on a multilateral investment court (MIC). The MIC would be a successor to investor-to-state dispute settlement (ISDS). Mankind faces an existential threat: climate change. The data is disconcerting and shows our societies are not on top of the issue. Further reforms are needed; reforms will harm vested interests.
ECORYS published a final draft human rights assessment of the trade agreement with the US (TTIP). The official name is a Trade Sustainability Impact Assessment (TSIA). I provided feedback on an earlier draft, see here. In my opinion, the final draft is disappointing. I will give two examples.
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