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Rice fields of Internet

Published on January 25, 2012 by: in: Politics

The anecdote comes from Maoist China. The highest state factors and party agents were moved due to low rice harvest one year. They punished various saboteurs. They found the enemy of prosperity – it was the sparrows that suspiciously often and in a suspiciously large number flew round the rice fields. In order to eliminate the enemy, they imposed on the peasants the quotas of dead sparrows to be supplied. The peasants were motivated by a cash prize for each beak. Hard-working Chinese carried out the massacre. Next year, harvest was record lower than ever before. Before it grew up, rice had been eaten by the insects which had been deprived of their natural enemy and had multiplied in an unusual way.


I associate the story from the totalitarian China in 60s with action of the governments of the states creating ACTA. Unfortunately, confidence of own omniscience and monopoly on the truth about ways of providing citizens with happiness is the treat of each authority.

The Internet is the phenomenon which still remains slightly undetermined by right and by state. It eliminates carefully guarded boundaries and reveals the secrets that were hidden in the offices till now. It causes the flow of ideas and technology – sometimes without will, and perhaps knowledge of the authors. There was no government or international structure that was prepared for this phenomenon. Internet does not expand the sphere of freedom, but it gives us a tool to use these freedoms which have been already gained by our civilisation, such as flow of information which is guaranteed by the UN and UNESCO conventions and final CSCE protocol which were used by the opposition of Communist countries when using printing and telephone for freedom actions. However, the right to information which was stipulated in conventions was under the state control – there was a possibility to break the convention  and Communist authorities used to use it. Internet eliminated the technical possibility of breaking this right.

The proposition of ACTA international agreement arouses the strongest emotions among the surfers but it is worth mentioning that the topic of copyright was added to this as it started from lobbing of people who were interested in protecting their own technologies and blocking counterfeits of their companies’ products. They exerted a strong influence on the governments which negotiated the agreement. Throughout the negotiations (and we even do not know how it happened) all eggs were put into one basket. The state is supposed to cover the costs of breaking the rights. It is the combination of  many affairs which testifies to the fact that the governments are acting as Mao on the rice field:

  • Counterfeit technology – is the topic of trials which are difficult to be judged. Let’s have a look at the conflict between Apple and Samsung about Galaxy Tab and different statements of the courts in different countries. Deluded similarity of look and technological solutions resulted in proposal that distribution – iPhone 4S in France and Italy, and Galaxy in USA – should be banned. Hundreds of experts are engaged in the case. They are not able to say whether it was the technology copying – and ACTA is proposing to pass this decision on the official who would be allowed to prohibit the distribution of any device. Probably Samsung is going to manage with this – making money on compensation (paid from our taxes). The small producer who would have the idea similar to that one of big companies would be destroyed.
  • Generic drugs. The company X is producing the drug with identical composition or the composition which is very similar to the composition of the drug produced by company Y which was the first producer. The cost of production of the drug in company X is lower so that company X is eliminating company Y. Here we have more complicated problem – obviously the one who created the drug and invested a lot of money in the studies should have the opportunity to compensate for the effort and to make money. Nevertheless, this is the open secret that the pharmaceutical companies overuse the opportunity to monopolise the drug market of some diseases. This is in our common interest to widespread modern drugs – also in the countries with low budgets and low possibility of purchasing. Therefore the governments should work on solutions allowing us to conduct the studies while introducing mechanism of opening drug patents which are vital for health, e.g. through the rights redemption by WHO. By adding the problem of rights to HIV vaccination to the question of iPad processor or injection in car they make the situation more complicated as it is   a misunderstanding in terms of differentiated interests of citizen in each of the cases above.
  • Copyright in the Internet was added to ACTA at the end, probably as a result of the influence of music companies. Presumably they also wanted to form the group of popular artists who play the role of useful idiots supporting the project.

The problem of piracy did not appear with Internet – scribes copied manually, Gutenberg gave the machine to mechanical and mass printing. Since the tape recorder with recording function was invented, music spread out of the distribution networks. It is not comprehensible why companies do not want to sell music and films in the Internet as any computer program is copy-protected. The only thing that changes is that there is an address of the server instead of carrier.

Are they so attached to the producers of carriers and considerations: CD, DVD or Blu-Ray? This is the past, just like the scribes. Unless the companies pal up with new medium, they will disappear. ACTA cannot change this phenomenon, it can only make the agony longer.

The whole situation, taking no account of substantive doubts in specific cases, indicates serious threats posed by governments. I do not deny the validity of protection of intellectual property but I do not understand, why:

  • The taxpayers of the countries that are going to adopt the agreement (not the companies that are interested in implementing the project) are supposed to suffer the cost of prosecution and trial, and responsibility for wrong decisions. In the case of companies X and Y, these are the companies that should carry the cost.
  • The governments prepared the documents out of public, as if they prepared war plans, using the opportunities that are given by the international negotiations (lack of control by the citizens through legislation as it works in civilised countries – the only source of knowledge about prepared document was Wikileaks);
  • In the document, they adopted the principle of presumption of guilt of each surfer, privileging the interests of corporations over the interests of citizens;
  • They establish the mechanisms of permanent, legal surveillance under the pretext of protection of intellectual values. Additional authorisations for customs are going to create the mechanism of official blocking the economic freedom.

800 years ago, English lords forced recognition of judiciary as decisive in case of conflicts, instead of will of King and his officials. 50 years ago Chinese decided to fight back sparrows. About 30 years ago, final CSCE protocol was signed. When I think where we are now, I reach a sad conclusion.

Luckily, apart from the “smart” governments we have this dreadful Internet  – you will find information about ACTA and possibilities of civic protest there. We must remind High Contracting Parties that their mandate comes from our giving.

ACTA (Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement) – the proposition of the international agreement regulating the standards of combating the violations of intellectual property. The agreement is supposed to establish a new body of international collaboration.

The agreement was proposed by USA and Japan in 2006. The representatives of the largest American companies also participated in creating the agreement.

The main goal of the agreement is to standardize the principles of intellectual property protection in signatory countries. A majority of countries would be forced  to exacerbate law and establish new procedures of prosecution and surveillance of piracy in the Internet. According to the critics, it can violate the freedom of all surfers.

The works on the document were secret. The first working version was published by Wikileaks on May 2008.

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About Marcin Celinski

Enterpreneur, manager. He was the first leader of the Liberal Forum.

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