ACTA is dead, but this is not the end of the story. As anybody who has enjoyed a good horror movie knows, no matter how dead the monster was at the end of the first film, it will be alive, kicking, and stronger than ever when the sequel comes.
In the case of ACTA, the name of the first sequel is CETA, which stands for Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement, and is a bilateral agreement between the EU and Canada. The CETA negotiations are currently going on, and the agreement is not yet finalized.
Canadian law professor Michel Geist brought CETA to public attention a few days ago, referencing a leaked version of CETA from February this year.
Yesterday I attended a post-mortem seminar on ACTA in the European Parliament. One of the panelists was the civil servant from the EU Commission who used to handle ACTA, and who is now in charge of the CETA negotiations.
I took the opportunity to ask him about CETA, and if it wasn’t true that CETA contains a chapter on intellectual property rights where certain provisions have been copied verbatim from ACTA.
The reaction of the Commission official was very interesting. He confirmed that CETA does indeed contain a chapter on intellectual property, but then immediately went on to try to belittle Professor Geist (without anybody else having mentioned Professor Geist’s name).
According to the Commission representative, Professor Geist should not be taken seriously, since he was commenting on a draft that was six months old, and the text had changed since then.
When I asked the obvious follow-up question, if the Commission had published a more current version of the text under negotiation, the answer was no.
So it appears that it will be déjà vu all over again. The unelected EU Commission is negotiating an international agreement with legislative effect behind closed doors. They are keeping all documents secret, while arrogantly claiming that everybody who is questioning what they are doing is misinformed. Same procedure as last time.
But in reality, the defeat of ACTA has changed things. Thousands of citizens have seen with their own eyes that political activism works. The European Parliament has shown that it is prepared to use its powers to reject trade agreements that are unacceptable.
Even if the Commission’s behaviour at the seminar yesterday indicated that they have not yet absorbed the lesson of ACTA, it is quite possible that a bit of reflection on their part over the summer will help them see things in a new light. They no longer have any reason to believe that they will be successful in introducing stricter intellectual property laws through the back door of international trade agreements. Perhaps they will come to realise that having a chapter on intellectual property in CETA creates a real risk that the entire agreement will be rejected in the end, just like ACTA was.
Now the European Parliament will close for the summer break. This means that there is no point in trying to contact MEPs right now. But when the parliament opens again in September, we will have to see where things stand with CETA.
If it turns out that the Commission will try to revive the dead ACTA treaty in the form of CETA, it will be up to the European Parliament to stop the madness one more time. But we can hope that the Commission will have come to its senses by then.
Others on the subject: The Independent