European Parliament Votes To Rein In Anti-Counterfeiting TreatyPublished on 10 March 2010 @ 10:01 pm
By William New, Intellectual Property Watch
The European Parliament today voted overwhelmingly in favour of a demand to be kept fully informed about the secretive Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement under negotiation by the European Commission and about a dozen countries outside Europe. Parliament also opposed controversial provisions such as personal searches at European borders and cutting internet access for anyone found infringing copyright online three times.
Members of European Parliament (MEPs) voted by a margin of 633 in favour and 13 against, with 16 abstentions, according to a Parliament release.
The strongly worded resolution criticised the process taking place outside existing international bodies such as the World Trade Organization and the World Intellectual Property Organization. It also said ACTA provisions “should not affect global access to legitimate, affordable and safe medicinal products – including innovative and generic products.”
The official text of the resolution is available here [doc].
It called for impact assessments on “fundamental rights and data protection, ongoing EU efforts to harmonise IPR enforcement measures, and e-commerce, prior to any EU agreement on a consolidated ACTA treaty text, and to consult with Parliament in a timely manner about the results of the assessment.”
And MEPs requested “full clarification of any clauses that would allow for warrantless searches and confiscation of information storage devices such as laptops, cell phones and MP3 players by border and customs authorities.” It directly challenged the penalty of severance of internet access of any citizen found infringing copyright three times, the so-called “three-strikes-and-you’re-out” clause.
Parliament reserved the right to challenge the Commission at the European Court of Justice if its demands are not met. Parliament members noted that entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty on 1 December gives the European Commission “a legal obligation to inform Parliament immediately and fully at all stages of international negotiations.”
On 9 March, European Trade Commissioner Karel de Gucht said the Commission fully supports releasing the texts of the draft ACTA treaty at the next negotiation in April in New Zealand. But all negotiating partners must agree first, he said.
Reaction to the vote was positive from the technology industry, which has had concerns about liability and a tilting scale toward content owners. Computer and Communications Industry Association (CCIA) President & CEO Ed Black criticised the United States for not having moved first.
“It’s disappointing that it takes forward thinking European officials to initiate action on this,” Black said. “We hope the European Commission and US legislators will use this resolution as a wake up call to take a step back and re-evaluate both the content of this agreement and the process of secretly negotiating a measure that will have broad implications for millions of internet users.”
“This vote makes it clear other democratic nations have concerns about the United States exporting the most controversial parts of the United States’ Digital Millennium Copyright Act around the globe,” Black added. “The internet is such a great tool for democracy because it allows more people access to information.”
Gigi Sohn, president and cofounder of Public Knowledge, also urged the US to take note. “This is the time for our government to take positive steps to treat the ACTA negotiations as a treaty and not as a trade agreement, to open the process to the public and Congress and to make certain that the terms being negotiated respect the rights of internet users,” she said. “This process for too long has been driven by the wishes of the Big Media companies. The European Parliament vote is yet another reminder that ACTA, both in process and in substance, is fatally flawed.”
William New may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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