Yesterday we had a debate in the European Parliament on the ongoing negotiations on the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement ACTA. The negotiating parties are trying to keep the agreement secret, but the latest draft has been leaked on the net. Transcripts and videos from the debate can be found here.
Most or all of the Members of the European Parliament, from all the political groups, were critical of various aspects of the agreement, and the lack of transparency surrounding the process.
Conservative MEP Syed Kamall pointed out that the digital world of the Internet is a different thing from combating counterfeit physical products:
We need to understand the difference between the digital world and the world of atoms. As Chris Anderson, the editor of Wired magazine, once said, in a world of increased bandwidth, cheaper storage and cheaper processing power, digital products tend over time towards free or towards zero. What this means is that many of the industries which are complaining about the digital world have to understand that they must look to new business models. In particular, the phonographic industry and similar industries cannot rely on old business models.
I got 60 seconds of speaking time towards the end of the debate. This is what I said:
We all agree that counterfeiting is a bad thing and that combating counterfeit goods is good. It is good for European consumers and citizens, and it is also important for European businesses, as has been pointed out. It is good that we protect trademarks and the trademark acquis, including geographical indications.
So far, so good. But as Mr Kamall has pointed out, there is a difference between the world of atoms and the world of bits. When it comes to the Internet chapter [of the ACTA agreement], legitimate concerns have been raised by Internet service providers and other businesses involved in that area. There are concerns that the agreement may in fact harm development, harm European businesses and harm the way we take advantage of this new technology.
I would therefore urge the Commission to go ahead, by all means, with the anti‑counterfeiting part, but to scrap the Internet chapter. That would be the best solution for everyone.