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Opening up the Shadowy World of Trade Secrets

ComputerWorldUK - Glyn Moody - Back in January, I wrote about moves within the European Commission to strengthen the protection for trade secrets. That's potentially a worrying development for the world of open source, based as it is on the frictionless exchange of knowledge. Since then, more people have become aware of the threat, and some have started mobilising against it. For example, a site called simply Stop Trade Secrets links to a petition against the move, and offers a useful explanation of the key issues here:

In everyday life, the directive could restrict employees’ ability to freely change employment, for example by introducing the risk of creating a process in a new job, which is too similar to one used in a previous role – employees may feel unable to use their know-how with a new employer. The use of company information by workers’ representatives exercising their trade union rights is also not excluded from the scope of criminal liability.

That effect is probably not something that most people would think of in the context of trade secrets, but indicates just how far-reaching the new legislation might be.

The right to freedom of expression and information could be seriously harmed. The proposal contains no general exception for investigative journalists nor for NGO researchers and whistleblowers, although their work is essential for any modern democratic society. There is also no exception for information which impacts on fundamental rights, in particular regarding public health and the environment.