EU parliament warns ACTA negotiators

By Pat Pilcher

Photo / Brett Phibbs
Photo / Brett Phibbs

Wary of the lack of openness surrounding the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), virtually representatives of the EU parliament have banded together, voting 663 to 13 in favour of passing a resolution that would require the EU Commission (who are the EU's representative in ACTA negotiations), to share all information about ACTA talks, and to refuse to support any Internet disconnection penalty for online copyright infringement.

The resolution is very specific and blunt about the EU Parliament's displeasure with the lack of transparency around EU ACTA negotiations, citing concerns over the "lack of a transparent process in the conduct of the ACTA negotiations".

EU Parliamentarians have long been incensed that "no parliamentary approval has been asked for the mandate" (to negotiate an ACTA agreement). As such, the EU Parliament is demanding that they be "fully informed at all stages of the negotiations.".

More significantly the EU Parliament is also concerned that ACTA could conflict with EU privacy rights and are demanding that the European Commission provide proof that no fundamental personal rights would be impacted and have asked that "the Commission to conduct an impact assessment of the implementation of ACTA with regard to fundamental rights and data protection," and "consult with Parliament in a timely manner about the results of the assessment."

In addition to ensuring that civil liberties are not breached, EU Parliamentarians also want to make sure future ACTA negotiations remain open to scrutiny, specifically asking that this be the case in the next round of ACTA negotiations in April. The EU Parliament have also signalled that they mean business by threatening legal action against the European Commission should they not agree to abide by the resolution.

This said, the resolution does not demand ACTA to scrapped, but be more open and focused on more effective anti-counterfeiting measures. Christian Engström, the EU Parliament member Sweden and the Swedish Pirate Party said in his latest blog post that the EU Parliament wants the ACTA agreement "to be about combating goods counterfeiting (i.e., fake Rolexes and hand bags, fake Viagra on the net, fake cigarettes that are even more harmful that proper ones, etc.). It should not be about restricting our fundamental civil liberties".

Regardless of whether the EU Commission decides to comply or not, the EU Parliament has another ace card up their sleeve in the form of the Treaty of Lisbon which came into force on December 1 2009. Under the treaty the EU Parliament has to approve ACTA before it is able to be enforced. If the EU Commission refuses to comply with the resolution, it is likely that the EU Parliament will issue a big no derailing of two years of ACTA negotiations.

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