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PRESS RELEASE FFII -- ![ Europe Economy Computing ]

Bananas to the German Federal Ministry of Justice

On Software Patents, Consumer Protection, and the European Banana Union

-> [ German Original | News | A-Item Warning | Kuenast Letter | Bananas to the FMJ ]

Berlin, February 25th, 2005 -- The Slogan "No Banana Republic - No Software Patents - B-Item Now!" today accompanies lots of packages containing bananas and protest banners to Germany's Federal Ministry of Justice. At the same time, Germany's Federal Minister for Agriculture and Consumer Protection, Renate Kuenast, faces demands to stop the adoption of a directive draft apparently scheduled for the EU Council session at Monday, February 28th.

The actions have been triggered by an E-Mail from Kuenast's Office that announced the adoption of a position regarding the planned EU Software Patent Directive. Said position would run against the interests of most member states and would be diametrically opposed to the resolutions of the European Parliament as well as to motions of five member state parliaments, including the german Bundestag. Critics have proven that the Council's position paper enables broad exclusion rights on pure software as in the United States of America and that it would open the floodgates to innovation-stifling enforcement strategies favoring large american and japanese corporations while harming small and medium-sized european enterprises.

The german Ministry of Justice which is in charge of the dossier is being criticised by the senders of the banana packages for having ignored all parlamentary decisions and for yet supporting an illegitimate directive draft, which would remind observers of the workings in a banana republic. As early as February 15th, protesters had used this leitmotiv in a manifestation in front of the Justice Ministry's building to demand renegotiations in the Council of the EU. (Demonstrators at Feb 15 in front of the Federal Ministry of Justice. Source: FFII) - High-resolution version

Christian Cornelssen from the Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure (FFII) comments:

"Unfortunately, it is still necessary to remind the Federal Ministry of Justice that our parliament, in a cross-party motion, has rejected the directive draft in its current form and has mandated essential corrections at the Council level. This can happen only when the directive gets negotiated as a B-item. In order to get there, the A-item must be removed from Monday's Council agenda."

Due to resistance from a number of EU member states, the Council's proposal, dating back to May 18th, 2004, currently does not have the number of votes required for a qualified majority. In spite of this, the Council presidency has repeatedly tried to put the draft as so-called A-item on the agenda, i.e., as a text requiring no discussion and no explicit vote for adaption. Each time, a meeting of ministers specialised on unrelated topics was chosen for that purpose, such as the Council on agriculture and fisheries, as would again be the case on Monday. So far, those attempts failed because careful ministers insisted on removing the adoption of the now unsupported proposal from the meeting's agenda.

On February 17th, the European Commission has received a resolution by the European Parliament requesting a restart of the legislative process for the debated directive. The restart would also make the controversial Council proposal irrelevant. In the same day's evening, the german Bundestag unanimously adopted a cross-party motion that finds significant deficiencies in the Council's draft and calls on its government to correct those deficiencies. !MPs from all represented parties expressed their support for the restart request by the european parliament and demanded from their government, particularly from the ministry of justice led by Brigitte Zypries, to stop backing the current Council text and to achieve the necessary corrections at the Council level.

In spite of the steadily growing resistance from EU member states, the Council of the EU has not found to renegotiations of its proposal yet. Instead, its presidency seems to engage in another attempt of pushing a draft with less support than ever without discussion through a meeting of unconcerned ministers next Monday. The german delegation will be led by the green-party minister for agriculture and consumer protection, Renate Kuenast. According to the supporters of the parliamentary resolutions, she shall make sure, like ministers from other countries have done before, that the A-item on the illegitimate draft will be removed from the agenda.

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About the FFII --

The Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure (FFII) is a non-profit association registered in several European countries, which is dedicated to the spread of data processing literacy. FFII supports the development of public information goods based on copyright, free competition, open standards. More than 500 members, 1,200 companies and 75,000 supporters have entrusted the FFII to act as their voice in public policy questions concerning exclusion rights (intellectual property) in data processing.

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