You would have thought that what with local initiatives like the Digital Economy Act and global ones like ACTA, the copyright maximalists would be satisfied with the range and number of attacks on the Internet and people's free use of it; but apparently not. For here comes the Gallo Report, an attempt to commit the European Union to criminalisation of copyright infringement and a generally more repressive approach to online activities.
A key vote on the Gallo Report takes place tomorrow, so we need to act today and (early) tomorrow if we want to stand a chance of making it more fair and balanced. The best site for information about this is La Quadrature du Net, which summarises the Gallo Report as follows:
draft report of Marielle Gallo (EPP, France), which dogmatically calls for more repression of not-for-profit file-sharing, thus paving the way for ACTA (the original report encourages the ACTA negotiations!) and for the revival of IPRED2 directive (with, among other things, criminal sanctions for "inciting, aiding and abetting" infringement), currently on the desk of Internal Market Commissioner Michel Barnier. The Gallo report calls for the creation of private copyright police, where infringement are dealt in an extra-legislative way, with cooperation with the Internet Service Providers, such as in the "three strikes" policies of the first HADOPI or DeBill laws.
However, there is hope in the form of more constructive amendments put forward by other members of the voting group,
tabled by MEPs from across the political spectrum, promoting an end to the blind repression and an evidence-based approach (already perceptible in the digital agenda presented last week by Neelie Kroes, with a call for an impact assessment of the 2004 IPRED directive before adopting any additional measures) and a consideration of alternative funding schemes for creation in order to accommodate file-sharing in the creative economy.
La Quadrature du Net's recommendation is to write to the MEPs from your country who serve on the JURI committee, which will vote tomorrow, and then to follow that email up with a personal phone call. It provides a handy list of things you might say, as well as explaining which amendments should be adopted, and which should be rejected. If you want details, it has also provided an excellent full analysis of what's at stake [.pdf]
Here's what I've sent to the UK MEPs; I aim to ring as many of them as I can afterwards as a follow up, and I urge you to do the same if you can – even if you only ring one, it will help. I've added the contact details of the UK MEPs at the bottom of this post.
I am writing to express my concern about the unbalanced nature of the Gallo Report, which I believe you will be voting on shortly. This worries me because I believe the current proposals will harm the development of the Internet in Europe, and as a result stunt innovation and economic growth there, both of which depend on realising the full range of possibilities offered by the online world.
One major problem is that the Gallo Report confounds counterfeiting with online piracy. Where the former concerns large-scale manufacturing of physical goods like fake drugs by criminal organisations - clearly a menace to society - the latter is essentially about non-commercial sharing of digital files by ordinary citizens. Criminalising the latter will simply result in valuable law enforcement resources being wasted, and will actually reduce the ability to fight the far more dangerous threat of counterfeit goods. For this reason, I urge you to support Amendments 14, 26, 43, 44, 54 and 79 that underline the distinction between counterfeit goods and online piracy.
Part of the problem with the Gallo Report is that it is based on unjustified assumptions about online piracy and its negative effects. The fact is, there is *no* independent, peer-reviewed work in this field, only industry-sponsored “studies”.
For example, the TERA study that was recently sent around to MEPs is based on an unjustified methodology, as confirmed by the Social Science Research Council, which noted: “the larger problem with the TERA study is that it makes two basic mistakes regarding national economies and international trade”. In a similar vein, the U.S Congress Government Accountability Office found: “Three widely cited U.S. government estimates of economic losses resulting from counterfeiting cannot be substantiated due to the absence of underlying studies”
This lack of reliable information makes it extremely unwise to introduce laws that will have a massive negative effect not only on European citizens, but on the European economy. Instead of taking huge gambles in this way, it would be far better to conduct serious research into the problem first. For that reason, I would urge you to support Amendments 17 and 69.
Given this uncertainty about the scale of the problem, the proposal to introduce non-legislative measures to attack online file-sharing of copyrighted works is extremely troubling. The idea that we should abandon the rule of law, and allow private entities to accuse and even judge people runs counter to everything that the European Parliament stands for – as shown by the latter's resolute support for Amendment 138 of the Telecoms Package. Therefore, I urge you to support Amendment 121.
The way forward is surely to work *with* the Internet, not *against* it, by finding new business models for the creative industries rather than seeking to entrench old ones that no longer function because of technological advances. To encourage dialogue and a more positive approach for the future, please adopt Amendments 20, 83, 101, 108 and 116.
Given the critical importance of the digital realm to Europe's future, I hope that you will be able to vote for the Amendments listed above.
La Quadrature du Net has provided a full list of contact details – both email and telephone numbers for MEPs that will be voting tomorrow. Here are the email addresses for those in the UK:
Gerard BATTEN: firstname.lastname@example.org
Sharon BOWLES: email@example.com
Daniel HANNAN: firstname.lastname@example.org
Sajjad KARIM: email@example.com
Arlene McCARTHY: firstname.lastname@example.org
Derek VAUGHAN: email@example.com
Diana WALLIS: firstname.lastname@example.org
If you want to cut and paste all of the email addresses, you can use this:
email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com