Here is the room where the European Commission's ACTA negotiations occurred. The EC says the negotiations are too sensitive to share with the public or even EU Parliament.  (Source: Torrent Freak)

U.S. Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush both supported keeping the treaty secret from the U.S. and EU public. The treaty looks to criminalize bypassing DRM to make backup copies, prevent free speech on piracy.  (Source: SodaHead)
Pirate Party EU Parliamentarian leaves ACTA meeting disgusted after he was denied right to inform public

The plans of the RIAA and MPAA to end the pirate rebellion have almost come to fruition.  After spending millions in lobbying money to build support in the U.S. government, their new government friends have built ACTA, a secret treaty which looks to offer unprecedented legal actions against citizens who pirate.

The treaty will likely make it a criminal act to develop P2P or BitTorrent technologies.  It will also turn DRM circumvention (the RIAA says making backup copies is theft) from a civil offense under the DMCA to a criminal offense.  And in Europe, there are already secret plans to potentially jail millions of everyday filesharers.  Free speech is also on the chopping block in the EU and possibly the U.S.

Amid that dire backdrop, Pirate Party MEP Christian Engstrom, an elected member of the EU Parliament from Sweden, optimistically attended an European Commission ACTA meeting, hoping to gain details to share with the public.

Afraid of public outrage at the punitive treaty it is crafting, the U.S. government – under President George W. Bush and U.S. President Barack Obama -- pushed its allies, including the EU, to keep the treaty secret.  Only last April was the partial (redacted) text of the treaty released.  And even now secret meetings continue, such as the one Engstrom attended in Lucerne, Switzerland.

So it was perhaps unsurprising that Engstrom was told that he would not be allowed to share details of the meeting -- with the implied threat of prosecution if he failed to comply.  Engstrom states, "At first the Commission seemed unwilling to answer this question with a straight yes or no, but after I had repeated the question a number of times, they finally came out and said that I would not be allowed to spread the information given.  I then left the meeting, since I am not prepared to accept information given under such conditions in this particular case."

Engstrom concludes that the negotiations are a sham -- a corporate scheme designed to punish everyday citizens perpetuated by the U.S. government, and now embraced by the European Union, as well.  In the process the governments are willing to sacrifice the very principles they are founded upon, abandoning democracy, freedom of information, free speech, due process, and public participation in government. 

He states, "There is no sensible reason why the ACTA negotiations should be carried out in secret, or why Members of the European Parliament should not be allowed to discuss information about ACTA with their constituents.  In a democracy, new laws should be made by the elected representatives after an open public debate. They should not be negotiated behind closed doors by unelected officials at the Commission, in an attempt to keep the citizens out of the process until it is too late."

The meeting also appears in clear violation of one of the EU's central governing documents -- the Lisbon Treaty, which states that European Commission will inform the EU Parliament fully of any actions.  The secret oral meeting without any documents being handed out, represents a complete lack of providing any info the EU Parliament, and his hence illegal according to Engstrom.

He concludes, "That is disgraceful."

Unfortunately, barring a dramatic change in course, it appears that both EU and the U.S. will abandon legality in their quest to combat piracy.  In their eyes abandoning citizens' legal rights and adopting a cloak of secrecy are a small price to pay for combating what they view to be an egregious blight on society -- piracy.

"Well, we didn't have anyone in line that got shot waiting for our system." -- Nintendo of America Vice President Perrin Kaplan

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