ACTA Update IX

In my last update, I reported on the surprising turn of events that would see ACTA referred to the European Court of Justice. However, as I noted there, the terms of that referral are still unknown. Meanwhile, ACTA continues its journey through...

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In my last update, I reported on the surprising turn of events that would see ACTA referred to the European Court of Justice. However, as I noted there, the terms of that referral are still unknown. Meanwhile, ACTA continues its journey through the European Parliament.

Until now, I've not suggested contacting your MEPs: that's because it's easy to abuse this possibility, which ultimately be counterproductive. But tomorrow, there will be an important meeting, where the Industry, Research and Energy Committee (ITRE) will hold an "exchange of views." Even with ACTA being referred to the ECJ, it would be even better if the ITRE came out against it. To achieve that, it would be helpful to contact the MEPs that represent us there.

For the UK, these are:

Giles Chichester
Vicky Ford
Sajjad Karim
Fiona Hall
Alyn Smith
Peter Skinner

Update: Some of the MEPs above are saying that you need to call your local MEP's office in Brussels, rather than going through directly to the above. There is a list of all UK MEPs, and if you are in any doubt about who your representative is, you can check on WriteToThem.

The best thing would be to telephone them on the numbers given on their home pages above; failing that, an email is always welcome provided it is personalised – there's nothing worse than using some generic text from a Web site somewhere. It might even get classed as spam.

In terms of arguments to use, remember that this is the trade committee, and thus is unlikely to be impressed by human rights angles etc., but will be interested in hard facts about the impact of ACTA on EU businesses. Here are a few points I aim to make when I call them today.

First, the fact that ACTA will not tackle counterfeiting, either in the EU or outside it. That is because ACTA only applies to nations that have signed it, and 99% of counterfeits in Europe come from outside ACTA countries. Similarly, anti-counterfeiting legislation is already very strict in most ACTA countries, with the possible exceptions of Mexico and Morocco, but neither of those countries are huge problems in terms of counterfeit EU goods. So ACTA will not achieve what it set out to do, and EU businesses will be subject to it but for little or no benefit.

The US does not regard ACTA as a binding treaty, whereas the EU will. That means all the benefits flow to the US, but without it needing to return the favour to EU businesses. Why should the EU sign a treaty that is one-side in this way, putting our businesses at a disadvantage? Isn't the unfair extradition treaty enough in this respect?

Finally, Article 36 of ACTA creates a so-called "ACTA Committee". This is an unelected, non-democratic body that has the power to revise ACTA as it wishes, without constraint. This means that if the European Parliament ratifies ACTA, it will be giving a blank cheque to the ACTA committee to change it afterwards as they wish. In other words, the European Parliament – and UK government – will be undermined in a non-reversible way: once ACTA is ratified, we will have lost control of a hugely important area of business activity, and with it, our sovereignty.

Even if you only call one of your MEPs, leaving a message with their assistant if they cannot take your call (as is likely), it will make a huge difference (calling more than one would obviously be even better.) It will emphasise that the street protests are no isolated event, but part of a general, deep-seated concern about the one-sided and badly-drafted ACTA that is almost certain to have hugely negative effects not just on the Internet, but on business in Europe.

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