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The European Commision 2018 report on Macedonia

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I'm posting the EC report on Copyright and Industrial property rights in Macedonia every year for the past 9 years (although it seems there was no report in 2017 because of the Macedonian political crisis). Here is the latest. For the full text visit the ec.europa.eu site [link to file in PDF].

5.7. Chapter 7: Intellectual property law

The EU has harmonised rules for the legal protection of intellectual property rights (IPRs), as well as rules for the legal protection of copyright and related rights. Rules for the legal protection of IPRs cover, for instance, patents and trademarks, designs, biotechnological inventions and pharmaceuticals. Rules for the legal protection of copyright and related rights cover, for instance, books, films, computer programmes and broadcasting.

The country is moderately prepared in this area. Some progress, although limited, was made in improving the legal framework on copyright and on protected designation of quality.

In the coming year, the country should in particular continue to:

  • step up efforts to investigate and prosecute infringements of intellectual property;
  • strengthen the collective management system;
  • improve coordination among the law enforcement institutions, establishing an information platform for exchange of data and raise public awareness on the importance of protecting
    intellectual property rights according to EU best practices.

As regards copyright and related rights, following the licence revocation in 2016, the collective management of related rights exists only for music rights. The fees for the rights that are owed by the phonogram producers are no longer collected. The unit responsible in the Ministry of Culture remains understaffed. Both national and international cooperation remains very limited.

In the area of industrial rights, the State Office for Industrial Property continued the strategic cooperation with the European Patent Office, the World Intellectual Property Office and the European Union Intellectual Property Office. The 2016-2018 strategy on industrial property was adopted following delays but without an update of the relevant action plan, which risks undermining its credibility. Information campaigns were launched on the threats that counterfeit goods can cause to public health. However, their organisation lacked ownership
and relied heavily on donor-funding. The State Office for Industrial Property declined to set up the information platform for the exchange of IPR-related data among law enforcement institutions. There are still challenges as regards providing good quality services to the public.

Infringements of intellectual property rights are frequent, but the absence of reliable statistics on their handling by the law enforcement institutions prevents a credible enforcement record from being established. Measures taken by the Coordination Body for Intellectual Property are rare and mostly target infringement of trademarks. This body lacks political support and its funding remains insufficient to fulfil its mandate, raise public awareness or educate the right-holders about the importance of intellectual property rights.

#HelloTaravari: Short analysis of the twitter campaign of the Macedonian health ministry

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The twitter campaign #HelloTaravari started on june 19 around 4 PM. On june 22 at 1:10 PM I downloaded (probably) all 1142 tweets that contained the two hashtags used for communicating with the new minister for health of Macedonia: PërshëndetjeTaravari and #ЗдравоТаравари (Albanian and Macedonian language of the hashtag). Those are tweets from a period of around 72 hours.

If the retweets are removed then what remains is 294 original tweets using the hashtags. The volume of tweets (left) and retweets (right) can be seen below. The high volume of tweets and retweets occur in the morning and evening hours. However, it seems that the excitement from the first 36 hours dwindles in the second 36 hours of the chosen period.

tweets_retweets

This trend might mean that political marketing among Macedonian twitter users is short lived. It seems that even bad jokes aimed at the minister (example: "#HelloTaravari should I eat meat or cheese pie for breakfast?" - sent by @dRskata1 on June 22 at 10:37 AM) don't last more than 3 days. On June 22, just three days after the campaign started the number of original tweets using the hashtags is less then 5 per hour.

The three leading twitter users that use the hashtag to write original tweets are @evilblonddemon, @LOshGZE and @Carbonoxid with 28, 16 and 13 tweets respectively.

However, when the leading #HelloTaravari twitter users are compared to the leading tweeter users from the rankings done at Time.mk (T-index, Top by Reach и Top by Followers), there is only one tweeter account (@evilblonddemon) that is present among the most active / most popular 20 users both generally in Macedonia and using #HelloTaravari. This might be an indicator that political campaigns are not of special interest among those Macedonian twitter users that create the leading content on twitter.

distribution.twitterers

The analysis of the distribution of occurrence of the hashtag since the beginning of the campaign shows that most of the active accounts show up once or twice, while only 25 twitter accounts have 10 or more tweets and retweets with the hashtag #HelloTaravari. The most active accounts have 40 to 60 tweets and retweets during the 72 hour period, ore one tweet every 1.2 -1.8 hours (72 - 108 minutes).

At the and, almost all of the collected 1142 tweets use the Macedonian hashtag. Beside the original ministry announcement tweet, a tweet with a link to a news outlet PortAlb, and a tweet asking if the hashtag is used, every other (seven) tweets are retweets of the ministry's announcement. This means that a total of nine tweets have used the Albanian hashtag in the first 72 hours of the campaign. This might be an indication of the number of twitter users in Macedonia that speak Albanian, as well as indication that the Ministry of health should choose a different channel to talk to with Albanian-speaking citizens instead of Twitter.

Originally published in Macedonian at Radio Free Europe: https://www.slobodnaevropa.mk/a/28576600.html

"Priebe" recommendations on communications interception not included in the government program proposed by Mr. Zaev

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In the Recommendations of the Senior Experts' Group on systemic Rule of Law issues relating to the communications interception (commonly known as the Priebe report), the first issue discussed is the surveillance of communications.

The report found that:

"Acting on the basis of Articles 175 and 176 of the Law on Electronic Communication, each of the three national telecommunications providers equips the UBK with the necessary technical apparatus, enabling it to mirror directly their entire operational centres. As a consequence, from a practical point of view, the UBK can intercept communications directly, autonomously and unimpeded, regardless of whether a court order has or has not been issued in accordance with the Law on Interception of Communications.". (Emphasis mine.)

Then it recommended that:

"The UBK should have no direct access to the technical equipment allowing mirroring of the communication signal. The proprietary switches should be moved to the premises of the telecommunication providers. The providers should activate and divert signals to the competent law enforcement agencies (Police, Customs Administration and Financial Police) or the security agencies (the Security and Counterintelligence Service (UBK), the Intelligence Agency, and the Ministry of Defence's military security and intelligence service) only upon receipt of the relevant court order, and only for the purposes of lawful interceptions. Under no circumstances should the UBK have the practical capability to capture communications directly." (Emphasis mine.)

Nevertheless, amendments to the Law on electronic communications are not included* in proposed Government program by Zoran Zaev published on 10.03.2017. (*The document is unsearchable, so this claim is based on reading the parts that refer to human rights.)

This outcome in the proposed Government program is in contradiction to the statements made by Mr. Zaev that the "Priebe" reforms will be a priority for the new administration. For example:

The proposed program promises to open a debate for a broader support to amend the Law on interception of communications. Although amending this law is needed and in line with "Priebe", amending it, according to established practice, requires 2/3 majority vote in Parliament. Given the current distribution of parties and MPs a 2/3 vote seems impossible, so it looks reasonable for the Zaev administration to seek broader support, without a straighforward promise that the Law on interception of communications will be amended.

However, to amend the Law on electronic communications such majority is not needed. For example the amendments from June 2010 were passed with 65 MPs voding of which 55 voted yes, 1 abstained, and 9 voted against. The Macedonian parliament has 120 MPs. So, unless I'm terribly misreading the poorly published document, the amendments to end UBK's capability to capture communications directly are not part of the proposed government program.

More on the topic (though not all of it is in English):
http://novica.discindo.org/mk/node/859
http://novica.discindo.org/mk/node/854
http://novica.discindo.org/mk/node/848
http://novica.discindo.org/mk/node/846
http://novica.discindo.org/mk/node/844
http://novica.discindo.org/mk/node/841
http://novica.discindo.org/mk/node/839
http://novica.discindo.org/mk/node/836
http://novica.discindo.org/mk/node/830

William Gibson's Spook Country on laws and nations

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“A nation,” he heard himself say, “consists of its laws. A nation does not consist of its situation at a given time. If an individual’s morals are situational, that individual is without morals. If a nation’s laws are situational, that nation has no laws, and soon isn’t a nation.”

This has been cited here couple of times so far.

The conspiracy against the Republic reaches its climax

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I am following the story about the warrant-less wiretapping in Macedonia carried out by the secret police since it was revealed by the opposition leader in February 2015. In the early days of this political, social, and moral crisis, I noted that the opposition party SDSM, specifically its president Zoran Zaev, frist implicated the telecommunications operators in Macedonia as collaborators in the warrant-less wiretapping, only to backtrack on that statement few weeks later.

In his early statements (12.02.2015) Zoran Zaev claimed that the wiretapping could not have happened without the knowledge of the operators, but just two weeks later (27.02.2015) Zaev said that the operators have no responsibility whatsoever at a press-conference for bombshell #5. -- from The silence of the telecom operators, June 4 2015.

The telecommunications operators also maintained that they worked and still work within the law.

All of these claims were proved wrong today, November 18 2016, when at the Special prosecutor press conference (link in Macedonian) it was revealed that:

„Тhe unlawful wiretapping of several thousands people that lived in the Republic of Macedonia in the period from 2008 to 2015 violated the privacy of their personal and family life, and the secrecy of communications"

The equipment that is installed in the operators' networks and is used for surveillance of communication in a way in which the secret police has 'direct, autonomous, and uninterrupted' access is allowed by law only in a part of the period from 2008 to 2015. This period includes 1. the months from June 2010 when the new law for electronic communications came into power, until December 2010 when the Constitutional Court canceled the articles regarding the equipment and access, and 2. the period since February 2014 when the new law for electronic communications came into power, that has the same canceled provisions (on which, this time, the Constitutional Court is silent for more than a year).

In fact, in the eight-year period from 2008 to 2015, direct, autonomous, and uninterrupted access was allowed by law in only 2.5 years. This means that the operators allowed conventional access (i.e. in a way that the secret police does not access their network autonomously at their will) knowing that there is no court order for such an access to peoples' communications, or that the equipment for direct, autonomous, and uninterrupted access was working during the entire period, even when there was no law allowing that. In the latter case it would mean that such access was made available to the secret police 2 years before the law allowing it was even discussed in Parliament.

Today's SPO press conference casts a serious doubt on the claims that operators worked according to prescribed laws. The law requires that telecommunications operators must cooperate with the SPO. Morality requires that their executives at least tender their resignations.

More on the topic (though not all of it is in English):
http://novica.discindo.org/mk/node/854
http://novica.discindo.org/mk/node/848
http://novica.discindo.org/mk/node/846
http://novica.discindo.org/mk/node/844
http://novica.discindo.org/mk/node/841
http://novica.discindo.org/mk/node/839
http://novica.discindo.org/mk/node/836
http://novica.discindo.org/mk/node/830

The European Commision 2016 report on Macedonia

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I'm posting the EC report on Copyright and Industrial property rights in Macedonia every year for the past 7 years. Here is the latest. For the full text visit: http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_MEMO-16-3634_en.htm

4.7. Chapter 7: Intellectual property law

The EU has harmonised rules for the legal protection of intellectual property rights (IPRs), as well as rules for the legal protection of copyright and related rights. Rules for the legal protection of IPRs cover, for instance, patents and trademarks, designs, biotechnological inventions and pharmaceuticals. Rules for the legal protection of copyright and related rights cover, for instance, books, films, computer programmes and broadcasting.

The country is moderately prepared in this area. Some progress, although limited, was made during the reporting period. There is still no strategy on intellectual property. In thecoming year, the country should in particular:

  • improve consultation of the stakeholders when drafting legislation;
  • step up efforts to investigate and prosecute infringements of intellectual property;
  • reinforce capacity and coordination among the authorities in charge of implementing the intellectual property laws and raise public awareness of the importance of protecting intellectual property rights.

On copyright and neighbouring rights, the law on copyrights was amended in February 2016 to regulate the functioning of collective management of rights and remuneration distribution and to abolish the cap to remunerations of right-holders, but the collective management system is still underdeveloped. The system for electronic recording of broadcast music works needs to be finalised. The Ministry of Culture revoked the licence of one of the collecting societies, with the result that certain fees are no longer collected, and subsequently (in July) licensed one more society in the areas of music rights. The capacity of the Ministry of Culture to deal with copyright and neighbouring rights remains insufficient.

As regards industrial rights, the State Office of Industrial Property concluded a bilateral cooperation agreement with the European Patent Office for 2016-18 and made its database available to the public. Challenges remain, in particular in providing services to the public.

The number of court cases on infringements of intellectual property rights is still low and there is no credible enforcement record. The Agency for Audiovisual Media Services conducted inspections and found certain irregularities by broadcasters. The functions of the Coordinative Body for Intellectual Property do not cover the coordination of policy-making and of legislative work. Its funding is insufficient and there is no budget for awareness-raising and education of right-holders and the public about the importance of intellectual property rights. Coordination between the enforcement authorities is insufficient.

The European Commision 2015 report on Macedonia

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I'm posting the EC report on Copyright and Industrial property rights in Macedonia every year for the past 6 years. Here is the latest. For the full text visit: http://ec.europa.eu/enlargement/countries/strategy-and-progress-report/

4.7. Chapter 7: Intellectual property law

The EU has harmonised rules for the legal protection of copyright and related rights. This covers, for instance, computer programs, broadcasting and trademarks, designs, biotechnological inventions and pharmaceuticals.

The country is moderately prepared in this area. Some progress was made on customs enforcement. The commitment and capacities of the institutions responsible for enforcing and protecting intellectual property rights and the acquis vary, but remain insufficient. A satisfactory track record on investigation, prosecution and judicial handling of piracy and counterfeiting is lacking. Public awareness campaigns are not yet well developed. In the coming year, the country should in particular:
→ step up efforts to investigate and prosecute infringements of intellectual property.

On copyright and neighbouring rights, the Ministry of Culture adopted a rulebook on record-keeping of authors’ rights and holders of related rights. The Ministry of Culture and the Ministry of Information Society and Administration jointly established a system for electronic recording of broadcast music works. The government has not yet approved the tariff schemes of collective rights management societies and the capacity of the Ministry of Culture to deal with copyright and neighbouring rights is still insufficient.

On industrial property rights, the State Office for Industrial Property cooperated with the Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market and with the European Patent Office on several projects, but the trademark databases of the first two should be better integrated. The State Office does not have enough staff to provide good quality services or training to the public and the business community, nor to cooperate internationally.

Some progress was made on enforcement of intellectual property rights. The Coordination Body for Intellectual Property has had a positive impact but the level of commitment differs between law enforcement institutions and sharing responsibility between 11 different law enforcement bodies hinders more efficient investigation and legal actions. The State Market Inspectorate lacks basic equipment, IT and training to ensure effective enforcement. The Agency for Audio and Audiovisual Media Services issued 10 orders to broadcasters to prevent further violations of copyright and neighbouring rights. Some 30 misdemeanour cases were lodged with the courts, but the absence of a credible enforcement record hinders information on the follow-up action taken. The three public laboratories are still not legally authorised to detect and analyse counterfeit medicines, so their evidence is not accepted in court. Public awareness of the threats posed by counterfeit goods to health and safety remains limited.

Occam's razor on surveillance in Macedonia

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There is a paragraph in the report of the experts group led by Reinhard Priebe that locates the obligation of the telecommunications operators. This is nothing new, since I have been writing about this obligation for a long time. However, when a European expert does that it resounds much louder in the public:

Acting on the basis of Articles 175 and 176 of the Law on Electronic Communication, each of the three national telecommunications providers equips the UBK with the necessary technical apparatus, enabling it to mirror directly their entire operational centres. As a consequence, from a practical point of view, the UBK can intercept communications directly, autonomously and unimpeded, regardless of whether a court order has or has not been issued in accordance with the Law on Interception of Communications. (Pages 5-6 of the report of 8th of June 2015 of the expert group of the European Commission).

The report of the experts group confirms two things: the equipment exists at the operators’ premises and that equipment is in use.

Still, the question that we constantly seek answer to is since when is the equipment in use? There is less and less doubt that the UBK, operating without court order breached the laws and the Constitution of the Republic of Macedonia, but did he operators follow suit?

Articles 175 and 175 of the Law on electronic communications are valid since February 2014 when the said law was voted by the Parliament (Official Gazette of the Republic of Macedonia No. 39/2014). However, we heard from the recordings and the journalistic analysis the conversations took place at different time periods and there are recordings even since 2011. How could have these recordings been made if the Direction had not been allowed to “ mirror directly their entire operational centres?”

Infact, with the changes of the Law on electronic communications of 2010 (Official Gazette of the Republic of Macedonia No. 83/2010) the equipment was set at the operators. However, shortly afterwards, in December 2010 the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Macedonia canceled the articles of the law that allow “ direct, autonomous and unimpeded” wiretapping. The cancellation means that this access of DBK to the operators is illegal, and their obligation is to stop it. If that Decision of the Constitutional Court was respected, then how come there are recordings from 2011 (one example is the destruction of “Kosmos” building)?

The operators maintain hat they had acted according to the law, but there are hundreds of recordings that suggest otherwise. The proverb goes, where there is smoke there is fire. They make no effort to restore the public thrust with regards to their handling of the users’ data. At the same time, the Agency for electronic communication and the Direction for personal data protection which are in charge of surveillance of the telecommunications and the right to privacy of the users remain calm and indifferent to the mass abuse that we are witnessing.

The Occam’s razor is a principle stating that out of possible hypothesis we should choose the one containing the least assumptions. This is it: The operators did not switch off the equipment installed in 2010 and breached the decision of the Constitutional court and allowed continuous wiretapping even when the law did not provide this obligation.

The operators were entrusted with an important and responsible role in society, and according to the laws they have to take care of the privacy and the confidentiality of their users’ data they have access to. In times when digital communications play an increasingly significant role in the social and political activities their responsibility increases. If they want to show us that they are up for the challenge and that the aforementioned hypothesis is incorrect, then they can publish the acts by which their directors order switching off and dismantling of the equipment that allowed direct access to communications according to the Decision of the Constitutional court. If those acts contain classified information, we will be satisfied with documents containing black fields as those from the movies. Until then: where there is smoke there is fire.

Published on Radio Free Europe.
Partially published on Libertas.
Published on OKNO.
Published on IT.com.mk.

The silence of the telecom operators

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Since February 2015 the opposition led by Zoran Zaev publishes the so called bombshells which reveal "the truth about Macedonia". They claim that the recordings contain alleged scandals, corruption, and abuses made by the leading people in the Government and the ruling political parties. They also claim that these recordings are not just some or few recordings that are made by accident, but that they are a small part of the millions of files of surveillance of communications of over 20000 citizens in Macedonia. While the main narrative stays the same, a part of the story changed over time: the part about the role of the telecom operators in this affair. In his early statements (12.02.2015) Zoran Zaev claimed that the wiretapping could not have happened without the knowledge of the operators, but just two weeks later (27.02.2015) Zaev said that the operators have no responsibility whatsoever at a press-conference for bombshell #5.

Since these statements raised suspicion about what exactly happened regarding the alleged mass surveillance of 20000 people, in February I started researching the laws. The analysis of that time led me to the following revelations:

1. Article 115 paragraph 2 of the Law for electronic communications allowed for usage of mass surveillance technology in June 2010;
2. This legal arrangement was made null and void (luckily) just 6 months later when the Constitutional court made its decision in December 2010;
3. The same legal provisions were reintroduced to the law in February 2014 when the new Law for electronic communications entered into force.

According to many sources (the opposition, journalists, political analysts) large part of the recordings were made between 2011-2014. Therefore the logical question, when the claim that 20000 people were under surveillance is undisputed,what happened with the (shortly legal) technology from 2010 in the period from 2010 to 2014?

Logically, at least for me, was to ask this question to the operators (T-Mobile, Makedonski Telekom, VIP and One) and to the regulator (AEK) in the following form:

1. Which actions did the operator take to comply with the decision of the Constitutional court of Republic of Macedonia U. No. 139/2010-0-1 from 15.12.2010?

2. Which actions did the Agency for electronic communications take in order to determine whether the telecom operators complied with the decision of the Constitutional court of Republic of Macedonia U. No. 139/2010-0-1 from 15.12.2010?

Furthermore, since the number of cases for which the courts have allowed special investigative measures, which include surveillance of communications, is a publicly available information, it was logical to ask the operators how many requests have they received individually, especially regarding the retained data of their users. This is a completely statistical information: if we know that in 2013 there were 226 approved requests for surveillance of communication, then the information how many requests were received by each operator will tell us only what was the involvement of each operator.

All of these FOI requests were denied, mostly by claiming that any answer will be a breach of "classified information". Only AEK did not respond at all. For all of the FOI requests I submitted a complaint to the Commission for protection of the right to free access of information of public interest, and now I wait for their response. I hope the Commission will find that to answer the question about complying to a court order and anonymous statistics cannot be hidden from the public.

Until we have their answer, visit this galery for the answers from the operators (in Macedonian).

Published on OKNO 5.6.2015: http://okno.mk/node/47618

Bombshell 30 and can it get uglier than this?

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It's already three months into the wiretapping scandal and today we heard the most disturbing recordings so far.

In several recordings played today we hear Interior ministry officials (allegedly Minister Gordana Jankulovska and press officer Ivo Kotevski) discussing Nikola Mladenov's death, the investigation, withholding evidence, using the Ministry's surveillance equipment to find his position via his phone, and the capacity of the judge to complete the proceedings. They laugh and joke about the death of the journalist, denouncing everyone who is asking questions about the accident as 'a communist' (specific Macedonian jargon is 'komunjar') which is a derogative word.

The recordings also show Interior ministry officials plot to send life threatening messages to journalists as 'a joke' following the death of Mladenov, by phone and at his funeral, and also mention threats towards jailed and now released investigative journalist Tomislav Kezarovski

Minutes after the press conference held by SDSM's president Zoran Zaev ended, the ruling VMRO-DPMNE party issued a statement supporting a new, independent investigation into the death of Nikola Mladenov.

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