ACTA Update XI

Although I've not written about ACTA here for a few weeks, things are still bubbling away in Brussels. Here's a good summary of what's going on from La Quadrature du Net, probably the best source of information on ACTA: Since early March, the...


Although I've not written about ACTA here for a few weeks, things are still bubbling away in Brussels. Here's a good summary of what's going on from La Quadrature du Net, probably the best source of information on ACTA:

Since early March, the British rapporteur for ACTA, David Martin, has been pushing the EU Commission's strategy: delaying the final vote of the EU Parliament on ACTA to avoid its rejection. While the Commission's referral of ACTA to the EU Court of Justice (ECJ) is about to be finalized, Mr. Martin wants the Parliament to make its own but similar referral, which would delay the EU Parliament's final vote for one or two years.

Similarly, David Martin is proposing to replace the Parliament's report – which would guide the vote – by a useless "interim report", in order to avoid taking any strong political position and recommending a vote against ACTA.

MEPs must reject these cheap political tricks and instead work toward a strong, politically binding report, and toward the rejection of ACTA. David Martin's position has already been strongly opposed by its own political group, the Socialists & Democrats (S&D). However, other groups remain undecided and need to be convinced of the need for the EU Parliament to continue its proceedings on ACTA, so as to hold a vote according to the original timetable.

There's a crucial meeting this week of one of the key European Parliament committees – INTA, responsible for international trade. According to La Quadrature du Net, the timetable is as follows:

Monday, March 26th :

Coordinators of the INTA committee meet to decide whether to put ECJ referral to vote

Tuesday, March 27th :

The INTA committee will debate potential ECJ referral by EU Parliament and the relevance of an "interim report"

That "interim report" is actually much more sinister than it sounds. Again, as the invaluable Quadrature explains:

The interim report would not bring useful information to the debate:

According to rule 81(3), the interim report is meant to achieve "a positive outcome of the procedure", which in this case means the ratification of ACTA. It is also meant to include "recommendations for modification or implementation". However, ACTA has already been negotiated and signed. It cannot be modified.

Rapporteur Martin wants the interim report to question the Commission regarding ACTA's "implementation". But the Commission's response will be non-binding, politically biased, and therefore close to meaningless.

Against that background, it would be highly useful to contact today the MEPs who sit on INTA, asking them to call for an immediate vote on ACTA by the full European Parliament, rather than using procedural tricks to string out decisions in the hope that the public gets bored and forgets about why ACTA is a bad thing.

The full list of INTA MEPs is quite long; I've extracted below email addresses for those from the UK:

Emma McClarkin: [email protected]

Catherine Bearder: [email protected]

David Campbell Bannerman: [email protected]

William, the Earl of Dartmouth: [email protected]

Syed Kamall: [email protected]

David Martin: [email protected]

Robert Sturdy: [email protected]

Keith Taylor: [email protected]

The best thing would be to ring them on the numbers given on the Web pages linked to above; failing that, a personal email to them would be helpful. La Quadrature has posted some thoughts on what the key issues are; I've added my own email below.

I am writing to you as one of the UK MEPs on the INTA committee to express my concern over ACTA, and how it might be addressed by the European Parliament.

The anti-SOPA Internet blackout on January 18th and the Europe-wide protests against ACTA mark a turning point in the relationship of people and politicians to the Internet. People took these actions because they saw what is perhaps the key technology of the early 21st century threatened by ill-considered laws and treaties.

In the light of that new awareness of the centrality of the Internet, it is vital from both an economic and social viewpoint that future laws governing it are framed carefully. This is the essential problem with the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement. As its name suggests, this grew out of attempts to deal with traditional counterfeiting; the chapter on digital infringement was something of an afterthought, and sits ill with the rest of the treaty.

The key problem is that what might be reasonable in the world of physical counterfeits – for example when tackling fake medicines of inferior spare parts – is unreasonable in the online world because of the collateral damage it will cause in terms of harming innovation in the digital economy, fast emerging as the main engine of growth.

For this reason, I urge you as members of INTA to recommend that ACTA be put to a vote by the European Parliament as soon as possible, and that ratification of ACTA as it now stands be rejected. In its place new negotiations should aim to draw up two treaties: one for conventional counterfeit goods, another specifically for the digital realm. These have such different features and dynamics that it would be folly to attempt to shoe-horn the online world into a framework designed for analogue counterfeit goods.

The sooner this is done, the better it will be for both digital and analogue industries. Delaying matters by referring ACTA to the European Court of Justice or drawing up an interim report (totally ineffectual, because ACTA cannot now be modified) will achieve nothing, and will simply ensure that counterfeiting is not addressed for yet another year or more. What is required is a political decision from the European Parliament, not a legal one from the ECJ, and I urge you to recommend this course of action.

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Update: European Parliament trade committee recommends rejecting ACTA treaty ACTA Update XIII