Debate Heats Up Ahead Of EU Parliament Discussion On ACTA

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Opposing opinions on the controversial Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) clashed anew ahead of next week’s meetings of the European Parliament where the EU body may make critical decisions on the fate of the deal.

The Committee on International Trade of the Parliament is expected to hold meetings on 26 and 27 March. In a press release today, the Paris-based advocacy group La Quadrature du Net said the decision on whether the Parliament will immediately make the final vote on the agreement or delay the voting will be discussed during the committee meetings next week.

The Parliament’s nod on the deal is needed for it to enter into force in the EU. In a separate but connected move, the European Commission already made a referral to the European Court of Justice regarding the legality of ACTA. The European High Court is set to hand down a decision soon.

“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,” La Quadrature said, referring to the British rapporteur for ACTA, David Martin. The group calls instead for an outright rejection of ACTA.

A strong opponent of the deal, the group has called other members of the Parliament to “reject these cheap political tricks and instead work toward a strong, politically binding report, and toward the rejection of ACTA.”

La Quadrature describes ACTA as a major threat to freedom of expression online as it “would impose new criminal sanctions pushing Internet actors to “cooperate” with the entertainment industries to monitor and censor online communications, bypassing the judicial authority.”

Coinciding with the La Quadrature release is the publication of an open letter in support of ACTA from the Brussels-based International Federation of Reproduction Rights Organisations (IFFRO).

Collecting Societies Support ACTA

The 136-strong international organisation of collecting societies involved in texts and images has called on the governments behind the controversial Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) to not be swayed by mounting criticism against the deal and instead reconsider its positive provisions.

“We appeal to governments to assess the question of ratification based on the specific provisions of the Agreement itself, and how they might impact the building of knowledge-based activities, without being overly affected by comment,” the group wrote on its letter.

A copy of the letter is here [pdf].

IFFRO has described the criticisms against ACTA as “disproportionate” to the agreement’s objectives and provisions, and that the measures proposed in ACTA do not appear to go beyond the existing enforcement rules of the signatories.

ACTA is a multinational treaty that seeks to establish international standards for intellectual property rights enforcement. Signatories to the treaty are Australia, Canada, the European Union and 22 of its 27 member states, Japan, Morocco, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea and the United States.

Last February, the European Parliament received a petition against the ratification of ACTA signed by nearly 2.5 million people from around the world. Signatures on the petition were gathered by an organisation called Avaaz.

Maricel Estavillo, an intern at Intellectual Property Watch, is an LL.M. in Intellectual Property and Competition Law Candidate at the Munich Intellectual Property Law Center (MIPLC). A former business journalist in Manila, Philippines, she is currently working on research on copyright in digital media for her Master’s thesis.

Maricel Estavillo may be reached at maricelestavillo@gmail.com.

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