Yesterday evening there was a debate in the European Parliament about the ACTA agreement on intellectual property rights enforcement. The EU Commission, which has been negotiating the agreement, was represented by trade commissioner Karel De Gucht, who defended the agreement.
Many of the Members of the European Parliament who spoke in the debate were critical of the agreement, while others seemed to accept the Commissions view that the agreement will change nothing, and that all criticism of the agreement is based on misunderstandings.
I focused on the issue of ”three-strikes”, i.e.: whether Internet Service Providers will be forced to start policing their customers, and cut the internet connection for people who are accused of illegal file sharing.
This is what I said:
On the 10th of March this year, this house adopted with an overwhelming majority a resolution saying, among other things, that the agreement ”should not make it possible for any so-called ”three-strikes” procedures to be imposed.
This is because we don’t want the Internet service providers to start acting as private police forces, or be forced to take on that role. The Commission has repeatedly said in various oral statements that this is not the case, and I welcome those statements.
However, when you look at the text, it starts already in the preamble: ”Desiring to promote cooperation between service providers and rights holders with respect to relevant infringements in the digital environment”. Then, in Article 2.18.3, as Ms. Schaake was quoting: ”shall endeavor to promote cooperative efforts within the business community to effectively address copyright infringements”.
Now, if this doesn’t mean ”three-strikes”, what does it mean? It’s all very well to talk about ”cooperation” between rights holders and ISPs, but what are the ISPs supposed to do? And if the don’t want to do it, what measures will be taken against the ISPs?
I’m very, very concerned that the language in this agreement, as Ms. Castex was saying, is so ambiguous that it isn’t really clear what it means. So the basic concerns that have been with us all along, I still have them.
I would very much want to see a proper evaluation of the fundamental rights aspects of this agreement.
In commissioner De Gucht’s response he reiterated his claim that ACTA does not demand three-strikes, but he failed to give any explanation of what the paragraphs about ”cooperation” are supposed to mean if it is not three-strikes, or why those paragraphs are present in the agreement in the first place.
On the issue of an impact study on fundamental rights (which I was not the only one to ask for) he dismissed it by referring to himself: ”I have made several statements in this plenary that there is no impact whatsoever on fundamental rights in any way”. In the commissioner’s view, that apparently is sufficient reason not to conduct any such study before the agreement.
I was not very impressed by the commissioner’s statement. In my opinion, there are far to many aspects of this agreement that still need to clarified before the European Parliament should even consider giving its consent.
If the best argument the Commission can give for this controversial agreement is that it ”changes nothing”, that is hardly good enough even if it were to be true.
Web streams and transcripts of the debate can be found at http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sed/speeches.do?sessionDate=20101020.
The blog På djupa vatten has a good summary in Swedish of the debate.
Picture by Christian Engström, free for publication CC0