Jun 22 2012
ACTA is dead in the water
Well the deed has is done: in taking my advice and responding to my Report, the International Trade Committee –m of the European Parliament – has dealt another blow to the controversial Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA).
The 19-12 vote, for my Report and against the Treaty is widely expected to mean the full European Parliament will now accept the committee’s recommendation and vote against it in July. ACTA is effectively – ‘dead in the water’.
ACTA was its own worst enemy by tackling too much. It aims to protect the intellectual property in both digital and physical goods, and has proved divisive because it was negotiated largely in secret and had originally proposed ridiculous criminal sanctions for those who used the internet to break copyright. It would tighten up the enforcement and definition of copyright theft, which is particularly controversial for web users who routinely share digital versions of music, films and software.
At one point in its negotiation, rumours had suggested that ACTA could mean iPods were examined at international borders for pirated music, although this suggestion was rejected by those involved in the process as only a very preliminary proposal.
Although ACTA could theoretically come into force because some nations have signed it independently, without global agreement the treaty would effectively become irrelevant.
I believe that the treaty is likely to be rejected by the Parliament in July, and that new measures to deter music, film and software piracy are likely to take two years before they came into force.
I became the Treaty’s Rapporteur in the European Parliament after the resignation of my colleague Kader Arif, who condemned the process of secret talks.
I do not believe that the Treaty can effectively tackle online piracy and will be recommending that Parliament reject it. However, I also believe that the debate, which involved protests in some capitals, had become “unnecessarily hysterical”. The treaty never seriously proposed divisive three-strikes and you’re out policy of disconnecting pirates from the web.
New legislation will be needed to regulate the internet, but that the part of ACTA that dealt with counterfeit physical goods should not be combined with digital proposals. The existing system of notice and takedown for content on the web should be better and more consistently applied across Europe. I hope the European Commission will not think there is an anti intellectual property agenda in the Parliament – nothing could be further from the truth.