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    ACTA Debated At WTO; Petitions And Letters Fly In Brussels

    Published on 29 February 2012 @ 8:51 pm

    By , Intellectual Property Watch

    With Maricel Estavillo for Intellectual Property Watch

    While action on the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement is occurring at the European Parliament in Brussels – including a new letter from Members of Parliament and 2.5 million petitioners in opposition – ACTA also was the subject of discussion at the World Trade Organization this week.

    ACTA arose at WTO in the context of enforcement trends on the agenda of the Council on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), which met on 28-29 February.

    Meanwhile, today in Brussels, the co-presidents of the Greens/EFA Group in the European Parliament (Rebecca Harms and Daniel Cohn-Bendit) sent a letter [pdf] to European Commission President José Manuel Barroso. They charged that the Commission did not properly inform the Parliament of the decision to send ACTA to the European Court of Justice for legal review. According to rules of procedure, the Parliament must be informed before the Commission makes a public announcement.

    The Parliament members also urged that the Commission ask the Court to assess ACTA on the basis of the balance between intellectual property rights and the right to: private life, protection of personal data, freedom of expression, freedom to receive or impart information, protection of property and freedom to conduct a business.

    The European Commission announced on 22 February that it will seek a decision from the European Court of Justice (ECJ) regarding the legality of ACTA.

    And according to a press report, the Member of Parliament responsible for ACTA said yesterday that Parliament should also seek the opinion of the ECJ.

    An official told Intellectual Property Watch today that if that occurs, the court may combine cases. Parliament is not in plenary again until next month. It’s unclear when the Commission will send its request to the Court of Justice.

    Meanwhile, the Parliament said it also has received letters from EU citizens and organisations supporting ACTA, including a letter from the International Confederation of Societies of Authors and Composers (CISAC). “ACTA is good for Europe,” the CISAC letter said, according to Parliament. “Without changing EU law, it establishes common procedures for dealing with intellectual property rights infringements across countries accounting for 50% of world trade.”

    2.5 Million Signatures Opposed to ACTA

    The European Parliament has received a petition signed by nearly 2.5 million people from around the world opposing the ratification of ACTA. Signatures on the petition were gathered by the civic organisation Avaaz. The petition is here.

    The petition states: “As concerned global citizens, we call on you to stand for a free and open Internet and reject the ratification of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), which would destroy it. The Internet is a crucial tool for people around the world to exchange ideas and promote democracy. We urge you to show true global leadership and protect our rights.”

    “Receiving a petition supported by more than 2 million people places an even bigger responsibility on us to listen to the European people and offer them a place to express their views to the European institutions,” Parliament Petitions Committee Chair Erminia Mazzoni, was quoted saying in a statement on the European Parliament website.

    The Petitions Committee will decide on the petition’s admissibility at its next meeting on 19-20 March. If found admissible, the committee will start holding discussions with the petitioners, experts, the European Commission and other stakeholders.

    Under the EU Treaty, Parliament’s consent is needed for any international treaty to enter into force and it needs to be ratified later by each member state.

    The European Union and 22 of its 27 member states are signatories to ACTA, but none have ratified it yet according to reports. Other signatories to the treaty are: Australia, Canada, Japan, Morocco, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea and the United States.

    WTO Debate

    A number of proponents of ACTA, such as the European Commission and the United States, spoke in favour of ACTA at the 28-29 February meeting of the WTO Council on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). And a set of developing countries raised concerns about it.

    The ACTA issue was discussed in a broader context of IP enforcement trends, with the understanding that IP enforcement is relevant to TRIPS. Copies of ACTA were circulated at the TRIPS Council.

    [Update: the United States intervention is US Intervention TRIPS Council Feb 2012available here (doc)]

    The European Commission used the opportunity to give good information about ACTA and show that it has nothing to hide and is transparent, according to a participant. It indicated that it would have preferred to negotiate the agreement with all members of the WTO, but a group of countries that shared similar views went ahead when multilateral movement was not possible.

    ACTA was considered one of the “tools” governments had against counterfeiting and piracy, but now there is misinformation about it that is leading to reactions, the participant said. In particular, the ACTA debate gets “mixed up” with copyright issues, when copyright itself is not addressed in ACTA, the participant said.

    “ACTA enforces copyright. It does not say something is legal or illegal,” the participant said. “ACTA gives a tool to address illegality. ACTA does not say what is a copyright infringement.”

    Among the critics, India gave a substantive statement [doc], arguing that, “In this situation of shrinking health budgets, it is essential that access to affordable medicines in every country, whether developed or developing, does not get circumscribed by the agreements like ACTA and TPP [Trans-Pacific Partnership], which are basically motivated by the interests of big pharma companies.”

    India said the IP enforcement trend has been toward restrictions on the availability of medicines to the poor, and that the TRIPS Council “should deliberate on how the TRIPS agreement should promote access to health to the billions of needy people rather than discuss the IP agenda of a few countries.” ACTA border measures could “stifle the supply” of generic medicines to needy countries, it said.

    India also said that reliable data on the extent of counterfeiting and piracy do not exist. And it raised concern that countries would accept the tough terms of ACTA in order to obtain much-needed market access to developed countries, creating a deterrent to South-South trade.

    Another ACTA concern India cited was over digital goods and internet freedom. It said ACTA’s obligations for copyright enforcement, coupled with new norms for damages for infringement, are “likely to have a severe impact on the efforts towards literacy and access to knowledge and information that has been at the core of aspirations of the developing world.”

    “ACTA is fundamentally hostile to consumers,” India added.

    Several of the ACTA countries had an informal coordinating meeting today at the WTO after the TRIPS Council ended early. The countries shared views on how the agenda item fared in the Council meeting, according to a source. It was unclear whether the issue will be raised again at the TRIPS Council in the future.

    During the TRIPS Council meeting, some countries questioned whether Council is the right place to discuss a plurilateral agreement. Developing countries raised doubts that it is a good example to follow for developing countries. They called for IP enforcement trends with a development perspective, such as access, affordability and availability, a developing country official said.

    But ACTA was not blocked from discussion by the meeting chair. The new TRIPS Council Chair is Dacio Castillo, the ambassador to the WTO from Honduras.

    William New may be reached at wnew@ip-watch.ch.

     

    Comments

    1. kuzyn_maupy says:

      STOP american IP legislation in Europe !!! Referendum !!!

    2. GenevaLunch » Landmines, Internet freedom, Syria keep Geneva busy this week says:

      [...] IP Watch carries a lengthy article on the Acta debate, which prompted 2.5 million people to sign a petition given to the European Parliament, opposing it. IP Watch reports that Acta was discussed in the WTO “in the context of enforcement trends on the agenda of the Council on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS),” which met at the start of last week. It cites one unnamed participant: “Acta was considered one of the ‘tools’ governments had against counterfeiting and piracy, but now there is misinformation about it that is leading to reactions, the participant said. In particular, the Acta debate gets ‘mixed up’ with copyright issues, when copyright itself is not addressed in Acta, the participant said. [...]


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    We welcome your participation in article and blog comment threads, and other discussion forums, where we encourage you to analyse and react to the content available on the Intellectual Property Watch website. By participating in discussions or reader forums, or by submitting opinion pieces or comments to articles, blogs, reviews or multimedia features, you are consenting to these rules.

    We welcome your participation in article and blog comment threads, and other discussion forums, where we encourage you to analyse and react to the content available on the Intellectual Property Watch website.

    By participating in discussions or reader forums, or by submitting opinion pieces or comments to articles, blogs, reviews or multimedia features, you are consenting to these rules.

    1. You agree that you are fully responsible for the content that you post. You will not knowingly post content that violates the copyright, trademark, patent or other intellectual property right of any third party or which you know is under a confidentiality obligation preventing its publication and that you will request removal of the same should you discover that you have violated this provision. Likewise, you may not post content that is libelous, defamatory, obscene, abusive, that violates a third party's right to privacy, that otherwise violates any applicable local, state, national or international law, that amounts to spamming or that is otherwise inappropriate. You may not post content that degrades others on the basis of gender, race, class, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sexual preference, disability or other classification. Epithets and other language intended to intimidate or to incite violence are also prohibited. Furthermore, you may not impersonate others.

    2. You understand and agree that Intellectual Property Watch is not responsible for any content posted by you or third parties. You further understand that IP Watch does not monitor the content posted. Nevertheless, IP Watch may monitor the any user-generated content as it chooses and reserves the right to remove, edit or otherwise alter content that it deems inappropriate for any reason whatever without consent nor notice. We further reserve the right, in our sole discretion, to remove a user's privilege to post content on our site. IP Watch is not in any manner endorsing the content of the discussion forums and cannot and will not vouch for its reliability or otherwise accept liability for it.

    3. By submitting any contribution to IP Watch, you warrant that your contribution is your own original work and that you have the right to make it available to IP Watch for all purposes and you agree to indemnify IP Watch, its directors, employees and agents against all damages, legal fees and others expenses that may be incurred by IP Watch as a result of your breach of warranty or of these terms.

    4. You further agree not to publish any personal information about yourself or anyone else (for example telephone number or home address). If you add a comment to a blog, be aware that your email address will be apparent.

    5. IP Watch will not be liable for any loss including but not limited to the following (whether such losses are foreseen, known or otherwise): loss of data, loss of revenue or anticipated profit, loss of business, loss of opportunity, loss of goodwill or injury to reputation, losses suffered by third parties, any indirect, consequential or exemplary damages.

    6. You understand and agree that the discussion forums are to be used only for non-commercial purposes. You may not solicit funds, promote commercial entities or otherwise engage in commercial activity in our discussion forums.

    7. You acknowledge and agree that you use and/or rely on any information obtained through the discussion forums at your own risk.

    8. For any content that you post, you hereby grant to IP Watch the royalty-free, irrevocable, perpetual, exclusive and fully sub-licensable license to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, create derivative works from, distribute, perform and display such content in whole or in part, world-wide and to incorporate it in other works, in any form, media or technology now known or later developed.

    9. These terms and your posts and contributions shall be governed and interpreted in accordance with the laws of Switzerland (without giving effect to conflict of laws principles thereof) and any dispute exclusively settled by the Courts of the Canton of Geneva.

     

     
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