Christian Engström, Pirat

18 februari 2010

”ACTA changes nothing,” says Commission

Filed under: ACTA,English,informationspolitik — Christian Engström @ 12:19

Or not, according to the Commission. But legislators and citizens are not allowed to know.

The EU Commission is deeply involved in secret negotiations on an international agreement called ACTA, Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement. Despite its name, this is not a trade agreement in any ordinary sense of the word. The purpose of the agreement is to force the contracting states to introduce legislation for stricter enforcement of intellectual property rights.

As a member of the European Parliament, I have the right to ask questions to the Commission according to Rule 117 in the Rules of Procedure of the European Parliament. Before Christmas, I asked the Commission if the proposals that are being discussed are in line with current EU legislation, including the Telecoms Package, and what the Commission plans to do about it if not.

My question read as follows:

ACTA negotiations and the Telecoms Package principles

In the recent agreement on the Telecoms Package, it was decided that no measures restricting end-users’ access to the internet may be taken unless they are appropriate, proportionate and necessary within a democratic society – and never without a prior, fair and impartial procedure that includes the right to be heard and respects the presumption of innocence and the right to privacy.

Are the proposals currently being discussed in the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) negotiations fully in line with the letter and the spirit of these provisions in the Telecoms Package? If not, when and how will the Commission redress any incompatibilities?

The other week, the Commission replied:

Answer given by Mrs Ferrero-Waldner on behalf of the Commission

The Commission can inform the Honourable Member that the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) will be in line with the body of EU legislation, which fully respects fundamental rights and freedoms and civil liberties, such as the protection of personal data. This includes the Intellectual Property Rights’ relevant aspects of the Telecoms package.

ACTA should not contain measures restricting end-users’ access to the Internet that would not be appropriate, proportionate and necessary within a democratic society and without a prior, fair and impartial procedure.

It is the Commission’s view that ACTA is about tackling large scale illegal activity, often pursued by criminal organisations, that is causing a devastating impact on growth and employment in Europe and may have serious risks to the health and safety of consumers. It is not about limiting civil liberties or harassing consumers.

If we could rely on this answer being the truth, I suppose it would be reassuring, at least in part, to those of us who are concerned about preserving citizen’s rights on the Internet.

There would still be the fundamental question why the Commission sees fit to negotiate international agreements that are legislative in character under the guise of making ”trade” agreements, without informing either the European Parliament or the parliaments of the member states.

But at least the Commission’s answer seems to say that ACTA is only about combating commercial goods counterfeiting, and not at all about hunting file sharers on the net. Whether you think that non-commercial peer-to-peer file sharing is a positive phenomenon or not, it would clearly be ridiculous to claim that it is a ”large scale illegal activity, often pursued by criminal organisations, that is causing a devastating impact on growth and employment in Europe and may have serious risks to the health and safety of consumers”.

If we could actually be sure that ACTA was only about goods counterfeiting, and not at all related to what ordinary users do on the Internet, it would be a step in the right direction.

But the problem is that what the Commission says does not seem to agree with information from other sources. The French site PC Inpact has published a document with a covering note on the round of ACTA negotiations that was recently concluded in Mexico.

According to this document, one of the issues that was discussed was an ”Internet Chapter” of the ACTA treaty. If this is the case, we would be back to square one again.

So what is the truth? Unfortunately, I don’t know. It could of course be that the document on the Mexico round is a hoax. But it looks pretty genuine to me, so I simply don’t know.

I find the way the ACTA negotiations are being handled completely unacceptable. Neither elected legislators in the European Parliament and national parliaments, nor ordinary citizens for that matter, should have to rely on rumors and leaks to know what the Commission is doing behind our backs.

If Europe is to enter into international agreements that affect legislation in any way, those agreements must be negotiated in a fully transparent manner, with the active involvement of all parliaments concerned. Deals concluded behind closed doors by unelected officials, and presented to the European Parliament as a fait accompli for rubber stamp approval, are just unacceptable, regardless of their content.

Put all ACTA papers on the table now!

This is the only way the Commission can get out of the mess it has put itself in.


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17 kommentarer

  1. Indeed, the public need to know what is dealt with in the ACTA negotiations, there are no sane reasons for keeping ACTA a secret until it is done, unless the parties involved are afraid of how the public would react.

    At the very least the commission should let the EU parliament read and give input on the ACTA.

    But ”thanks” to the lissabon treaty the EU parliament should be able to say no to ACTA when it goes up for vote. Or is this a Commission only thing?

    You should look into that Christian, whether or not the EU parliament will get to say yay or nay to the ACTA agreement or not in the end.

    Kommentar av Billy G — 18 februari 2010 @ 13:18

  2. The mention of ”criminal organisations” was just an example and hence doesn’t narrow down the scope of ACTA. Let me quote EU’s ACTA fact sheet (pdf) to make it possible to compare to the other parts of the quote above:

    The competitiveness of the EU economy depends on large part of economic activities that
    need IPR protection, i.e. high quality products and brands (trademarks, geographical
    indications), innovative industries (patents) or entertainment (copyright). Large scale abuse
    of these rights, by counterfeiters who free-ride on the innovative and quality-enhancing
    efforts undertaken by the EU industry has a devastating impact on growth and employment.

    ”The Commission can inform the Honourable Member that the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) will be in line with the body of EU legislation”

    Really? So no changes needed/desired then? Again I quote the fact sheet:

    ”Areas for possible provisions include:
    * Criminal enforcement : It would be key to the effectiveness of ACTA as an
    enforcement instrument for it to contain clear standards for deterrent and
    efficient criminal action against counterfeit. There is no EU legislation in this
    area yet. The Commission has proposed a Directive harmonising the
    treatment of criminal IP infringements at EU level in 2006, but it has not
    been adopted so far. This means that The EU Presidency, on behalf of its
    Member States will coordinate this area of the negotiation;

    * Internet distribution and information technology – e.g. mechanisms
    available in EU e-commerce Directive of 2000, such as a definition of the
    responsibility of internet service providers regarding IP infringing content.

    Ok, so let’s proceed to ”ACTA should not contain measures restricting end-users’ access to the Internet that (…)”

    What if ACTA contains provisions that in effect limit the ISPs’ excemption from liability concerning the data traffic that they forward?
    Surely there are indirect ways to force third-parties like the ISPs to disconnect users, by removing the safety that the law gives them today. As long as it’s not clear in what way ISPs would be affected we cannot know anything about how end-users will be affected either.

    Kommentar av Tor M — 18 februari 2010 @ 13:59

  3. You asked about ”the proposals currently being discussed”, but the answer was that ACTA ”will be in line” with EU legislation. Thus the commission didn’t actually exclude the possibility that some of the proposals being discussed are out of line, ”but of course we’ll make sure that the end result is legal”.

    Kommentar av Per Starbäck — 18 februari 2010 @ 14:20

  4. Here’s a collection of ACTA questions MEPs has asked the Commission and Council.

    Kommentar av Erik Josefsson — 18 februari 2010 @ 14:53

  5. Ridiculous or not, non commercial peer-to-peer file sharing has frequently been mentioned as an source of income for organized crime.

    This sounds good, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s mostly newspeak. It’s good to know that you’re keeping up the fight. I’m getting a good return on my vote. (:

    Kommentar av Klas — 18 februari 2010 @ 16:55

  6. Är EU kommisionen transparent vilka ledamöter ingår?
    Namn: befattning parti och så vidare.

    Kommentar av ziggez — 18 februari 2010 @ 18:23

  7. Christian..
    s/file sharers on the net/people communicating over the net/

    s/peer-to-peer file sharing/peer-to-peer communication/

    That change in language makes people think, and by incorporating their brain (thinking) their previous cognitives will mentally be put to test and stand a much better chance to see some change. This subtle little change avoids those cognitive mental-blocks built around piracy, stealing and so on.

    Kommentar av steelneck — 19 februari 2010 @ 1:19

  8. @ziggez

    Det går bra att läsa på kommissionens hemsida

    Kommentar av Johan Tjäder — 19 februari 2010 @ 13:18

  9. Jag har ett tag funderat på en sak.
    Hur går en anmälan till EU domstolen till igentligen.
    Kan vem som helst anmäla fra lagen?
    Om inte kan piratpartiet göra det?
    Om inget av dom övre vad måste till för att göra det?
    Ett parti i riksdagen?
    en viss % av riksdags män,kvinnor?
    i såfall hur många?

    Jag tror att det skulle kunna vara till nytta om det vart mer känt vad och hur det går till.
    Då kanske det kan bli en debatt heller leda till en anmälan.

    Kan inte det vara en bra grej att PP tar reda på och bloggar om?

    Kommentar av Tommy Karlsson — 19 februari 2010 @ 22:08

  10. Hej Tommy
    kolla här om anmälan till EU-domstolen

    Kommentar av anders erk — 19 februari 2010 @ 23:36

  11. Tackar anders.
    Så med andra ord kan vem som helst anmäla.
    Varför inte göra en bloggpost om det antingen här heller av hax,rick,anna eller annan större PP blogg heller någon sorts guide på PPs hemsida.
    Samtidigt redogöra lite mer för vad som kan vara bra att skriva och vad som kan vara bra att inte ta med.
    Även lagens nr? och text som jag antar måste vara med men inte vet vad det är.

    Det kan ju även gälla teledatalagen,acta,ipred,ipred2 och alla andra nya dumheter dom kan hitta på.
    Om inte fler anmälningar räker så får dom ju i allafall jobba lite för lönen när 50000+ anmäler 🙂

    Kommentar av Tommy Karlsson — 20 februari 2010 @ 1:18

  12. ”ACTA changes nothing” låter mest som ”låt oss hålla på med ACTA ifred så vi kan göra som vi vill”.

    Kommentar av Kattsand — 21 februari 2010 @ 2:04

  13. A leaked ACTA Doc:
    Three Strikes is onboard

    Kommentar av Idee — 22 februari 2010 @ 17:01

  14. Some interpretation of the leaked ACTA doc:

    Kommentar av Idee — 22 februari 2010 @ 23:37

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