Say no to software patents

Request to the EU Council of Ministers to publish documents 8253/04 and 8253/04 ADD 1

What is this about?

I wrote a letter to the General Secretariat of the EU Council of Ministers on 7 April 2004 to ask them for access to the contents of the documents 8253/04 and 8253/04 ADD 1. These contain the latest information on the internal Council negotiations regarding the European software patents directive.

On 23 April 2004, I received a reply indicating that

The General Secretariat has weighed your interest in being informed of progress in this area against the general interest that progress be made in an area that is still the subject of negotiations.

It considers that at this stage disclosure of these documents which give details of progress made would be premature in that it could impede the proper conduct of the negotiations and compromise the conclusion of an agreement on this sensitive subject. As there is no evidence suggesting an overriding public interest to warrant disclosure of the documents in question, the General Secretariat has concluded that protection of the decision-making process outweighs the public interest in disclosure. Accordingly, pursuant to Article 4(3) of the Regulation (protection of the CouncilŐs decision-making process), the General Secretariat is unable to accede to your request for access.

At the end, it also stated:
Under Article 7(2) of the Regulation, you have 15 working days to submit a confirmatory application asking the Council to review its position.
So below you can find the "confirmatory application" I sent.

Request for access to documents 8253/04 and 8253/04 ADD 1

On April 14th, the public showed that it has considerable vested interests which are at stake regarding this issue. That day, we demonstrated with more than 500 people from 25 European countries (both current future member states) in front of the Council building in Brussels to show how important this matter is to us.

Additionally, two conferences were held in the European Parliament: before the demonstration there was a press conference, where both MEPs (who are the democratically elected representatives of the public) and SME owners lamented the closed nature of the Council negotiations and the fact that its working group seems to completely disregard all substantial issues raised by the European Parliament in its Plenary session of 24th September:

After the demonstration, FFII (Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure) held a legislation benchmarking conference inside the European Parliament. The conference room was more than full (over 250 people), presided by MEPs and consisted of contributions from economists, SME-owners, inventors, software developers, politicians and juridical experts.

Apart from the representative of the European Commission and the representative of the European Patent Office (whom we thank sincerely for their participation and for presenting their views, in stark contrast to what's happening in the Council at this time), all were very concerned because of the way the Council is flat out ignoring the voice of the official representatives of the European public interest, namely the European Parliament.

In my view, the strongest arguments indicating the fundamental public interest issues connected to this dossier are:

To conclude, I understand the negotiations on this dossier are a sensitive matter, but as far as I see the only way to advance this issue is by input from the public (and even much more importantly: a dialogue between the public and the Council), which clearly has a very strong interest in this matter. The Commission and the Council Working Party completely failed to address the important points raised by the public and the European Parliament. Although I am obviously not aware of everything happening behind the scenes, I do not see how secrecy will help to solve this fundamental communication problem between the Council and the rest of the EU.

On the contrary, keeping this dossier shrouded in mists only reinforces the view of many that the Council sits in its Ivory Tower and does not care about what the public or its directly elected representatives think. I am therefore strongly convinced that publishing the current state of affairs is in the best interest of all involved parties. I also hope you can do this before the Council meeting of 17th May.

Sincerely yours,