ACTA Mobilization, And Beyond

Paris, April 19th, 2012 - In the next few weeks, the EU Parliament will continue to work on ACTA, the anti-counterfeiting trade agreement, ahead of its final vote around the summer. This is a crucial moment for the citizen mobilization against ACTA, which will have to resist the growing pressure that the copyright lobbies put on the Parliament. Beyond the rejection of ACTA, the whole EU copyright enforcement policy needs to be revised. Only a reform of copyright can protect once and for all fundamental rights online of EU citizens and push the online creative economy in a new direction, away from blind repression. Here is a state of play on the next steps of the mobilization in the European Parliament.

Last Monday, rapporteur David Martin released its report on ACTA. While it calls on the European Parliament to reject ACTA, it is still calling for the Commission to come up with new copyright, patent and trademark enforcement measure. Considering the Commission's plans to review the IPRED directive and scale up the repression of online copyright infringements, it's clear that the battle against ACTA does not mean the end of the war on culture sharing.

But the Commission is not alone. Through IPRED, the Online Services directive (“eCommerce” directive) and other initiatives, the entertainment industries will work hard to regain the upper hand on the debate, and fight any significant policy change if ACTA is rejected. These lobbies are already sending letters to the Parliament, urging our elected representatives to adopt ACTA1.

While campaigning to ensure that the EU Parliament will reject ACTA, we'll need to make sure that EU lawmakers will reverse the current trend of extremist copyright, patent and trademark enforcement.

To get in touch with your MEPs and take part in this crucial effort, visit our ACTA campaign page.

Below is a state of play on the ACTA debate inside the EU Parliament:

Committee on International Trade (INTA)

In the “International trade” (INTA) committee - the leading committee working on ACTA - the rapporteur of ACTA at the EU Parliament, MEP David Martin (UK, S&D) released his draft report, calling for the Parliament to reject ACTA2. Referring to some of ACTA's main dangers, such as the privatization of online copyright repression, he stresses that “the intended benefits of this international agreement are far outweighed by the potential threats to civil liberties”.

This draft report nonetheless plays into the hands of the entertainment industry, by calling on the Commission to “come forward with new proposals for protecting intellectual property”.

That's why citizens should get in touch with the members of the INTA committee to ask them to reject ACTA and break away from the ever-growing extension of copyright, patent and trademarks enforcement in commercial agreements negotiated or concluded by the EU (EU-India, EU-Korea, EU-Colombia-Peru...) .

David Martin will present his draft report on April 25th. The INTA committee is expected to adopt the report on May 30th or June 20th, after taking into account the opinion reports of the other committees (see below).

Committee on Development (DEVE)

In the “Development” (DEVE) committee, Jan Zahradil (Czech Republic, ECR), presented a very bad draft report, back in January. It absolutely needs to be amended to review the crucial questions related to ACTA's consequences on developing countries, and in particular the human rights concerns regarding access to medicines and free speech online.

Beyond ACTA, DEVE members also need to understand how harsh enforcement measures of copyright and patent can undermine access to culture, medicines and technologies, thereby hindering the social and economic development of third countries.

The DEVE committee should decide this week how to proceed on his opinion report. Its next meetings are scheduled for April 23rd and 24th, as well as May 14th.

Committee on Civil Liberties (LIBE)

In the “Civil Liberties” (LIBE) committee, which will issue a report assessing the impact of ACTA on fundamental rights, rapporteur Dimitrios Droutsas (Greece, S&D) said last week that he was convinced that ACTA was a threat to freedoms. Here again, citizens should contact the members of the committee to make sure that his colleagues share his views.

Moreover, the LIBE report must interpret ACTA's very vague wording in the light of recent policy developments in the field of online copyright enforcement, considering in particular how criminal sanctions, intermediary liability and “cooperation” between Internet actors and the entertainment industry will result in privatised censorship3. To prepare for a highly needed policy change, the LIBE report should voice its opposition to such privatised copyright enforcement.

Rapporteur Droutsas might ask for a slight procedural delay in order to give time for amendments to be tabled. He could present it during the LIBE committee meeting etiher next week or on May 8th, and vote on the report on May 30th or 31st.

Commitee on Industry, Transport, Research and Energy (ITRE)

In the “Industry” (ITRE) committee, rapporteur Amelia Andersdötter (Sweden, Greens/EFA) has proposed an encouraging draft opinion report stressing that ACTA “appears to be contrary to the ambition (...) to make Europe the scene for cutting edge internet innovation, as well (...) promote net neutrality and access to the online digital market for SME”. However, other MEPs with a very poor record in protecting freedoms online, such as Daniel Caspary (Germany, EPP), want to amend the report, presumably to insert some pro-ACTA wording into it.

Innovators and entrepreneurs should engage with the ITRE committees to ensure that all its members understand why ACTA runs counter growth and innovation in the digital economy and beyond, as recently stated by the EU telecoms and Internet industry. Looking beyond ACTA, ITRE members must also be urged to denounce the growing pressure on online services to act as privatised police force to enforce copyright.

The ITRE committee will debate the draft opinion report on April 25th, and should vote on it on May 8th.

Committee on Legal Affairs (JURI)

In the “Legal Affairs” (JURI) committee, the rapporteur Marielle Gallo (France, EPP), famous for her extreme positions on online copyright enforcement, has just issued her draft opinion report. Unsurprisingly, the latter is a fierceful defence of ACTA, calling on the INTA committee to approve ACTA. Unfortunately, the JURI committee declined to open this draft report for amendments, and it will either have to accept or reject it “as it is”.

Citizens should call on JURI members to reject Mrs. Gallo's draft, which overlooks ACTA's provisions going beyond current EU law (i.e criminal sanctions, border measures), but also on the obvious democratic deficit of this so-called “trade agreement” which bypasses legitimate international organisations and national parliaments to impose a brutal repression on third countries.

The JURI committee will hold his vote on rapporteur Gallo's draft on April 26th.