One of the slightly depressing aspects of fighting intellectual monopolists is that they have lots of money. This means that they can fund their lobbyists around the world in multiple forums and at multiple levels. So, for example, we have the global Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), which is being negotiated behind closed doors by the representatives of rich and powerful nations. But we also have a threat at the European level that must be fought just as doggedly.
It goes by the harmless name of the Gallo report. Here's what La Quadrature du Net, the leading digital rights organisation in Europe, has to say about it:
The Gallo report, named after its French sarkozyst rapporteur, Marielle Gallo, is a non-legislative text dictated by the entertainment industry lobbies in their crusade against online file sharing. Based on bogus evidence, it calls for disproportionate repression that could lead to severe consequences for fundamental freedoms.
If adopted, the Gallo report will open the door for the European Commission to come up with new repressive legislation imposing criminal sanctions. It will also open the door to private copyright police of the Net, also encouraged by the ACTA agreement, whereby Internet service providers and entertainment industries would be allowed to circumvent the due process of law by deciding between themselves what an infringement is and how to sanction it. Hidden behind the benign name of "cooperation" between right holders and ISPs, what lies ahead in the Gallo report is de facto censorship, automatic sanctions, and a generalized surveillance of the Net. They would impact freedom of expression, harm privacy, bypass the judicial authority, and turn the presumption of innocence into a fiction.
Not good, at every level.
There's a big vote by the European Parliament tomorrow, which gives us just a day to contact our MEPs, asking them to reject the Gallo report, and the highly-similar alternative resolution from the ALDE group. Instead, the least-worst option is the resolution from the S&D, Greens and other MEPs, which is more balanced and open-ended.
As usual, I recommend using this resource to find your MEPs' contact details. Ideally, try to ring them on their Strasbourg numbers. You'll probably only get an assistant, but that's better than nothing. Failing that, at least send them a quick email to let them know your views. Here's what I've sent using WriteToThem:
I am asking you to vote against the Gallo report tomorrow, and to vote for the alternative resolution proposed by the S&D, Greens and other MEPs. This is because the Gallo report is based on two fundamental errors that vitiate its arguments.
First, it conflates counterfeiting of physical goods like medicines with the copying of digital goods like music files. These are completely different in nature and effect, and putting them together is completely inappropriate in legislative terms.
Nobody would argue in favour of counterfeit medicines or aircraft parts, say, because there are clear health risks involved. On the other hand, sharing files does not endanger anyone's lives, and so should not be treated in the same way in terms of the measures that are brought to bear upon it: it is a question of proportionality, and the efficient use of law enforcement agencies' limited resources.
But the contrast actually goes much further, which brings us to the Gallo report's second major flaw.
The Gallo report seeks to "combat" filesharing: but this assumes that filesharing always harms content producers. There are now literally half a dozen academic reports that suggest file-sharing by individuals – not by organised crime – far from damaging the content industries, actually leads to more sales. This is simply because the file sharing acts as a kind of marketing, and drives further sales.
The Gallo report does lean on one document in support of its arguments, the Tera/BASCAP studies about supposed job losses in EU due to "piracy". However, on closer analysis (here, for example: http://blogs.computerworlduk.com/open-enterprise/2010/04/down-the-eu-piracy-rabbithole/index.htm), nearly all of those claims turn out to be based on figures supplied by the industry: there is no independent research. They do not "prove" that piracy is damaging the content industries, they merely restate the content industries' belief that this is so. But as I have indicated, there is no ample evidence to the contrary. The Gallo report is thus asking European citizens to give up important freedoms for the sake of "combatting" piracy when there is no evidence such piracy by individuals is doing any harm.
For this reason, I urge you to vote against the Gallo report, and to support the more balanced one from the S&D and Greens, which addresses the real problems of counterfeiting of physical goods, and copyright infringement by organised crime.