Translated to English by Donatas Pocius.
I am not trying to ask how much somebody could pay to a certain Minister of Agriculture of one or another EU country, who participated in some sort of secret European Union circles which created the ACTA for us, because everybody knows that the ministers do not take bribes. I just want to write about how ACTA is directed not only against pirates, but also against everyone. And how everybody will suffer harm from it – pensioners, schoolchildren, students, mothers posting on internet boards, farmers, and everyone else. Everyone without exceptions. Apart from a few interested groups, of course.
It is clear that there was no inevitability in signing ACTA. It is also clear that it was done like that not without a reason. The interesting thing here is that the Lithuanian Ministry of Agriculture, led by Kazimieras Starkevičius, did not put document any at least resembling ACTA on its website, although it participated in its preparation. At least I could not find anything about it. One way or another, it is obvious that when Ministry of Agriculture prepares the agreements on trademark protection, piracy etc., it looks similar as if the provision of heating in Vilnius would be regulated by some sort of fish breeding inspection, which would ground its decisions on data from telescopes.
Maybe that is why it is entirely unsurprising that this ACTA agreement, organised by Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Agriculture, is starting to generate protests even in Lithuania, an exceptionally passive and protest averse country. Even here the demonstrations are proposed. This is because everybody knows that under the cover of ACTA, the new limitations, new laws etc. will be created, with excuses that under ACTA Lithuania has an obligation to do this and that.
What delirious nonsense is done by some law enforcers even without ACTA is well illustrated by a British example, where the court punished a photographer for making a photo of a bus allegedly leading to the theft of intellectual property. So there is hardly any doubt for anyone what is going to become of ACTA when it is signed.
On the other hand, the secrecy of ACTA’s preparation is not surprising: there were no talks, there was nothing at all. Only with one day remaining before the signing of the agreement, when the entire world was already screaming about ACTA, some representative of Lithuanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it will be signed because somewhere some ministers of agriculture decided so. As if it was inevitable. That leads to an interesting question – what is the minister of sorts Audronius Ažubalis doing, if all the announcements about this agreement on MFA’s website are made post factum – about the signing which has already been made?
By the way, it is interesting to remember the experience of other countries here. For example, thanks to Wikileaks, very interesting information has become available about the strengthening of anti-piracy measures in Sweden and the reasons for this. After reading what is going on there, there is no doubt that those fights against alleged pirates are just a one-sided game in which the European countries (including Lithuania) are losing and in which the money is taken by a few American companies actively lobbying both in the USA and in other countries all over the world.
Therefore, as nobody has asked this yet, I am asking: mister Starkevičius, when are you going to resign? And you, mister Ažubalis, when are you going to resign?
However, there are some other quite interesting aspects of this ACTA agreement, even if one tries to forget all the evil it hides. For instance, it is very interesting to analyse who is interested to push it through. I would distinguish four key groups of major pushers of these agreements. And these groups are not as obvious as it looks from the first sight. So, let us take a look what sorts of interests are hiding there.
Corruptionists need ACTA
The first group of ACTA proponents is various politicians and nomenclaturists, afraid of losing their posts. Those who in the US are afraid of Occupy and their kind, and in Lithuania – of not yet formed but also potentially strong opposition forces. By the way, much could be said about Occupy – there are tons of pros and cons, but the really interesting thing here is one: for many years the United States have not seen anything resembling a serious opposition to those in power. No (at least to some extent) organised opposition movement has been active there, probably, since the Vietnam War.
During all those years the American ruling class relaxed, got used to dealing with the issues just the way they like, and suddenly saw that the opposition appeared from somewhere. At the same time they also saw how efficiently various documents become public through Wikileaks and the sort, and how effectively people can communicate among themselves without paying attention to official propaganda channels. The politicians there also saw what happens when the government fails to control the spreading information, as it failed in Libya, Egypt, Syria and elsewhere. What would you do if you were among those most corrupt politicians? It is obvious – you would try to close the taps of the internets. Under any pretense.
The Lithuanian situation is similar. For 20 years the caste of nomenclaturists inherited from the Soviet times has thrived. During Soviet times they also thrived for decades, and both the independence movement and the independence itself hardly helped to get rid of them. The communist party executive committees became part of municipalities, the Soviet ministries changed their names, but many of these institutions stayed the same as they were.
So you can perfectly guess yourselves if we have a similar stratum of corrupt fighters against the internets, similar to the American one, in Lithuania. I will remind you of only one thing: some time ago one mayor of Vilnius, when the residents were expressing their resentment, threatened to sue various commenters in Delfi (Lithuanian news website). That mayor was more progressive than other politicians, he started reading the internets earlier, but he failed to sue anybody. Nowadays every second Member of Seimas (Lithuanian Parliament) is sitting in Facebook. I wrote about certain changes a bit more than a year ago. They have seen those changes already. And now they are afraid.
After making certain changes in laws, there would be no need for any suing. ACTA is a step towards stopping any commenters from commenting what they do not need to comment. In this agreement those measures are named in general words about preventions and needs to pre-empt something. Those general phrases, so loved by bureaucrats, simply mean a muzzle created for you. For everyone who wants to criticize those in power.
GMO distributers need ACTA
Mister Skirmantas Tumelis explained very simply what sort of companies may connect various ministers of agriculture to protection of authors’ rights. I will not go into detail here, just shortly explain the mechanism. I just advise you to remember what share of their money people spend on food. More than a half, right? So please take into account the influence of these groups and you will immediately find an answer why some sort of ministers of agriculture are involved here. How is it related to authors’ rights?
Imagine you have a business making herbicides and defoliants, which destroy weeds and make the grain or some vegetables to mature earlier (so that they can be harvested when you want and not when they decide to mature themselves). Such chemicals make a very profitable business, but it has a problem. The same defoliants in larger quantities affect the plants as herbicides, so by using them, you can simply burn your own harvest.
And so the company invents a perfect scheme: it creates plants which do not die from defoliants and starts distributing their seeds to farmers. In other words, they take a niche created by those same herbicides. The profit is double: you sell the seeds and you also sell the herbicide. The farmers using such herbicide are forced to use your seeds, and the users of your seeds buy the herbicide from you.
Everything looks very nice until the stink of large money kicks in. And the large money is the possibility to control all the grains. This is where we begin to see that the food industry is such a monster that compared to it all the RIAAs, MPAAs and similar offices with all the hollywoods and manufacturers of spearses and biebers are just the small fry and beggars.
Monsanto, one of the largest growers of genetically modified seeds, who previously manufactured the famous Agent Orange, the infamous polychlorophenyls, DDT and many other types of muck, is now manufacturing the Roundup herbicide and the seeds immune to it. And it is persecuting the American and Canadian farmers for growing those seeds. The logic is simple: if the farmer does not buy the Monsanto seeds, it means he is a pirate. This means he has two choices: either paying fines to Monsanto and starting to buy seeds, or going to court. And the Monsanto guys always find what to sue for – their patented genes are transferred to other plants through cross-pollination, the seeds of the plants are carried by birds etc. The scandals are repeating themselves – just a link to one example for your knowledge (if you search yourselves, you will surely find 100 times more).
By the way, this is the usual logic of anti-pirates, which is well remembered by those who roughly 10-12 years ago encountered some anti-piracy demagogues who said that Linux is illegal and everyone will still need to pay for Windows licences, because the companies cannot have the documents showing that Linux was acquired legally.
You do not want to eat E621 and other chemicals, GMO, reground waste and other junk? Maybe not only you do not want to eat all this, but you also want to talk about that with the others, grow something in the garden, prepare meals at home? In that case you are the enemy of food industry, who needs to be prohibited.
Pharmaceutical monsters need ACTA
I promised not to go into details about GMO, but I went, so I will be shorter about pharmaceuticals. And I will not even mention such stories as the one with oxycodone – typical opiate, which was promoted to everybody by one of its manufacturers as a perfect painkiller allegedly not causing any addiction. You can find yourselves various stories about how various medications are distributed, how their side effects are concealed and how sometimes it is even revealed that they do not have the promised medicating effects. Just like the stories about how those who are courageous enough to write something are persecuted based on authors’ rights and ownership of trademark. The literature is abundant, and serious literature, not the kind liked by various conspiracy theorists.
The interest of pharmaceutical monsters is very simple: most of medications which may be needed by someone have been created long ago. As some leading figure of medicine said a long time ago, half of humanity’s diseases were cured with the invention of aspirin, and the majority of the remaining ones – with the invention of antibiotics. There are already very few areas left where the medication has not been found yet – some types of cancer, a few viral diseases etc.
The real situation in the pharmaceutical industry is very well described by a recent story with one large Lithuanian enterprise, which used to import the cure for cancer: the import of a sufficiently effective medication was stopped, and instead of it the one which was many times more expensive was offered, just because the previous medication was generic, or in other words – not profitable enough. The Ministry of Health went through the roof back then, but the story somehow got silent, although hundreds if not thousands of oncologic patients lost the opportunity to get healthy. If you wish, check the search engines, you will find it.
The pharmaceutical industry is an undoubted proponent of ACTA: there is a possibility to make a good profit where the sales are influenced not by the effectiveness of medicine, but only by the promoted brands. ACTA will allow putting brilliant new barriers to manufacturers and importers of cheap medication. You do not wish to buy 10 times more expensive pills instead of simple paracetamol just because they are protected by trademark and the generic ones are allegedly misleading the consumers by their name? In that case you are the enemy of the pharmaceutical companies. The enemy who needs to be prohibited.
Oh yeah, and those same alleged protectors of authors’ rights too
I have already written about those protectors of authors’ rights a long time ago. There you can find brilliant examples how parasitic pseudo-business destroys the performers, pushes autotuned scum to listeners and drags down anyone able to compete. The effect on other industries is also known: the stories about how the production of CDs was delayed for many years and digital cassette players were completely destroyed are well remembered by anyone at least mildly interested in the development of sound reproduction technology. But even more interesting here is the very rhetoric of those protectors of authors’ rights, which according to the authors themselves has hardly anything to do with the protection of authors.
Almost every such protector tells about some imaginary thefts as if they were a real fact. As if anyone who downloads some song is a thief. Such type of rhetoric is just a classic propaganda move, best known from the beginning of the 20th century, when the communists were spreading tales about bourgeois imperialist bloodsuckers, and the Nazis – about Jewish hucksters. Such propaganda is very elementary. A concept which does not say anything to a simple person is created, and then two things are stuffed into it: one – all the bad things that can be possibly imagined, and two – those who need to be persecuted. When various bad things and a certain group of people intermingle in one concept, everyone starts to think that this group of people should be blamed for all those bad things.
This is exactly what is being done with the concept of piracy: it is artificial, created by various representatives of entertainment industry, stuffing on it everything that can be stuffed. The people learn this word with its dedicated meaning, they hear who are to blame, and they believe it. Very rarely anyone is engaged is some sort of semantic deconstructions, right?
The piracy does not exist, but there are certain groups of pseudo-business which want it to exist. Because this is the only way they can explain why they are collecting levies from coffee shops and barber shops for turning the radio on. Because only this way these groups can explain why they are collecting money which they would be supposed to distribute to authors, but in reality use for their own purposes. That is a great business – just collecting the money and this is it. A wonderful and legal form of racket, based on the law.
The authors lose any connection to those rights and their economic issues immediately after creating something, because these rights are sold, and are afterwards used by entirely different people than the real creators. Therefore, the bustle about the imaginary protection of authors’ rights is usually created not by authors, but by those who exploit these authors. And if anyone still has any questions about how the system of economic authors’ rights is destroying the economy, I suggest reading O’Reilly’s article – one of the most successful publishing houses speaks about the realities of the so-called intellectual property.
Here we can also remember the so-called patent trolls (although I do not understand why they are called trolls, as their goal is not to troll, but to acquire money): companies, mostly in the US, where there is an openly rotten and stinking of idiocy patent system, register patents for anything they can think of and later terrorise any producers they can think of. By the way, here we can also remember Google, which patented its search algorithm, well known by librarians for hundreds of years: to highly rank those information sources which are most often linked by the others. The patents and the economic authors’ rights connected to them have not fostered any progress for a long time – nowadays they help the crafty people to make money. Of course, those crafty people are interested in ACTA and similar laws.
Meanwhile the music and movie industries are already encountering a problem: they are not needed by anyone anymore. Who needs some sort of record distribution company, if you can sell your own music on the internet? Who needs a recording company, if even without a studio, with a simple cheap microphone and computer’s sound card you can record your singing not much worse than couple of decades ago in a professional studio? Even if there are some sound defects after recording, everything can be fixed by computer. The music industry has even lost that narrow niche where the tone deaf performers without any voice used to sing – everything is replaced by a cheap autotune. You recorded, sat at the computer, learned something, experimented with something – and you are a competitor.
You think the record companies need competitors in every home? Of course not. This is exactly the reason they want to prohibit everything. By the way, did you know that one of the record companies collects money from everyone who sings “Happy Birthday”? Do some research, you will even find cases where the representatives of this company interrupted celebrations of children in kindergartens and issued fines for the children’s song sung during a birthday. That company is one of the most powerful monsters of the music industry.
With the movies we have the same situation, only a bit delayed, because the computers able to show the movies and edit them became available a bit later, and the movies themselves are a bit more complicated and not as easily done. But here also we have a new generation growing – those people who are creating by themselves. Even now it is possible to make a movie which would be artful, expressive, would have a plot and ideas completely at home. A movie, which would have everything what the Hollywood junk lacks. You think anyone in Hollywood needs competition?
You are the competition to those protectors of authors’ rights. Not because you copy something, but because you create something and you compete with them. You do not want to look at the pop junk, but that industry fails to create anything better. Therefore the authors and their readers, listeners, and fans become the biggest enemy of anti-pirates. You start to look for alternatives, to create them – and you become the competition. The enemy who needs to be prohibited.
ACTA has to become a muzzle for the society
Yes, ladies and gentlemen. ACTA is not for protecting the authors’ rights. It is only for restricting your rights. Every one of you is a competition for politicians, because you have your own opinion. Every one of you is a competition for food industry, because you can have your own garden, in which you may want to grow natural products. Every one of you is an infringer, because you can buy meat or vegetables from independent farmers. Every one of you is an infringer, because you do not want to go bankrupt if you get sick. Every one you is a criminal, because you can sing, read and see. Every one of you is a criminal, because you do not want to pay for something you do not want.
ACTA foresees the introduction of criminal offense for imaginary piracy. For the same piracy imagined by parasitic companies, which do not create any real value, but rather abuse legal loopholes, lobbyism, corruption, bribery, only to settle themselves in the market and terrorise their chosen victims by robbing the money. Such companies need a possibility to terrorise everybody – this is how they make money.
And of course, various laws which foresee persecution for some allegedly illegal usage of intellectual property or trademarks are a great cover for anyone who wants to silence their critics. Remember the Church of Scientology? They persecuted all of their critics for several decades, accusing them of illegally using the trademarks of the Church of Scientology while mentioning names such as “dianetics”, “scientology”, “thetans”, etc. In Lithuania we can also remember how the entourage of Henrikas Daktaras (a famous Lithuanian criminal) tried to use some sort of authors’ rights as a cover when they decided to sue the journalist Dailius Dargis.
There is not a single person who would not suffer from ACTA. There are simply some small groups of people who are suffering from the freedom of humanity. These are the ones who want to ensure their income. To ensure, by putting a muzzle on us. On every one of us.
This article is translated to English by one of my friends and fans – Donatas Pocius. I’d like to express the best thanks to him. I couldn’t imagine such a good translation. Dear Donatas, I thank you, because your work and your talent became reason why I am here, trying to say my words not only in small country, but in the whole Internet.