The IP Observatory is a body for intellectual property rights enforcement that the Commission has already set up, and is now, after the fact, seeking endorsement for from the European Parliament.
The legal affairs committee JURI is the lead committee for an ”own initiative report” on the issue. This means that JURI will put together an opinion that is later voted in plenary by the entire parliament, and then submitted to the Commission.
The member of parliament responsible for a dossier in a committee is called the ”rapporteur”. The rapporteur in JURI for the IP Observatory dossier is French Christian Democrat Marielle Gallo.
For this reason, the dossier is sometimes referred to as the ”Gallo Report”. I usually prefer to call it the ”IP Observatory report”, as this says more about the content than the name of the rapporteur does.
The rapporteur Ms. Gallo has written a ”draft opinion”, which is her suggestion as to what the committee and the parliament should decide to say to the Commission. It is available here on European Parliament site.
Ms. Gallo’s draft opinion expresses a very hard line view on intellectual property rights enforcement, and applauds the initiative by the Commission to set up the IP Observatory. Considering that she comes from the same party as French president Sarkozy, this is perhaps not too surprising.
Activist organisations like La Quadrature du Net have been highly critical of this draft opinion.
The next step is that all members of the JURI committee can submit amendments. This means that we give suggestions for changes to the draft opinion, before the opinion as a whole is put to the vote in the committee.
Last week was the deadline for submitting amendments on the Gallo Report in JURI. Since I do not share the view that Europe needs to step up the hunt for file sharers at any cost, and I resent that proposals to do so are being bundled together with the quite legitimate efforts to combat counterfeit goods in the market, I submitted quite a lot of amendments — 44 in total.
When I drafted my amendments I focused on three underlying themes:
- That goods counterfeiting and non-commercial file sharing are two different things that should not be mixed up,
- That any measures taken to enforce intellectual property rights must respect the fundamental rights of the European Convention, including the right to privacy, to information freedom, and to a fair and proper trial, and
- That we should avoid creating parallel bureaucratic structures, such as the IP Observatory, when there already are existing EU institutions that could do what needs to be done.
The last point was suggested by Swedish Liberal member Cecilia Wikström during an exchange of views in the committee, and to me it is the most central one.
We do not need any newly created IP Observatory to combat goods counterfeiting. We already have both Europol and other forums for cooperation between the customs authorities in the various member states.
If the enforcement efforts against commercial counterfeiting need to be strengthened, it is much better to do it through the existing channels. Creating a new parallel institution will probably just be counterproductive, since it will add to the confusion and risk leading to turf wars between the different institutions with overlapping responsibilities.
After I had written my draft amendments, I had discussions with both Ms. Wikström from the Liberals and with members from the Social Democrats group.
I was very pleasantly surprised to learn that even if we do not necessarily have exactly the same view on all issues, we were much more in agreement than I would have dared to hope. This meant that we could sign many agreements together.
Most of the amendments I have signed are co-signed by French Socialist member Françoise Castex, and in many cases by other members from the Social Democrat S&D group and/or by Ms. Wikström from Liberal ALDE group.
This is a very good thing, since it means that I will not be alone in fighting for them in the committee as the process moves on.
The consolidated version of all amendments is not yet available, since the deadline for submitting amendments was only yesterday. What I have right now is two documents that overlap to a large extent, but not entirely:
- All amendments by me, which in most cases are co-signed by Ms. Castex, and
- All amendements by Ms. Castex, which in many cases are co-signed by both me and other members
The second document contains more information, since you can see more signatories to each amendment, and it also contains a justification for some of the amendments. It does not, however, contain the (few) amendments that only I signed. These can only be found in the first document.
Both documents are preliminary as to both the exact wording and exactly who signed, as there may have been some last minute changes. The consolidated and translated versions of all amendments submitted my all members should appear in a couple of weeks on the EU Parliament web site, on the procedure page for the IP Observatory dossier.
After the consolidated amendments have been made available, discussions to find compromises will continue, before the amendments are put to a vote in the JURI committee. What will happen then, nobody knows.
But at least so far, I feel very encouraged by the fact that there were so many members from different political groups that want to change the report in the same direction, towards a more balanced and reality oriented approach to intellectual property rights enforcements.
There is a long way to go before we have seen the end of this, but right now, I feel a lot more hopeful than I did a couple of months ago.
This may become quite an interesting dossier to follow.