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Wednesday, 1 February 2012

ACTA back in the news

The controversial Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) is back in the news and matters are as confusing and opaque as ever (see the IPKat's earlier reports here).

Last week 22 of 27 EU countries (including the UK) signed up to ACTA (in Tokyo... of all places) and it is now for the European Parliament to approve the agreement, withhold the agreement or ask the European Court of Justice to check it.

According to news reports there appears to be call for an EU wide Anti-ACTA protest on 11 February 2012 (see report by German news site n-tv.de). The European Commission feels the need to defend its support of ACTA and last week published a document called "10 Myths about ACTA" (read it here), essentially saying that ACTA is good for the EU's competitiveness and that ACTA will not infringe and/or encroach upon privacy, freedom of expression and data protection. ACTA critics maintain that ACTA will do exactly this and are concerned by the secrecy surrounding the ACTA negotiations which were conducted "behind closed doors".

Today, the European Parliament published a press release concerning ACTA (which you can read by clicking here) stating that following ACTA "what was allowed will be allowed". In the meantime, according to a report by CNET, the hacker group Anonymous appears to have decided to target the European Parliament calling ACTA, "Europe's SOPA".


Last week hackers already attacked several Polish government websites. This all follows the news that Kader Arif, the European Parliament's rapporteur ACTA resigned from his position last Friday because of the "never-before-seen manoeuvres" by officials behind the scenes (see a BBC news report here). German news site n-tv also cited German law Professor Axel Metzger of the University of Hanover who is of the view that ACTA does indeed foresee harsher criminal law provision for the infringement of IP rights and diminishes the rights of potential defendants. A detailed interview with Professor Metzger can be found in the respected German legal review Neue Juristische Wochenschrift (in German only, sadly).


Do our readers have any views on ACTA and its consequences? Is it as bad as feared or is this all a storm in a teacup?

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

ACTA? Who cares? It cannot be any worse than a decision by the court in The Hague that service providers are to block any site of which the entertainment industry lobby gives them the URL.

So in the Netherlands, we have SOPA without any intervention of the parliament.

What can be worse?

Diego Teixeira said...

ACTA is, in fact, very bad - it greatly increases penalties for infringement and increases the availability of criminal and border control measures against purported infringers, as well as removing important safeguards against abuse. Privacy concerns are great, and it may even facilitate industrial espionage.

The protests are very much in order - this would entrench an unhinged type of regime that has no empirical basis justifying it as being good for society as a whole.

Francis Davey said...

I can't see anything in ACTA which would force the UK to change any part of its copyright law. So, from that perspective, its a UK non-event. That doesn't mean it might not be used as a pretext to change the law (by the UK or the EU) but that is an argument that can comfortably be had at a later date.

So, in that sense, some of the anti-ACTA rhetoric is overblown.

Earlier versions of ACTA were very much worse and so some of the campaigning against it was entirely worthwhile.

There are still reasons to be very unhappy about ACTA.

First, it sets a very bad precedent about the way international treaties - and in particular IP treaties - are negotiated. Such treaties are routinely used to get around local democratic accountability ("we need to do this to comply with this treaty we signed") which means there should be enhanced debate and accountability over the negotiation and signing of a treaty, not a more limited amount.

Second, it is yet another obstruction in the way of any reform of copyright.

Third, it creates a second international body having to do with intellectual property alongside WIPO. I can't help thinking that will prove to be unhelpful in the long run.

Fourth, not all countries will fare as well as the UK. I suspect it will be used to pressure nations into removing innovative ways of trying to balance the public interest in copyright protection with the private rights of individuals. Uniformity is not necessarily the best for us all.

Ruth Orchard, Director-General, ACG said...

From the perspective of many rights holders, including copyright colleagues who have endorsed a paper recently issued jointly by INTA and BASCAP, ACTA is only about enforcement of IPRs. It is not about raising substantive standards of IP protection or about how countries should define infringement. Rather, it sets out a harmonised framework through which rights holders will be able to rely upon clear and broadly common rules to enforce their rights in third countries.

As EU law on IPR enforcement is already considerably more advanced than the current international standards, ACTA will not change the EU acquis in this area, as confirmed by the Opinion of the European Parliament’s Legal Service in December 2011.

ACTA’s main objective is to address commercial-scale infringements of IPRs, which have a significant impact on growth and employment, and are mostly pursued by organised criminals. ACTA does not target private, noncommercial activities of individuals, nor is its purpose to institute the monitoring of individuals or to intrude into their private spheres. ACTA, therefore, will not lead to limitations of civil liberties or to the harassment of consumers.

Anonymous said...

We need to stop getting overly worked up on this. Discussion is great when thought through and kept in perspective.
This should be about doing the right thing for consumers and industry. And stopping criminals exploiting everyone.
Everyone has rights and we need to find fair and workable ways of looking after them.

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