... in european union

Christian(?) Hezbollah youth

02 Jan 2007 | 600 words | lebanon war travel european union development israel

We spend all day today in south Lebanon, which is not as badly destroyed as i had thought (sometimes it is a bit difficult to tell if a ruin is the result of the local culture of leaving lots of buildings unfinished or of an israeli air raid). Some of the villages seem more or less undamaged, while others look like it has been attempted to raze them from the ground for good. We spend some time in Bint Jebel, where the entire center of the the village is in ruins (the place saw intense house to house fighting during the war) and then went on to Khiam, to see (what is left of) the prison. I had been to the prison in khiam during my last trip so the destruction here was visually much more revealing as i had a pretty good memory of how the place looked one and a half years ago. Basically the entire prison is reduced to rubble (There is one cell block left). looks like this has been an convenient opportunity for the IDF to get rid of this rather dark episode of their history.

The only other visitors were a group of young fashionable men from beirut who were posing in the ruins with a hezbollah flag, which looked rather stupid given that about as likely to be hezbollah supporters as one is likely to find beer in Khiam. at some point it looked like they were actually trying to imitate a certain historical scene (which if memory does not deceive me was also fake), but i doubt they were aware of this:

For the rest the area is absolutely overcrowded with UN peacekeepers, who seem to have nothing better to do than drive water trucks through the narrow streets and go shopping. Not sure how this is supposed to help. Also the European Commission has embarked on repairing the street lights in the entire area, which they emphasize by putting up informative hoarding and putting stickers with the EU flag on every lamp post (pictures to follow, the upload speed here is horrible). This is of course against the background of schools, houses, roads and pretty much everything else needing repair. I wonder who sets the priorities at the EU and who seriously believes that stickers on lamp posts will give Europe a good name in this part of the world

Update: Pictures after the jump:

So apparently the European Commission has decided that the most urgent thing to do in South Lebanon is repairing the street lamps. i am not entirely sure if this prioritization does make much sense to the local population, they would probably be more happy with houses or schools being repaired or more resources dedicated to de-mining and disposal of unexploded cluster munitions. but then development/humanitarian aid is characterized by the fact that the donor sets the priorities and not those who are supposed to be in need of the help….

However in south lebanon the street-lamps come equipped with a poster of either Hassan Nasrallah (Hezbollah) Musa al-Sadr (Amal), the logo of either of the two organizations or the portrait of a resistance fighter fallen in combat. (‘martyr’ in the local lingo) not sure if the EU commission was aware of this fact before taking the decision to repair these very street lamps …

… and as the EU is very keen on showing all the god work they are doing, these very street-lamps now sport stickers of EU flags. gives you the impression that the EU is sponsoring the poles that hold the Hezbollah posters.

Deportation class

24 Nov 2005 | 211 words | deportations airtravel european union books

Every time i have visited lawrence in Bangalore he recommends me a book to read during the rest of the trip. Last year it was Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts (be careful his self presentation on his own site is really evil) which i really enjoyed.

This year he told me to read Transmission by Hari Kunzru. I have finished it yesterday night and it is again very entertaining. the main story is about an indian computer nerd who, when fired from his H-B1 job in the US, releases an unprecedented virus attack on the internets. There are a number of sub plots and one of them features an obnoxious ad agency owner who makes a pitch for the brand identity of the newly created European Immigration Agency. Instead of winning the contract he finds himself being arrested in am immigration raid by the same agency and deported to Albania:

At 2 p.m. when he was supposed to sit down with director Becker and the other members of PEBA’s public presentation working group he was at 35.000 feet, flying deportation class en route to Tirana, Albania.

It is nice to see the term which we have coined 5 years back to be used in generic fashion in a work of fiction.

Collecting societies not so bad after all?

26 Sep 2005 | 596 words | european union copyright business music

Been reading through a number of the published responses to the a recent EU study on a community initiative on the cross-border collective management copyright for the on-line distribution of musical works. This is part of a collaborative effort by a number people associated with Creative Commons who are looking into the compatibility between CC and Collective Rights Management (as it is practiced in Europe).

Reading through the responses i had been assigned has made me even more skeptical of aligning us with these attempts of the EU to break open the monopolies of the Collecting Societies. The attempts of the Commission seem to get us closer to a situation where members of collecting societies can actually use Creative Commons licenses for some of their works. But at the same time this means moving with big media companies which are more than eager to get rid of the collecting societies all together (as they increase bargaining position of individual artists vis a vis commercial users of their works and make artists generally less vulnerable to pressure from them). The reactions of O2, Deutsche Telkom and the EBU which i tried to summarize below clearly show that we are standing on an extremely slippery slope indeed:

O2 (the UK based mobile phone operator): O2 is really, really pissed by the paper. (and by the fact that they only had 3 weeks to react but so were we when we found out). first of all the commission does not propose to disband collective management, which is unacceptable to o2 as this means they actually have to pay authors if the distribute their music. my favorite sentence:

Commercial users faces considerable difficulties in obtaining the rights to exploit material on-line, and especially on terms that allow them to offer consumers attractive and profitable services at commercially acceptable prices.

Translation: the prices need to go down so that we can sell music cheap while having huge profit margins. I guess they telcos have even less understanding of them internets than the music industry…

DEUTSCHE TELEKOM: same as o2 but their anger is hidden behind much better research (if someone is interested in the complexities of the whole question this paper is a nice read). It sure looks like as if the ex-monopolists are the ones who are most furious when they encounter monopolies (in German there is a fitting but untranslatable saying: ‘die schärfsten kritiker der Elche ware früher selber welche’) they also opt for option 2 with elements of option 3. these elements of option 3 do include the right of authors to give non-exclusive licenses to the collecting societies which would make the solution proposed by DT compatible with CC licenses.

EBU: the European Broadcasters Union is not pissed off. Rather it is disappointed that the commission has not come up with a solution that will give them world wide blanket licenses for all uses that come with legal guarantees for their members immediately (somehow it seems they forgot royalty free in their list). Further they do not mention authors at all (& they constantly refer to authors rights (as opposed to phonogram producers) as ‘petit droits’) except when they demand mandatory collective licensing of all rights needed by broadcasters to broadcast. Which would obviously be very bad for someone who wants to engage in individual rights management (e.g use an open content license for a broadcast-able work). But then what do you expect from the same people who think they should own everything they broadcast for 50 years (see the ongoing negotiations about the WIPO broadcasting treaty)

Protect intellectual property rights by all means necessary?

07 Aug 2005 | 673 words | copyright european union politics

Maybe i have been a bit premature in my condemnation of the French and Dutch no votes on the European constitution back in June. The charter of fundamental rights that is part of the proposed constitution contains an article relating to intellectual property rights. In all its simplistic beauty article 17(2) reads like this:

Intellectual property shall be protected

Yes this is it. No qualifications whatsoever, No purpose (‘for the progress of science and the useful arts’) like in the US constitution. If this constitution gets enacted in Europe intellectual property rights will be ‘fundamental rights’ and have to be protected by all means necessary.

Now i had come across this clause earlier, but for some reason it had been amused by what i then perceived as it’s nativity. Not so anymore:

On the 12th of july the Commission of the European Union launched a new proposal for a directive and framework decision on the penal enforcement of intellectual property rights. This directive seeks to harmonize legislation in the member-states regarding IPR infringements. It calls for substantial criminal penalties for intentional infringements of intellectual property rights on a ‘commercial scale’. Article 3 of the proposed Directive reads as follows:

“Member States shall ensure that all intentional infringements of an intellectual property right on a commercial scale, and attempting, aiding or abetting and inciting such infringements, are treated as criminal offences.”

The obvious problem with this article is that ‘attempting, aiding or abetting and inciting such infringements’ is an awfully vague definition of possible criminal behaviour. It does not take a lot of imagination to see the entertainment industry trying to force file sharing services out of business because of them providing aid to the intentional infringement of their users. This goes way further than the recent grokster ruling of the US supreme court which comes down to that a provider of a service that allows infringing uses can only held liable when this infringing use is part of his business model or endorsed by the provider. Under the proposed EU the motives of a service provider seem to be completely irrelevant. It is enough if the service is aiding intentional infringement that is taking place on a comercial scale. As comercial scale is not defined as something that is undertaken by comercial entities for profit it probably also encompasses large scale infringement that is taking place on all mayor file sharing services (also see the last EDRI-gram on this issue).

While this directive will not automatically become law in its’s present form (as Urs Glasser points out in his blog) it is interesting to see how the commission justifies coming up with this directive in the first place: Apart for pointing out that the divergent practices of the member states need to be harmonized (which is the raison d’être for most of the commissions legislative work) the commission refers back to Article 17(2) of the proposed charter of fundamental rights:

This Directive respects fundamental rights and observes the principles recognised by the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. In particular, this Directive seeks to ensure full respect for intellectual property, in accordance with Article 17(2) of the Charter. (point 5 from the introduction of the proposed directive

For the casual reader this gives quite and amount of legitimacy to the proposed directive. Suddenly there is a fundamental right that needs to be protected. How can anybody in her sane mind have any objections against respecting the fundamental rights of the EU? Of course protecting our fundamental rights requires swift and immediate action!

I guess that makes clear that we do not only have to fight against this particular directive, but that we also need to turn more attention to the EU constitution once it will be revived from the dead (which will happen sooner or later). In the meanwhile someone should point the Commission to the fact that the constitution has been voted down by two member states and that they should stop making references to non-existing and dubious fundamental rights.

meanwhile... is the personal weblog of Paul Keller. I am currently policy director at Open Future and President of the COMMUNIA Association for the Public Domain. This weblog is largely inactive but contains an archive of posts (mixing both work and personal) going back to 2005.

I also maintain a collection of cards from African mediums (which is the reason for the domain name), a collection of photos on flickr and a website collecting my professional writings and appearances.

Other things that i have made online: