Personal Democracy Plus Our premium content network. LEARN MORE You are not logged in. LOG IN NOW >

In Germany, SOPA, PIPA and Megaupload Spark Debate in Merkel's Party

BY Miranda Neubauer | Thursday, January 26 2012

German Chancellor Angela Merkel's political party is split internally over a recent statement in support of controversial American anti-piracy legislation — and the fight is playing out on Twitter.

Two officials in Merkel's conservative CDU Party recently released a statement with a title that translates from the German as "The American SOPA-legislation points in the right direction." Then, several members of the same party took to Twitter to voice their disagreement with the statement.

The statement references the Stop Online Piracy Act, legislation stalled in the U.S. House, and related legislation in the Senate, called the Protect IP Act and further shortened to PIPA in favor of an even longer and more unwieldy name. Those bills were put on hold last week after widespread protest spurred by a nationwide coalition of online businesses.

In the statement on the party's website, the deputy chair of the CDU parliamentary group, Günter Krings, and Ansgar Heveling, who is the party's designated expert on copyright law in the parliament's law and culture and media committees, write that while some individual provisions of the SOPA and PIPA laws go too far, "also in the digital age, the CDU/CSU parliamentary group stands for strong protection of intellectual property. German copyright law is a pillar of the of rule of law and social market economy." The statement goes on to say that the investigation into Megaupload, whose founder is a German national, shows how endangered copyright law is at this point in time, when works are distributed over the Internet. The statement was released on the occasion of the postponed U.S. Senate vote on the legislation. "Even if some individual provisions of the SOPA and PIPA laws that are before the U.S. Senate go too far: the Megaupload case makes clear that we need a clear legal framework in the Internet, as is self-evident in the real world," the statement goes on to say.

The statement then addresses last week's protests. "It is astounding that Wikipedia, Google, the Green Party and many others come to the aid of money-hungry Internetcriminals like the founder of Megaupload with their protests," it reads. "They misjudge that with regards to the enforcement of copyright law it is not ... a matter of censorship, but solely a matter of protecting creative people from exploitation."

But as the German press agency DPA first reported, several other members of the parliament and the party were irritated by the statement and expressed disagreement on Twitter.

"I can't comment extensively on all personal opinions from my colleague," Member of Parliament Peter Tauber, also a member of the Internet committee, wrote on Twitter in response to an Internet activist's inquiry. "Sorry. I think nothing of SOPA and PIPA." He added, quoting a news report about the statement. "There has been no resolution [by the parliamentary group.]"

Member of Parliament Thomas Jarzombek, another member of the Internet Committee, wrote on Twitter, "Krings does not represent my opinion. And there's also been no resolution."

He was responding to an inquiry from the Junge Union, the youth wing of the party, in the city of Paderborn, asking whether Krings was speaking for the entire parliamentary group.

Peter Altmaier, the manager of the parliamentary group, wrote on Twitter that "statements from members of parliament are only binding when there are resolutions related to them."

A member of the Junge Union in the city of Eschborn had tweeted him, "Dear @peteraltmaier, how do such highly questionable PMs [press statements] like from MdB Krings even come about? #sopa #fail."

However, the DPA said that in response to its inquiry, the press agency of the parliamentary group said the communication was not a matter of a personal statement, but a declaration by the parliamentary group.

Green Party Whip Volker Beck, tweeted his agreement with another Twitter user's comment that "CDU/CSU doesn't know itself if it's in agreement with the CDU/CSU or not. sad. #pipa #sopa"

Deputy Secretary General of the CSU Party, Dorothee Bär, wrote in several replies on Twitter that "we will make our point of view clear internally," and, wrote in response to Beck that such a press statement on the parliamentary group's website "does not by a long stretch mean it's the opinion of the parliamentary group. Just because a colleague wrote an odd press statement."

This post has been corrected. Dorothee Bär is deputy secretary general of the CSU Party, the CDU's Bavarian sister party, not the CDU.

News Briefs

RSS Feed thursday >

NYC Open Data Advocates Focus on Quality And Value Over Quantity

The New York City Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications plans to publish more than double the amount of datasets this year than it published to the portal last year, new Commissioner Anne Roest wrote last week in an annual report mandated by the city's open data law, with 135 datasets scheduled to be released this year, and almost 100 more to come in 2015. But as preparations are underway for City Council open data oversight hearings in the fall, what matters more to advocates than the absolute number of the datasets is their quality. GO

Civic Tech and Engagement: Announcing a New Series on What Makes it "Thick"

Announcing a new series of feature articles that we will be publishing over the next several months, thanks to the support of the Rita Allen Foundation. Our focus is on digitally-enabled civic engagement, and in particular, how and under what conditions "thick" digital civic engagement occurs. What we're after is answers to this question: When does a tech tool or platform enable actual people to make ongoing and significant contributions to each other, to a place or cause, at a scale that produces demonstrable change? GO

monday >

Tweets2Rue Helps Homeless to Help Themselves Through Twitter

While most solutions to homelessness focus on addressing physical needs -- a roof over the head and food to eat -- one initiative in France known as Tweets2Rue knows that for the homeless, a house is still not a home, so to speak: the homeless are often entrenched in a viscous cycle of social isolation that keeps them invisible and powerless. GO

Oakland's Sudo Mesh Looks to Counter Censorship and Digital Divide With a Mesh Network

In Oakland, a city with deep roots in radical activism and a growing tech scene at odds with the hyper-capital-driven Silicon Valley, those at the Sudo Room hackerspace believe that the solution to a wide range of problems, from censorship to the digital divide, is a mesh net, a type of decentralized network that is resilient to censorship and disruption and can also bring connectivity to poor communities.

GO

More