Berlin, 18 April 2013 — A cross-partisan Deutsche Bundestag resolution on software patenting received its plenary first reading. The resolution asks for changes to the controversial granting of software patents by patent institutions. The resolution follows up on an earlier resolution from 2005 and sents a forceful German message to Commissioner Michel Barnier. Brussels is asked to take action on a clarification concerning the overlap of software copyright with patent law. The Bundestag which unlike the European Parliament enjoys a right of legislative initiative threatens to take national action.
Last week I wrote that the trade agreement with Singapore will be secret until it enters into force. The statement was based on an email from EU Trade Spokesperson John Clancy. It turns out this is not correct, the text will be published before the summer. When I first contacted Mr Clancy, the FFII email server was down. I used a personal email address.
Brussels, 12 April 2013 — The EU Commission decided to keep the trade agreement with Singapore secret until it enters into force. With this decision the Commission betrays European citizens and democracy, according to the Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure (FFII). In December 2012 EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht and Singapore’s Minister of Trade and Industry Lim Hng Kiang completed final negotiations on a free trade agreement between the European Union and Singapore. The FFII wanted to analyse whether the text of the agreement is compatible with human rights enshrined in the UN International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. The FFII noted the Commission had not published the text and asked where it could be found.
Inside U.S. Trade obtained the draft EU mandate for the EU – US trade agreement (TTIP / TAFTA) (pdf), this is the proposal the Commission sent to the Council for a mandate to start the negotiations. I note 6 issues here. Copyright and patents
The agreement will include intellectual property rights. This is wrong, as there is a deep divide in our societies over intellectual property rights. Exclusive rights on knowledge and culture harm access to knowledge and culture.
Berlin, 27 March 2013 — The German newspaper taz.die tageszeitung (TAZ) receives this year’s Document Freedom Day award. With this award, the Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE) and the Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure (FFII) honour organisations that make exemplary use of Open Standards. Torsten Grote (FSFE), Ines Pohl (taz), Erik Albers (FSFE), Ralf Klever (taz), Frank Doepper (taz), Stephan Uhlmann (FFII
The TAZ receives the Document Freedom award because it delivers its electronic paper to its subscribers in a choice of open formats, and without digital restrictions (DRM). “We are awarding the TAZ with the Document Freedom Award for their longstanding commitment to Open Standards and continuos efforts in offering their newspaper without restrictions” says Erik Albers, Fellowship Coordinator Berlin. TAZ subscribers can receive their paper in HTML, PDF, ePub, and even plain text formats.
Seven members of the European Parliament (Greens/EFA) asked the Commission a question on the proposed EU-US trade agreement. The EU is obliged to respect, protect and fulfil the human rights enshrined in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR). The EU’s obligation results from the constitutional traditions common to the Member States (Article 6(3) TEU), since all EU member states have ratified the ICESCR. The EU must desist from acts and omissions that create a real risk of nullifying or impairing the enjoyment of ICESCR rights (see also Case C-73/08 Bressol and Others). The United States has signed but not ratified the ICESCR.
The General Court of the European Court of Justice gave a judgment in Case T‑301/10, In ‘t Veld against European Commission about transparency of ACTA documents, 19 March 2013. The Court upholds the secrecy in general, and only finds regarding a few documents that the secrecy was wrong. The Court considers “that public participation in the procedure relating to the negotiation and the conclusion of an international agreement is necessarily restricted.” (paragraph 120)
The Court agrees with the Commission that secrecy is necessary: “As the Commission emphasises, establishing and protecting a sphere of mutual trust in the context of international relations is a very delicate exercise.” (paragraph 126)
The Court overlooks many examples of international organisations where negotiations take place with much more openness and input from civil society.
Today, more than 35 European and United States civil society organisations released this declaration:
IP OUT OF TAFTA
Last year, millions of Americans told their government not to undermine the open internet. We sent the SOPA and PIPA bills down to defeat. Soon after, hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets of Europe to protest against ACTA, a secretive trade agreement that would have violated our rights online and chilled generic drug competition. Meanwhile, leaked trade texts revealed US and EU threats to access to affordable medicines, which significantly disrupted trade talks in India and the Pacific. On February 13, the US President Barack Obama, the European Council President Herman Van Rompuy, and the European Commission President José Manuel Barroso announced the official launch of negotiations of a Transatlantic Free Trade Agreement (TAFTA)—also touted as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, or TTIP.